The Myth of That One Thing…

By Tanya Ruckstuhl-Valenti LICSW, MSW

Have you ever had a desperate desire for one thing in your life to change?  Here’s an even better question:  Have you ever NOT had a desperate desire for one thing to change? 

Perhaps it is to find a life partner, or to land a certain job, or to pay off your loans, or be finished with an unpleasant task (Hello taxes!).But have you noticed how, as soon as you have climbed that particular mountain, another peak beckons from the distance?  Find your mate and then you will focus on increasing your income, lose ten pounds and then you simply must master Italian, complete your remodel and suddenly the yard is in desperate need of landscaping. 

I call it the “here-there” phenomena.  We humans are inherently disgruntled creatures.  As soon as our “there” (goal) becomes “here” (attained) we simply develop another “there” (repeat cycle ad infinitum) to focus on and yearn for.  This makes contentment a bit of a unicorn. 

I’m not saying we should all give up goal setting or burn our to-do lists.  But maybe we could treat our goals more like parsley and less like meat;  something to give our lives variety and texture, but not the main point of it all.  As long as our future intentions enliven our experience, they can be invigorating.  Once they start highlighting our shortcomings, our yearnings, our blah-blah-desperation, then we either need to become a turn of the century Russian novelist (sorry, Tolstoy = dead), do some reframing on our own, or seek therapy. 

There are any number of pithy sayings (glasses and roses come to mind, glasses and their respective fill level—what’s up with the glass metaphors?) reminding us to choose positive assessments about our lives if we want to—gasp!—actually enjoy it. 

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