The story of Dorothy and her three friends

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There’s always a need behind what we want. Here’s how a children’s tale can teach or remind you so.

“If I (only) had _____, I’d be able to _____”. This basic formula is one of the key pillars in the Wizard of Oz.

I’d be tender, I’d be gentle, And awful sentimental, Regarding love and art. I’d be friends with the sparrows, And the boy who shoots the arrows, If I only had a heart”. So sang the Tin Man. “I could while away the hours, Conferrin’ with the flowers, Consultin’ with the rain. And my head, I’d be scratchin’, While my thoughts were busy hatchin’, If I only had a brain”, sang the Scarecrow. “Yeh, it’s sad, believe me, missy, When you’re born to be a sissy, Without the vim and verve. But I could show my prowess, Be a lion not a mou-ess, If I only had the nerve.” So pleaded the Lion. As for Dorothy, someone could write lyrics around “If I (only) had my dog back, I’d get my girl’s normal life back” and nobody would see them to be off-theme.

This “If I (only) had” formula isn’t limited only to the world of tales. We hear it in other places as well. Most often, where there’s a desire for something more.

If I had a better job, I’d be able to make a better living”, “If I had less of a belly, I’d be able to seduce the kind of man/woman I’m attracted to”, “If I had more confidence in me, I’d be able to get the promotion I’m looking forward to”, “If I had a pair of Under Armour shoes, I’d be able to shoot (basketball) hoops as well as Steph Curry”, “If I (only) had _____, I’d be able to _____”.

The problem then seems to be one of scarcity; “We don’t have enough of _____”. That’s why “We want more” of it.

I wish things were different, sometimes.” What is it you’d change, if you could? “Oh it’s simple. I’d like to have a job where I can make a decent living.” Aren’t you already being paid good money for the work you do? “Yes! But I feel it’s not enough. As if there’s something missing.” Is it about the work itself, your boss, your colleagues, the money? “I don’t know but… I don’t feel it’s the right job for me.”

Surprisingly, even when people get what they want, they’re not necessarily happier or satisfied.

This can’t be more true than in the workplace.

As in recent years, different studies have shown that having more money (e.g. a salary raise), for instance, has an immediate but short term impact on employees’ motivation, engagement and overall satisfaction with their job. Once the “novelty aspect” of the new salary passes, the levels of motivation and satisfaction come back to what they were before the raise if not decrease. When, on the other hand, efforts are made to give an employee more autonomy in and influence over her days of work – without any change to her paycheck – these changes tend to have a more positive impact. As the levels of motivation, engagement and satisfaction actually increase and stay higher for a longer period of time.

Interesting insights about people’s “wants” come to surface when they start telling what they’d actually do if they “had more of _____”. How it would change the actual version of their life (or themselves) into a better one.

This becomes obvious in the Wizard of Oz, as Dorothy and her three friends progress on the yellow bricks road.

For the Scarecrow, we learn that to have more brain would allow him to be more focused (opposite to distracted), to come up with better ideas or solutions to solve the problems that come his way. For the Tin Man, to have more heart, would mean he’d be capable to be friendlier with other people. To show more empathy, when needed, and build relationships with more ease. As for the Lion, having more nerve, would simply provide him with the courage to face his fears and take a stand, when necessary. Or to not run away when facing a new challenge.

In all cases, when they finally “get what they want”, it fulfills something bigger than the want itself. It taps in a specific need. One that helps both, the Lion, the Tin Man and the Scarecrow to become satisfied with how things turned for them.

That “need” is to feel their potential is used at its bests, is fulfilled.

Some stories are very good at entertaining us. Others, like the Wizard of Oz, have this capacity to also teach or remind us something about ourselves.

Like our need to fulfill our potential.

What was the last movie or book that had a Wizard of Oz’s effect on you?