“The customer is king, the customer gets what he/she wants” is the capitalist way; “I want what I want” is the contemporary battle cry – but growth takes discomfort, not instant gratification.
We are supposed to be living in a kind of best of times.
As long as you want it, and are able to buy it, you’ll get it. If people want it enough, they’ll be willing to pay for it, and it will be offered. Whatever the it, it will be. Now for sale.
Giving us customers what we want has become the name of the game. And we are all supposed to be better off for it, for we get what we want. Satisfaction guaranteed.
Except, of course, that many of those wants are manufactured, playing on the most basic of human instincts and urges and their instant gratification so as to sell stuff and make money. Perfect for the money making, hedonic adaptation kicks in almost as fast as the gratification, and whatever was finally had turns out far less fulfilling than it had been expected that it would be – but the next new thing is being dangled right in front of our noses already, anyways.
What, however, if you want not what you want, but better?
What if you have experience with what is better but it’s not what is wanted?
This is just the problem of so much of education and learning, and even of personal development: that it’s not about giving people what they want, nor of making them realize what they didn’t know they’d want in the consumerist sense of becoming able to sell it like hotcakes (or rather, like iPhones).
Rather, it’s about following that nagging feeling of not living up to one’s potential and acknowledging – if not creating – the desire to be a better, more knowledgeable, fit, skillful,… person.
It’s only with enough self-awareness and perhaps in the quiet (which is ever more rare and all too often, actively avoided) that such nags and desires even come to consciousness, though. In the busy-ness of a ‘normal’ day, with all the clutter and all the clamor for more, it’s hard to notice that there may be more. Or rather, better.
It’s even more difficult, nicely as the calls to get better and more productive fit into the overall ideology of these our times and cultures, to realize when we may not need to get so much more of a grip on all our doing and being so much as to an understanding of the need to want less. When we just keep on trying to put more into every second, to not have any wasted moment, we may inch closer to the perfection of our productivity, but we may also be losing our humanity.
We do, I think, need to get to doing more of what is better, and to a greater appreciation of the value of the better over the comfortable and convenient. Moving enough, for example. Eating well (and learning to choose real foods and cook with them). Learning about the world. Drawing pleasure from such purposeful activities that feel good when we get into the flow of their doing and are good for us in the longer term, rather than chasing after external validations and quick pleasures that are immediately satisfying in all their saccharine-ness, but destructive in the long term.
We also need to realize, however, that the understanding that can come with these purposeful practices will only come to fruition when we don’t just learn and work all the time, but when we become still, take the time to just observe, and let questions we wrestle with gestate and grow to new forms, show new solutions, wind along in different ways.
You will need to find yourself some topics that interest you, the motivation to move and explore, the time to socialize with other people or come to feel one with the world, all alone. No one can sell you the motivation, hand you the time, offer purpose for purchase. You’ll have to get up – and sometimes, get down and relax into just being, not becoming – and do it yourself. Uncomfortable as it may be.