Knowing What You Want

It’s difficult to really know what you want. As a kid, it’s easy.

Knowing what you want to do with your life actually comes naturally. As you grow older, it gets more difficult. Responsibilities, limitations (both your own and those you can’t control), as well as society’s pressure to live a certain way traps your mind.

“What do I want?” gradually transforms into “what can I get?” Or even worse, “what SHOULD I want?”

Many twenty and thirty somethings I know (even people older that that) wrestle with uncertainty because they don’t really know what they want to do with their life.

Ask an 8-year-old what he or she wants to do when they get older. They will bark out an answer with conviction. They connect with their inner desire in a way that becomes murky as you grow older.

As an adult so many people try to pull you into directions that don’t really benefit you. If you aren’t clear with yourself and others about what you like, what you don’t like, what you’re willing to tolerate, and what you won’t, other people’s agenda can easily suck you away from your own path.

And before you know it, you’re stuck doing things you don’t really enjoy without being entirely sure how you arrived there.

Photo: Megan Brodeur

If you are struggling right now with knowing what you want, I’m going to try to help.

One advantage that kids have is that they haven’t reached a point yet where they think that things are impossible. Many of us actually have dreams locked into us so tightly that we unconscionably cast them aside if we don’t honestly believe  we can reach them.

Have you ever told somebody that you wanted to do something and they looked at you or even flat out said that you need to “get real?” That feedback, even just once from somebody’s opinion you value, can cause you to start trying to think more “realistically”. Over time, you can lose touch of what you wanted to do in the first place.

You have to give yourself permission to envision yourself living “unrealistically.”

When you’re stuck or are unsure what you want to do, it’s important that you allow yourself to dream without limitation again. And that’s hard.

Try out this exercise. Next time you’re in bed, close your eyes and say, “I am excited to wake up tomorrow because I am going to _____.”

Your goal is to invent a scenario where you are waking up and you are excited to start your day.

When you try to do this the first thing that happens is no image will going to appear. Your mind, which at this point has trained itself to not consider doing anything that might bring you scorn or ridicule is going to tell you things like you’re being silly, this is stupid, and not everyone can live how they want.

Just acknowledge and expect that response but don’t listen to it.

If you stick with it and keep asking yourself what you would do with your life, even if it’s “unrealistic”, different images will start to emerge. Images of you passing out plates of food to your cooking business’ first client might be your vision or you opening your mailbox to read that you’ve been accepted into the graduate school of your choice.

To get to where you want to go, you MUST give yourself permission to dream big. Once you know what you want, it’s much easier to get. Don’t allow other people’s failed dreams and abandoned goals to drown out the vision you want of your life.

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