Photo Credit: Thomas Griesbeck, Unsplash.com

Written by Dr. Rana Al-Falaki
August 14, 2020

I used to be a want-a-holic . . .

What exactly is a “want-a-holic” (you may ask)?

It’s when you always want something with the belief that when you get it, you’ll be happy, or feel fulfilled. I was so obsessed with striving for the next achievement, the next success, the next landmark in my life to celebrate, even though I never spent very long actually celebrating before I moved on.

It didn’t stop at material things that I could buy–such as houses or cars. It included wanting to have a certain number of children, reaching and maintaining a certain dress size, and receiving recognition for my professional contributions (to name a few).

Some may call it ambition–and part of that is true–but where does ambition end and obsession begin? Eventually both can become destructive. Eventually exhaustion sets in.

Exhaustion of what exactly?

  • Exhaustion of searching for happiness.
  • Exhaustion of trying to be everything to everybody.
  • Exhaustion of seeking approval.
  • Exhaustion of hiding from your true self.

Quite simply–exhaustion of wanting

We keep ourselves so busy, that often we don’t even stop to consider these points. What exactly is happiness? To some it may be feeling worry-free, and to others it may be being surrounded by people who care about them. The answer will differ from individual to individual (and likewise for seeking approval).

By being busy, we don’t even notice that our reactive behaviors (our auto-pilot, if you’d like) are programmed to do so. It’s only when we stop, when we reach that stage of exhaustion and finally reflect on our lives that we take the time to question our behaviors and–through the coaching process–we’re able to strengthen our ability to respond with choice rather than react with habit and instinct.

I’d love to give you the precise answers of how to overcome wanting, but there’s no single cure because each of us is unique. What I can tell you, however, is that one common factor for this cure is to stop doing and start being.

I’ll illustrate this with my own story. I was always busy. I was always looking after others’ needs over my own and felt that if I stated my own needs, this would surely seem selfish. In fact, I thoroughly disapproved of those who I judged to be selfish.

My ego needed constant feeding by requests to be a keynote speaker or a sought after clinician so that I’d feel worthy. I envied the successes of others while never recognizing my own. While I was a skilled listener, I wasn’t comfortable in silence. I lacked any boundaries and kept taking on more and more responsibility all in the name of “helping others.” I needed to know where I was going and what I was doing. That, to me, was the meaning of purpose.

Eventually, I was forced to stop doing, which isn’t uncommon in the awakening process. If we don’t slow down voluntarily, we can be forced to.

In my case I became unwell—a type of chronic fatigue–which gave me the time to truly reflect on my life. For others, it can be the breakdown of a relationship, death of a loved one, or collapse of a business.

What all these life events have in common, is that they force us to reflect on the true meaning of our existence. We’re presented with an opportunity, having been stripped of ego, to simply be.

For example, how many times do we hear about a global tragedy and then re-prioritize our life based around health? We tell ourselves that working so hard is irrelevant if we’re not healthy and that money doesn’t matter. It’s all too easy to start to slip back into typical habits.

I’ve noticed it most recently in my own circle of health professionals. During the coronavirus pandemic where they weren’t permitted to go to their clinics, they rested. They enjoyed time with their families, time in nature, time engaging in health-positive behaviors.

They made commitments to remember this experience and carry it into their lives when things returned to normal. Not surprisingly though, when they went back to work, the treadmill started again, and all was forgotten. The self-care went out of the window in favor of responsibilities and regulations, and they’re looking back with longing at that time when they felt free.

The reality is that we can still have that feeling of freedom and meet our responsibilities. We can still feel joyful and at peace, and be busy. We can still reside in a place of creativity and be surrounded by other people.

We don’t have to be alone in nature and not working to feel that ultimate sense of freedom and fulfillment. When we start being we can still go about our day-to-day lives engaging in everything with choice and purpose.

I said I didn’t have a cure for you because this isn’t a one-size-fits-all process, but I’ll certainly share some tips with you to help you get started in the surrendering process:

  1. Let go of judgments–when you find yourself judging, ask yourself what another more compassionate perspective may be
  2. Reside in a place of gratitude–express gratitude, not just for the successes but also for the pain and failures, because every experience has something to teach us
  3. Send love to everything–love to ourselves, love to those who we think have harmed us, and those who have helped us. Bear in mind that whatever we give out, we receive back, so why waste our energy on sending out hatred or resentment, only to have that reflected back at us?
  4. Take time to know yourself–your values, who you are, how you show up, and how you want to be seen
  5. Whatever happens in your life–no matter how challenging–ask yourself what you can learn from it and how you can grow from it
  6. Practice self-care, self-love and self-forgiveness–set boundaries, communicate your needs, develop mindful practices, consider meditation in a way that works for you (sitting, walking, dancing), eat well, rest well, learn to be present.

When I started engaging in these practices, and stretched myself like an elastic band–that if stretched for long enough doesn’t rebound back to its original form–I finally felt free. That, for me, was the cure to my want-a-holic tendencies.

I still enjoy successes in my relationships, career, finances and health; but the difference is they are even richer successes than before and I feel free. I’ve managed to experience more by doing less and it’s with this passion that I help everybody have the same if they so desire.

Photo Credit: Thomas Griesbeck, Unsplash.com