The UpSpiral & DownSpiral Of Wanting

Have you ever gone to a store with the express purpose of buying something you needed, got home with one or two bags of things, and realized that you forgot what you went for?

You may have reasoned that you didn’t need a list, but on the way to the store, you weren’t particularly thinking about what you were going there to get. You were distracted by the traffic and the sights along the way. You found the store, and dutifully went into your destination without a thought in your mind about what you were there for.

Maybe you walked in with something gnawing on the back of your mind, but you shopped and got a few things, got distracted by a few others, found a good deal, and knew that you were in a hurry to get back home.

Then just before you got into your driveway, you realized that you didn’t get what you went for, and you weren’t about to turn around and go back and get it.

You aren’t alone, if this has happened to you,  because it has happened to most people more than one time. It is the way our brain works.

We don’t necessarily focus on what we intend to want, but more significant than that, we don’t always know what we want. In fact, a lot of the time, we don’t know what we really want.

We are much better at thinking we know what we want than we are at really knowing our wants and our desires.

Wanting and remembering what we want, and going after it, is much more significant than we give it play. We treat it something like going to the store for something that we forget. The long-term implications for living are that we can live our entire lives, and never really go after or do what we want to do.

In fact, we can live our entire lives, never ask, and never really know.

If you have dreamed a few times in your life, and you think the result has been some kind of mistake or even a disaster, you may have decided that you can’t trust what you dream or that what you want deeply just isn’t going to be yours.

If you have failed at what you dream many times, you may have decided that you are a failure for having had such dreams, and being foolish enough to follow them.

You were foolish not to have followed them.

Whether or not you were foolish doesn’t begin to be the issue. The issue is what have you learned. Or if you realized, considered, and were open to the learning, what has it taught you?

Many people just close off, not only to what they are dreaming, wanting, and desiring, but they have learned to trust someone else’s dreams or someone else’s best plan for them, deeply believing that their own “wanting” is flawed. That’s a good description of life in a DownSpiral.

You will never find what you want in a DownSpiral, at the bottom of the barrel, or going down further into it.

What you name in a DownSpiral is usually a reaction to not feeling good, it comes from resistance, or tiredness, or exasperation. They are not the ideas that will fulfill you.

When you are in a DownSpiral, you do not think of things in a realistic way, that will make you happy in the long term. And even though there may be exceptions, it is not the rule and not the easy way to do this. It is not the way that remains firm.

One requirement for identifying what you deeply want is to stay in an UpSpiral and use your strengths as guides.

© Dr. William K. Larkin


About the author

Dr. Donald B. Johnson
  • Sheila

    Again, it is as if Dr Johnson and Dr Larkin are inside my head!

    I have been in a career now for quite a long time and the bottom line is, that I just don’t have the same passion for it anymore. I started to feel this way a few years ago, but, every time I came close to leaving it, I have backed away.

    True, a big part of the challenge is that I have not figured out what I want to replace it with, but, the lure of the $$, the safety that it offers and my friends telling me to ‘stick with the knitting” have all contributed to a very lengthy “over stay”.

    Even today, my business is going quite well and that little voice in my head says, well, maybe you would have been unhappy in whatever you were doing, due to other circumstances these last few years……stay a while longer…….

    Yet, I look at my top 5 strengths and really only use one, or, two of them, at most on a daily basis. The brain also loves novelty, so, it’s no wonder my day job is not ‘cutting” it for me anymore.

    Until I did this course I had no idea about the Upsiral/Downspiral concept. I can, of course see that I have been in a Downspiral while making this choice to cling to a role that did not fulfill me……but it will be breaking into living consistently in the upspiral that will give me the tools to finally and successfully break free.

    I feel a breath of fresh and wonderful air of possibility entering my life…….thank you Dr Johnson and Dr Larkin.

  • Eddy Macdonald

    I’ve had some personal experiences with this recently. When I am in a DownSpiral (from a sense of lack, a place of fear, and a more fixed, scarcity mindset about money in this example) what I want is very rigid – x number of clients or y number of dollars. When I get back in more of an UpSpiral, and a growth and abundance mindset, I realize that what I really want is financial freedom, which is not attached to any rigid amount or any one thing, and I am able to believe it will come to me.

