Training to Have, Not Want

I’m a huge fan of Geneen Roth —a fellow female self-help author who dropped a ton of truth in her 2009 global best-selling book Women, Food and God. I devoured it during my own self-help journey a few years back.

Let’s just say that you’d learn more about me than you’d ever want to know if you read the scribblings in the margins of that gem on my bookshelf.

Roth recently released a new book called This Messy Magnificent Life and it doesn’t disappoint. This time around, I took the audio book route and I’ve been listening to the book while getting ready in the morning. Because brushing teeth, plucking eyebrows and covering up with concealer can be so boring.

Last week, as the universe would have it, Roth served up the perfect smack in the face just when I was slipping back into old habits of worrying about the outcome of a future events out of my control. At the end of a particularly powerful passage, she dropped this truth bomb:

We must train ourselves to have and not want.

Amen, sister. Thank you for the reminder. Roth’s words of wisdom couldn’t have come at a better time. That very same morning I worked myself into a froth over something potentially going wrong during an important book meeting with a retailer later that afternoon.

However, Roth’s perspective quickly snapped me into a more positive frame of mind.

Rather than barking orders at myself in order to ensure the perfect outcome of the upcoming meeting, I made the conscious choice to focus my mental energy on what I had – not what I wanted. I looked at myself in the mirror and made a mental list of everything I already had in life —with or without this new retail partner on board.

The list was long and included an amazing husband, remarkable children, phenomenal parents and a damn cute dog. The list quickly revealed that even if the worst happened and the retailer rejected carrying my book, I still had a remarkable life. I didn’t need more.

It’s amazing what a change in perspective can do to your sanity.

I was able to see my upcoming meeting as icing on the cake of a great life, a nice-to-have, as opposed to something that would ultimately influence my self-esteem, identity or happiness.

And with that shift in perspective, my internal dialogue made the sanity-saving leap from  “This is an opportunity of a lifetime, you better not screw it up” to something more like, “This is an exciting opportunity but I don’t need it in order to be happy because I’m already happy.”

We must train ourselves to have and not want.

There are two things I love about this advice. First, is the use of the word “train” when Roth says we must train ourselves to have and not want. If Roth made it about learning rather than training” it wouldn’t have the same impact. You don’t read The Power of Now and instantly learn how to live in the present moment.

I wish that were the case, but it isn’t. So, let’s stop expecting it to be.

Training yourself to be content with what you already have requires conscious effort. Controlling that bitch radio between your ears that constantly pushes you to be, do and have more can be a daily, if not hourly, challenge.

They key is to try and catch yourself in the act of attitudes and behaviors that don’t serve you. It takes time and it takes training. I’m grateful Roth’s words of wisdom got my training back on track.

Never be afraid to ask for an assist.

I also appreciate Roth’s declaration that we must train ourselves. She’s right. Nobody can train your mind but you. Sad, but true. Nobody can see the suffering that happens inside your mind when you yell at yourself for not accomplishing more— Get your shit together, Karen!— which means nobody can slay this self-sabotaging behavior except you.

While this can be overwhelming, allow it to also be empowering. You’re in charge and with the help of training materials like these (my favorite self-help books), you can catch yourself in the act of your self-sabotaging behaviors.

Chances are you’re willing to spend time training for the next 5k, a certification at work or how to master the school fundraiser, so why not dedicate some time training yourself to have and not want.

I can think of few things more important to master.


Join the discussion and tell us your opinion.

Donna McGarryreply

HI Katherine,
I just heard you speak here at my place of employment this afternoon, here in Richmond. I must say I was utterly impressed, intrigued and grateful for everything you said. I’m not a mom, but everything you spoke about touched me personally as I’m constantly trying to “please everyone else” except me. I’m ordering your book as I would love to read and learn more with balancing myself, husband, work, fur baby and work.
Thank you so much for your insightful speech!

Katherine Wintschreply
– In reply to: Donna McGarry

Hi Donna!
I’m sorry for the delayed response. I’m so pleased you enjoyed the talk and related to the message behind it. No need to be a mother to have self-doubt, that’s for sure! I hope you have enjoyed the book and that it’s helping you set boundaries and give more time and energy to yourself. You deserve it! Keep slaying! – Katherine

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