It sounds like a rude waiter taking your order. But maybe that is just how we have been conditioned into treating certain language and phrases. What if we were to consider this sentence through a “glass-half full” lens. Instead of assuming we are some sort of inconvenience to our inquisitor, we place the emphasis on “want” rather than “you”. Furthermore, what if we assume it is not coming from a person in servitude, but an equal. Someone interested in our longer-term happiness than simply a quick fix.
Now the sentence means something different entirely. It becomes a genuine question for us to consider, not to simply bounce the first thing on our minds that is determined by our environment. Now the onus is on us to actually consider what it is that we actually want.
I do not suggest this approach generally in mainstream society as it is likely to result in long queues at the bar*. However, in some circumstances, it is an entirely wonderful question to ask and to be asked.
In our session this lunch time called “Defining Success”, the conversation evolved to head somewhat and this thread became relevant. How each of us defined success was in the context of personal experience led by values being satisfied and while some metrics were mentioned by the size of the number, the traditional societal model of success was only a small part of the answer.
Words like “happiness”, “fun”, “playfulness”, “motivation” and “recognition” came out as being much more important elements to consider when it came to a definition of what success was. We are talking a small sample size here - only 6 people, and the gender balance was somewhat lopsided, but it felt like a strong theme to report on.
The mood was expressive in the room. The diversity that was apparent was dispelled by the unifying theme and the willingness of participants to contribute.
Coming back to the starting point, are we just waiting for someone to ask us the question? Or is it one we can turn on ourselves? Is there a cultural reluctance to even consider success as being something to aspire to? Do we think it is rude, impolite, arrogant, brazen to dare to think that our own success should be something to value? If we use success as a synonym for happy, I really hope not.
As people, what else is more important than happiness? That of ourselves and of others. It is so important that “the pursuit of happiness” is a glaring inclusion in the United States, Declaration of Independence. Right up there with life and liberty, happiness is one of the key goals the founding fathers (well, it was the 18th century) considered to be the thing that a person should absolutely aspire to.
By any measure of success, John Lennon was a person who would appear to have achieved it. However, even as a child he was able to articulate success in a deeper way. When asked by a teacher:
T: What do you want to be when you grow up?
T: You don’t understand the assignment.
J: You don’t understand life.
Each participant in our session, which takes the form of a guided tutorial had their own specific definition of what success was and the metrics of measuring it were both practical and subjective. At the end of the session, it has become the custom to decide what the next session will be about and one of our number made this observation. Even when we recognise what success might be for us and we have the skills and knowledge to achieve it, what stops us from doing so? So, for next month we will address this very question and I welcome you all to join in.
* Please note that in most such situations you are likely to be asked “how can I help you”