  • Kathy Lee

    I really appreciate the research on flourishing vs languishing. Living at a fully functioning level is what I’m after with lots of possibilities available to my mind and heart. I appreciate the positivity ratio that we need to flourish: we need to have 3 positive thoughts or emotions to every one negative feeling or thought or experience. 3 to 1. That seems so doable. And folks who are really flourishing at a high level are at 9 to 1 ratio. That’s something to wholeheartedly embrace – that even if I’m at a certain ratio today it can be higher tomorrow. Thinking about one’s future can be scary or it can be an adventure and in either case, it that’s what you are thinking, you are probably right. What we focus on is what we get more of. With the VibeCore and and FuturePac exercises we have the opportunity to reinvent our lives and our futures and become clearer about what we want our lives to be and how we want to share our gifts with the world.

  • Dwayne Paro

    Wanting is something that is programmed into most of society as bad. Depending on your upbringing, religious belief, education etc. it goes against the grain. Much like being creative. I was in a lecture this week where it was presented that 98% of 5 years old test as being creative, by the time they were 25 only 2% tested as being creative. We have created culture(s) that proclaim that you need to be diligent, only desire what you need and get to the point of achieving a predetermined path. As I work on the post it notes exercise for what I want I personally find it hard to think creatively and open minded. My thoughts go directly to what I want to achieve and what I want in that process. There appears to be no creativity and no thinking expansively. As well my ratio is well below the 3 to 1 when it comes to positive vs negative. As I’ve worked thru the weeks of the course I’ve realized I need to be more cognizant of that and more intentional in my choices, realizing I’ve set some bad precedence that needs to be overcome. The interesting part of all this is people around me have always commented on how positive I am and they envy my path in life. This creates an interesting confusion in my mind as to whether I’m really on the high end of the low or the low end of the high when it comes to positivity. Either way it’s not where I desire to be.

  • Dr. gloria wright

    Maybe not wanting is a way not to be disappointed. But playing it safe can be a bit boring and lack zest. I finally figured out that my not wanting was a way to live within my budget. I had to find wants that didn’t cost a lot.
    But wanting pulls us forward. Knowing what we want is like a magnet. I remember the chair of my dissertation committee telling me that when I truly had the topic of my research, books would fall off the shelf into my lap, people would appear that I needed to know and they did. The idiom, “Things falling into place” became a
    reality. Wish I had known the loving kindness meditation, “live life with ease” back then.
    Sitting with the question, “What do I want” needs some energy in it. What bubbles up when you ask that question? What sparks a little life in you when you think of it? Good company? A little awe? What would you like more of? How can you get it? What would you like to do? How would you like to feel? What scene conjures up happiness?
    I still remember the assignment of those dadblasted post-it notes. They said it was ok to have 100 and I couldn’t even get 10! My “want” generator was broken! I didn’t even know what I wanted. The
    experience was a somewhat painful and eventually a joyful awakening. Wanting to be happy and live life with ease is definitely part of my Upspiral.
    Knowing what we want, keeping what we want on your minds (and our grocery list) and taking our desires as goals and visions will pull us forward into fruition. But shoot fire, it’s still gonna take a lot of will-power, discipline, commitment, practice and gratitude to get the job done – and hopefully still be happy about it!

  • Kalah Vaughan

    Through this experience of class and learning new techniques of how to measure my personal scores I have seen the swings in my scores notably. I have noticed different patterns arising in my scores. Such as being in lower score of 60’s for a few days when I feel down in the dumps. Then I meditate or pull myself out of these feelings and my score has a pattern of rising to 78. It has been a pattern that is not perfect but it has shown me exactly how to measure where I am on that particular day.

