On wanting and longing
What is it that you really long for?
In therapy, there is a notion of a “presenting agenda”. This is the topic that the client first brings to the therapist as the “problem”, which almost inevitably gives way to something deeper and more important that needs to be addressed. Likewise, in founder coaching, the conversation, if it goes well, sooner or later takes us deeper than the presenting agenda, beyond the need to improve sales or hire a great team.
One line of inquiry that is often fruitful is exploring what we want. More often than not, our desires are just one side of a coin. The other side is something we don’t want to feel or are afraid of. Getting what we want could be our ego’s way of solving this problem. “Maybe I feel insecure, so I want to make lots of money to feel safe.”
The goal is not to avoid wanting things but to understand what’s driving our behaviour so that we can choose our actions not from a place of compulsion but from a place of freedom.
In a conversation with a client a few days ago, we drew a line between wanting and longing. They may feel very similar, but the more we look into them or, rather, feel into them, the more different they become.
Slowing down helps us to feel the difference between wanting and longing. They have different energies. Wanting is a feeling that arises from a place of lack when we feel that we aren’t complete or enough unless we get something. Wanting is personal: we strongly feel like separate individuals who want to get something. Wanting comes from the mind that says, “I want that”.
Our wants and desires are fleeting. Our desires can feel irresistible until we get distracted by something. To want something is not a problem, but noticing how it’s different from longing is essential.
Longing comes from a place of wholeness and completeness. Its energy is more grounded and calm, without a craving feeling that comes with wanting something badly. Longing comes from a place of hope and optimism, rooted in a vision of a better world.
Longing is born in the heart, not the mind. It comes from something more profound than our rational thoughts and persists in time, calling, but not driving, us towards a higher ground. Longing feels less personal than wanting. My ego wants many things, but it doesn’t long for anything. That’s the heart’s job.
You may or may not want what you long for. What you long for may be downright scary for the ego, but that’s the ego’s job: to be a bit scared and greedy.
Yet, these are good questions to ask. What do I want? What am I afraid of if I don’t get it?
What does my heart long for? What vision of a better world keeps coming back to me? What is calling me, whether I want it or not?
While everyone is defining their goals at the start of the year, which is a great exercise, don’t forget to slow down to ask yourself, What do I long for? And let yourself hear the answer even if it’s scary, allowing the fear to come and dissipate, as it inevitably will if you notice it and don’t react to it.