What Do You Want?

Marla McCune

AT A VULNERABLE TIME in my life, I went to a “quantum healer” who said my deceased mother was trying to ask me, “What do you want?”

I kept saying “I don’t know” to the healer and she kept repeating the question, until the answer popped out unexpectedly, “I just want to be alone right now.” The healer said my mother was clapping. That was exactly what I needed to hear to help me clarify my thinking.

I believe that “what do you want?” is the most important question we can ask not just ourselves, but also others. If we don’t consciously identify what it is we really want, how likely are we to achieve it?

I knew a man who lived and breathed real estate. He got his real estate license but he never used it. Every time he got near success, he would come up with some reason he couldn’t do it. He remained unfulfilled and complained his whole life. He never believed that he could get—or perhaps deserved—what he wanted.

I now understand that we accept into our life what we think we deserve. There’s a saying that goes along with this notion: “If you believe it, you can achieve it.” So, what is it that you really want?

Early on, it was clear that what I wanted most in life was a belief system that worked for me, to be married and to be a mother. It took a lot of living to make all of those things my reality.

I realize now that for years I unconsciously believed that, to be a good mother or even a good person, I needed to continually sacrifice my own needs and desires. By the time I met the love of my life in my mid-50s, I was prepared to live the life I truly wanted. To get there, however, I had many experiences that clearly defined what I didn’t want.

What does all this have to do with money? If I identify what I want financially, it’s more likely to happen than if I’m vague about it. What wants have I identified for myself?

I’ve been working my entire adult life. I now realize that I want to work as long as I love it, can set my own schedule, feel valued and am genuinely contributing. Right now, I have the perfect job for me, one where I set my own hours.

Physically, there’s a point where work is actually good for me, and a point where it becomes unhealthy. I have enough financially to survive in retirement, but I do love the freedom that comes with more money. If it comes easily, I will continue to acquire it.

In fact, I know I tend to hoard money. My husband helps me spend it on experiences that we’ll treasure forever. As I write this, I’m listening to the birds from a lanai in Molokai, Hawaii.

I’m still working on questions about my retirement. What will motivate me when I no longer have a job? What will I do to feel inspired, to get up and out every day? Will my self-worth and motivation suffer when I’m no longer showing up and being useful in a financial way?

I know I don’t want to be dependent on anyone else financially. I want options, especially as I age. As a nurse, I’m familiar with caregivers who look after their grown children, while risking their own future.

It’s surprising how many people know nothing about what they should be doing to prepare for their future. Many are so anxious they won’t even look at what needs to be done. They’re so overwhelmed by distractions, enticements and fearful news that they don’t make any deliberate changes.

What I find most disturbing is that many of these people feel it’s honorable to take care of their family before themselves, even when they’re putting themselves at risk. They have irrational guilt about taking care of themselves. At one time, I did, too. But here’s the obvious thing: Not taking care of yourself doesn’t help anyone.

I’ve adopted some financial principles related to helping others that keep me on track:

  • My first responsibility is to provide for myself, so I don’t have to ask for help. That includes saving for retirement, being resourceful and taking care of my health.
  • An inheritance is not a right. My family will get whatever is left when I die. If I die soon, they’ll get more. But I plan on living a very long life and I can’t predict how much I’ll need to provide for myself.
  • I won’t take more responsibility for others’ well-being than they do.
  • If others want help from me, they should negotiate with me. I love to help, and it’s even better when there’s a mutual benefit of some sort.
  • If others don’t show appreciation, or they’re irresponsible with a gift, they shouldn’t expect more. It’s not that I don’t want to be generous. I just want to do it in a way that counts for something.

Focusing on what you really want may seem selfish. But I see it as being responsible. I believe everyone should take care of themselves to the best of their abilities. I want everyone to have the life they desire—but that doesn’t usually happen without deliberate thought and without asking, “What do I want?”

Marla McCune is a registered nurse with a career spanning 45 years. She also loves journaling and outdoor activities, including swimming, photography and gardening. Marla’s previous article was Finally in Charge.

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