Semi-Charmed Life

31Aug/090

Who Gets To Decide What You Want?

This post by Seth Godin is worth some thought:

Who Gets To Decide What You Want?

When George Washington was a teenager, did he really, really, really want a car?

Unlikely.

In order to want something, you probably need to know it exists. But my guess is that it surely helps if you've been marketed to.

One definition of happiness is wanting the things you're likely to get (or, conversely, not wanting the unattainable). One definition of marketing is persuading the world it wants what you have, regardless of whether they can afford it or not.

We don't hesitate to motivate employees by marketing them the benefits of being promoted, even if they all can't possibly get this. We don't hesitate to tease kids by marketing every conceivable unattainable Christmas gift at them, relentlessly.

Teenage girls are taught what to want by magazines and by peers.

Patients are taught what to want by doctors who prescribe new tests. And doctors are taught to do that by lawyers eager to sue if they don't. Imagine going home and saying, "the doctor wanted to give me another test, but I said no..."

This cycle of assigned wants is going to get a lot worse before it gets better. The game theory demands it.

And so, once again it seems to come down to a personal decision. If you decide what you want (instead of letting someone else decide for you) perhaps you could choose the things that would actually bring you and your loved ones the satisfaction you can live with.

So much of our happiness is tied to expectations. Whether you live up to your expectations or not, you should realize that a lot of times these expectations are thrust upon you externally. Educational instutitions. Corporate institutions. The marriage institutions. It's scary to think that these institutions play such a big part in determining what we want out of ourselves. It makes me think: Is it even possible to say that we have free will in determining what we want out of lives when so many forces are conspiring to help us make those decisions for us?

That's not to say that you have to buck the trend just because it's the trend. These are just some things that we should all re-examine from time to time.

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