As a teenager, I was crazy about Australia.
The only “problem” with this obsession? I had actually never been Down Under.
So when the time came to fill out my application for an exchange year abroad, I naturally listed Australia as my first country choice.
When I found out I had gotten my second country choice only, I felt disappointed. After all, what I had wanted was to spend a year in Australia—not Canada! I wanted kangaroos, not grizzly bears.
To add insult to injury, I wouldn’t even stay in a big, interesting city like Toronto, but in a really small town in a small province.
After the first disappointment wore off, I decided to make the best of it. And something that started as a disappointment became the best year that I had had in my life until that point:
I created amazing friendships, some of which have lasted until this day and resulted in wedding invitations. I travelled across the second largest country in the world (in case you are wondering, Russia is first). I experienced Canada’s beautiful nature, and its kind-hearted people. And I created memories that might last a lifetime.
What I realized many years later is that what had made that year so special to me were certain people and conditions: I was lucky in that I got to stay with people who had hosted dozens of exchange students like me before. They were incredibly experienced when it came to advising someone in my situation. It was their advice and the hospitality and the community-feel of a small town that helped make the year so exceptional for me. I have a hunch that I would not have encountered those exact conditions anywhere else.
True, I did not get to see kangaroos, and instead spent quite a lot of time in ice rinks, but I suspect that getting my second choice was actually a blessing in disguise. I suspect that I got exactly what I needed to flourish at that time.
What I learned from this experience is that we sometimes focus too much on getting what we want, instead of finding the blessing in not getting what we want. When approached consciously, not getting what we want can be an art form and an opportunity for spiritual evolvement.
The reason for this is that we often actually don’t know what we really want. In my case, what I really wanted were amazing friendships and experiences. I wanted to feel free and supported. I wanted to experience a sense of community.
Because I was unaware of what I really wanted, I instead focused on something secondary—the country I wanted to visit. Not getting what I consciously wanted and what really wasn’t so important freed me to get what I unconsciously wanted and what was actually important to me.
Today, I want to celebrate not getting what I wanted. By giving me experiences such as exploring the Canadian outdoors and participating in the opportunities through the school I attended, this helped me grow into the person I am today.
I don’t know who made the decision that I wouldn’t be able to go to Australia (it might have simply been a draw). Back then, I was disappointed, but today I would want to thank them.
What I later found out is that the experience I had with my exchange year can be true of jobs and relationships, too. If we look at our lives, and the lives of others, we will likely be able to identify example of example of how not getting what we want can make our lives so much better, because it opens up space for what we really want (or need).
Some people wouldn’t be together with their soul mates had they gotten the ego mate they wanted. Other people might not live their soul purpose if their career had gone the way they had wanted it to go.
While not getting what we want can often (not always) be a blessing in disguise is this, it can often take a long time to find the hidden gift in a disappointment. The best thing we can do is to just be open for a disappointment to turn into a gift.
Not getting what we want can be a blessing (even for others). One of arguably the few hundred greatest songs of all times wouldn’t exist had a man known as “Mr. Jimmy” gotten the beverage he had wanted on the day he happened to run into Rolling Stones’ singer Mick Jagger in 1964!
Legend has it that Jagger was in a local drugstore in Excelsior, Minnesota, to pick up a prescription when the chance encounter took place. A person known as Mr. Jimmy was in front of him and ordered a Cherry Coke. The store only had regular coke left. Turning to Jagger, Mr. Jimmy uttered “You can’t always get what you want.” The rest is history.
I believe that listening to the song that came out of this line is a great pick-me-up when we don’t get what we want. I cannot tell you how grateful I am that Mr. Jimmy did not get a Cherry Coke that day—and that he was evolved enough to comment this situation with the memorable line.
I think the song’s lyrics nail it. Yes, we may not always get what we want.
But when we look back at our lives, we may find that we often have gotten exactly what we needed for our growth.
If you have an example for how not getting what you wanted was actually a blessing, please share it below in the comment section or on my Facebook page.
Author: Bere Blissenbach
Image: Julia Manzerova/Flickr
Editor: Caitlin Oriel