Suzanne Reisler Litwin: You want it or you need it?

A very, very long time ago I learned a valuable lesson about the difference between want and need. This lesson was defining and changed my perspective on life. For the first time, I couldn’t get what I wanted. Even if I worked my ass off for it, I still couldn’t get it.

Here’s the lesson:

As a child, I learned that if you want something really, really badly and you worked hard for it, you will earn it. So, I wanted to buy a new bike. All I had to do was work really hard to earn the money and then I would be able to buy it. Right? That was the lesson I learned. If you work hard for something, you will earn it.

With this lesson, I worked very hard in school to get good grades. Although my learning differences hindered my progress, I still did the best I could do. Sometimes, I settled for grades which in time, I realized were good enough for me. The lesson of hard work sort of paid off here.

However, there were times when I worked so hard on papers and essays, I expected to get high grades. More often than not, I was disappointed in an average grade when the effort I put in was definitely “A” worthy. Unfortunately, this happened often. My resolve was in time, the grade boat would one day turn around for me. In graduate school, the boat did turn around.

Next was earning the profession I wanted. If I worked my ass off for it, I would be able to obtain the profession. The lesson paid off, again. Next, I wanted to have a big family. My dream was to have a family of 4 children. That’s when someone or something put the brakes on me!

Somehow my pregnancies out-numbered the amount of children I had. Something was off with my numbers and wrong with the life lesson. At this juncture, the lesson didn’t seem to be working at all. I kept on failing and then I realized that sometimes, not all the time, you just can’t get what you want even if you try.

The last statement sounds very much like the Rolling Stones as in “You can't always get what you want. But if you try sometimes well you might find. You get what you need.”

It wasn’t an easy lesson to learn. I’m tenacious, goal centered and terribly stubborn as my Capricorn personality gets in the way! In my mind, I wanted what I wanted and I was going to work at getting it, until I got it. Reality and life got in the way of obtaining my goal. Perhaps the original plan was already prescribed?

In time, I came to accept, even with hard work; you might not get what you want…exactly. I suppose it’s impossible to control everything including yourself in the big picture of life.

We all have limits to how much work is required to obtain a goal. During the birth of my third child, a disc herniated in my back, and… that was the end of building our family of four children. I still wanted a big family; I just didn’t need one any more. What I needed was to heal my back and walk without pain. Life changed my needs.

Next I wanted to be a published author. Once again, I worked at that goal for years. I told myself, this goal could be lifelong. Obtaining this goal was not going to physically hurt me in anyway. It might disappoint me with the constant flow of rejection letters, but I’m really ok with rejection. There was no physical time limit to reaching this goal. I always hoped this was going to happen. It took a long time, but it did happen.

Now, I feel like a seasoned old hen! Older and somewhat wiser, but still not able to spell well. The old lesson I grew up with now has a new attachment to it.

New Lesson: If you want something really badly, then work super hard for it and you will earn it. However, if obtaining it is completely out of your control, accept those limitations and move onto the next goal. Surprisingly, the next goal might be even more of what you need, not necessarily what you originally wanted.

This article was written for a dear friend who can’t accept not being able to obtain a special goal. I encourage her to read the above lessons. Perhaps her next special goal will be even sweeter than the one she didn’t obtain. Door #3 might be even sweeter than Door#1! Your mystery date is behind which door?

—Suzanne Reisler Litwin

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