I was talking to a friend the other day and during the follow-up about our last conversation I asked them about their goals list. When it came to finding a suitable romantic partners they said “I made a list of what I’m not looking for.” There was a moment of silence as I let their words float over me and then said “what’s that doing for you?”
“Well, nothing much. I notice that there are a lot of people who aren’t what I’m looking for, and some of them are actually kind of cute and interesting.”
“Yellow cars” was my reply.
“What about them?”
“Look for yellow cars and after a few days you’ll get really good at finding them.”
The “do not want” list is something that I have heard before and while it is how I used to operate globally, I’ve noticed that in some areas of my life it has either returned. While it is reassuring to realize that it is as ineffective for others as it is for me, I need to be honest and say that I’m wasting a bit of potential every time I operate this way.
At first pass it seems to make sense given that it is a good idea to have standards – drug addicts, abusers, narcissists or the dishonest should not make an intelligent persons short list of potential romantic partners. Issues arise when someone looks for these things first as a way to eliminate people because you find exactly what you are looking for. There is no shortage of people and that means there is no shortage of defective people. It is almost a certainty that every day of your life you can find a few people that are matches on your “do not want” list. Another certainty is that by spending time identifying the “do not wants”, you will have little time to spend on the “do want” list.
How to avoid this pitfall:
Know what you want. This may not make sense if you haven’t had a lot of experiences, so have a lot of experiences as soon as you can. If you have had a lot of experiences, focus on the things that you liked about the experiences, the things that you wanted to repeat over and over and the things that brought you joy / elation / fulfillment. Make a list of these things and spend some time mediating / thinking about the items on the list with the intention of uncovering a pattern – there is a very good chance that the things you like in your job, your hobbies and volunteer work will be the same things that you are seeking from your romantic life. If you are in a successful relationship, the things you like about it are likely going to be the same things that you should be looking for in your professional life.
All is not wasted if you have a “do not want” list. Simply change the items into the “do wants”. For example, “I don’t want someone who is self centered or narcissistic” becomes “I want someone who has a high level of self awareness”, “I don’t want someone who is dishonest” becomes “I want someone who strives to communicate accurately and effectively”, “I don’t want a career that has me working long hours away from my family” becomes “I want a career that gives me work / life balance”, etc…. Then get out there and have lots more experiences aware of what it is you are looking for.
We attract and find what we are looking for. It doesn’t matter what it is, how it impacts our life or the consequences having it, it will find its way into our existence. For this reason, we need to be very careful with our use of language and seek out the positive things in the world.