    I come to find out when I’m experiencing my lower scores the things that I want are small and easily achievable. I have trouble believing in myself when I am wanting the unimaginable. It seems my doubts try to seep in and tell me the reasons why I can not “have” something. With our new score the vibe core score I am able to kick my doubts in the teeth. I have been big on knowing what I want in life. It took me many years to uncover my true authentic wants and desires. So I did know what I wanted before this course but I did not expect to be able to receive my desires in different ways that I would not expect. This was a great lesson for me. I realized I am a bit a control fanatic and a perfectionist. Now with my scores and being able to measure my progress I can know when to trust my desires and I also know I am worthy of wanting anything I would like. Something that I ask the universe for, might just start a butterfly effect an excellent way all around me. I will continue to dive deeper in my desires. I want to be a pillar of success, kindness and authenticity.

  • Yvette Gauff

    I find this really resonates with me.

    For whatever reason, from a young age, people are often chastised for or discouraged for their wanting. I recall numerous times hearing a parent tell a child as they walk into a store, “I don’t care what you want, you are not getting it, so don’t ask”. Or, if provided an opportunity to choose something, being asked, ‘Why would you want that?” as if the desire is wrong. Daydreaming and voicing one’s desires, especially if out of the norm, ridiculed. Having desires, knowing what one wants, and feeling they are worthy and able to have it is powerful. I imagine the opposite – not having clarity, not knowing what you want, can lead to a very unfulfilling existence. Or even knowing what you want but not believing that you can have it, or ‘going for it” to attempt to attain it. I am aware of examples where this has been the case, including my own life. A saying comes to mind: “Hope deferred makes the heart sick…” Or there is downspiral. That said, are we really better safe than sorry?

    I see the importance of the VibeCore concept at work here. It is encouraging to know that once clear, and a person identifies and focuses on their wants, by getting in touch with and exercising their strengths, there is the impetus and power to move life in a positive direction. Even if the want is not always fulfilled, there is a hope in the process that is positive. And the opportunity to start again with new knowledge. Over time I can see these steps as key to a fulfilling life.

    There is a second half to the saying referenced above: “…but when the desire is fulfilled, it is a tree of life”. Life – fruitfulness, abundance. That is a positive outcome!!

  • Yolanda Smith

    Recently, I was having a conversation with a close friend of mine regarding my wedding plans. She asked me who was going to officiate and my response was “well, I can’t have what I really want, so I will have to go with Plan B. She quickly stopped me as I continue to to talk and asked “what do you mean you can’t have what you want?” I mentioned the name of the minister that I wanted, who she just happens to know, and simply told me “call the man and ask him”.

    My hesitation was due to the fact that he lived across the country from where my ceremony is being held and I just could not see a way for it to work without, me having to pay for he and his wife to travel and cover their lodging. Long story short, I did call him and guess what? He told me that he and his wife were in tbe process of moving back to the city in which I am getting married! I got what I wanted!
    I realized that I did not think I could have it, because I couldn’t see “How” it would happen.

    Sometimes, we become too accustomed to not receiving what we want in life. Rather than doing the work of changing our mindset, we default into  DownSpiral automatically acceptinging that we can’t have what we want.

    My core belief, that doubt is the enemy of faith and that all things are possible, was put to the test in this situation. I realized, that it was easier for me to believe it for someone else, then to believe it for myself. Lesson learned.

  • Echo Macdonald

    My difficulty in identifying my “wants” seems to be an issue common to others. Those of us raised in a culture of “putting others first, lest you be labelled as ‘selfish'” know part of the struggle. We are not taught to love and appreciate ourselves as much as we love and appreciate others. In that context, it’s easy to “lose sight” of yourself. Much of the difficulty rests in valuing ourselves enough to give ourselves permission to visualize and verbalize our wants and wanting. Could it really happen? Could it really be so? Am I worthwhile enough to have this? The arbitrary nature of victimhood defines itself. So, if I am all I have learned that I am with my myriad of strengths and I have the ability to turn on my positive ideas and creativity as I choose, may I not also know that I am free from victimization of my own doing and that I may choose to want what I want when I want it? Oh, yes I can!

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