Clarifying What You WantOctober 18, 2018
What do you want? What are you working towards? Don’t worry if you don’t know. Lots of people don’t! In this post, I’ll share some things you can do to help you figure out what you want. I hope it’s helpful!
Don’t be alarmed if you feel reluctant to start working through this. If you’ve been in the habit of letting yourself off the hook, it’s not going to feel good to get to work at. And that’s okay. Just because this is challenging doesn’t mean that it’s wrong. The challenge is part of it!
The way I look at it, it’s not like you’re either certain about what you want, or you don’t have any idea about what you want. I believe that it’s more like a spectrum. One end is certainty, and the opposite end is uncertainty. We’re all somewhere on that spectrum. So your goal in this process is to move closer towards the spectrum’s certainty end. Looking at it this way should help you feel less pressure, and should make this process feel a bit less intimidating!
Most people know what they don’t want. Many people find it way too simple to launch into a detailed description of the things we don’t want. We constantly think about things we don’t want, and tell people daily what we don’t want.
But knowing what you don’t want doesn’t necessarily mean that you know what you do want. If you don’t know what you want, it’s difficult to figure out what you should be doing, and what your next steps should be.
Generally, we get what we focus on. So if you always focus on the things that you don’t want, you will continue receiving more of what you don’t want, despite the fact that you don’t want it. You need to focus on what you do want. Also, it’s challenging to plan, to set goals and to work on any kind of personal development if you don’t know what you’re working to achieve.
So what does it feel like when you know what you want? It’s important to think about this. Lots of people put “knowing what I want” up on a pedestal, convincing themselves that knowing what they want will make them feel better about their life.
But knowing what you want can actually be uncomfortable. This is especially true if there’s a significant gap between where you’re at and where you want to be. So don’t expect you’ll feel good as soon as you know what you want. That does feel good. But it can be accompanied by uncomfortable feelings, like self-doubt. So if knowing what you want makes you uncomfortable, you’re probably right on track.
Here’s a list of six steps you can take to figure out what you want.
Step 1: Keep a Narrow Focus
Figuring out what you want is impossible if you’re being vague about it. If you keep it at a nebulous, big-picture level, you’ll have a hard time actually nailing down your dream life. You need to be specific.
I recommend that you choose a single aspect of your life to focus on for now. Then you can give that one area your full attention, and you won’t get distracted trying to address everything all at once. So focus on what you want from your career, or your living situation, or a relationship, or your body.
Step 2: Judgment-Free Dreaming
One of the main reasons it’s difficult to figure out what we want is that we judge our goals, ambitions and dreams before we give ourselves the chance to consider them. We do this to protect ourselves from shame, disappointment, and other people’s judgment and opinions. And we do it to protect ourselves from failure.
But what if you were able to really dream without thinking about if you could or should go for it? I’ve found that when I separate judgments from my idea generation, my ideas are exponentially better than when I’m simultaneously brainstorming and judging.
Dreaming without judging takes some practice, especially if you’ve gotten into the habit of quashing your dreams before you can even consider them. Commit to just give this a try. It might take a while for you to really get to the place where you actually dream without judging. But don’t give up.
Step 3: Re-Word what you Don’t Want into What You Want
So you’ve chosen a single aspect of your life, and you’ve non-judgmentally dreamed. Now think about what you don’t want, with the intent of clarifying what you do want.
Make a list of the things you don’t want related to the specific area of your life you chose in Step 1. Now use words to turn the things on your list around into things you want. The exercise is simple, but it will have a significant impact.
Step 4: Think Like Your Future Self
When I get stuck figuring out what I want, I think from the viewpoint of “future me” and what satisfactions or regrets she may feel about the situation of “current me.” When I was pondering quitting my conventional job to start blogging full-time, this mental exercise helped me a lot! The decision challenged me in real time, but when I thought of my future self, I was certain I’d regret it if I didn’t give myself a chance. And that clarified what I want.
Step 5: Clarify What You Want
To wrap it all up, go back over what you’ve written so far and use it to craft a clear statement of what you want in your chosen area of life. This will probably feel uncomfortable, because it will stir up all of your self-doubt, which will overshadow what you’ve been trying to avoid until now. But don’t let that discourage you!
Also, you may notice that I didn’t tell you to go over what you wrote and to judge if it’s possible or not. That’s the wrong approach. This blog post is about figuring out what it is that you want. When you want something enough, it will become possible.
So don’t let yourself think hat what you want won’t possible for you to achieve. If someone else has done it, you can do it, too. Also, don’t let time be a major consideration in this process right now. Just because something is going to take some time to achieve doesn’t mean you shouldn’t want it. Time will pass anyway, so be bold and dream big!
Note that just thinking through all of these things won’t make much of a difference. You will need to work at this. You have to take out paper and a pen and sit down and write it all out. So if you’ve only been thinking this all through and assuming that will be enough, you’re sadly mistaken. It will only work if you do it properly.
Step 6: Create Affirmations
Once you decide what you want, put it in the form of affirmations. Affirmations help to focus your thoughts on what you want. Once you’ve heard your goal over and over again, your subconscious will understand that it’s important, and will start filtering through the information so you can start seeing the things you need to reach your goals.
Also, you won’t reach your goal if you believe you’re not the kind of person that achieves goals. People always try to prove that they’re right. That’s why creating affirmations and repeating them actually does help you perceive yourself differently. And when you perceive yourself differently, you’ll act and feel differently, which makes all the difference. Don’t skip this step. It’s critically important!
Finally, a few closing tips…
Stop Pressuring Yourself
I think that we really good intentions when we tell ourselves we should know “The Answer.” But that doesn’t actually help us figure out what we want. It’s hard to take that pressure off of yourself. And it may feel like taking that pressure off of yourself means that you’ll never figure this out. Trust me: letting go of your neediness and desperation to have all of the answers is so helpful.
When you have a significant desperate and needy vibe, you’re blocking yourself from getting what you want.. It’s kind of like the old saying about dating, that you meet somebody because you’ve stopped looking. Focusing on a goal without feeling desperate about it actually helps you reach it. So stop beating yourself up over not having it all figured out.
Watch Your Words
Hearing yourself say, “I don’t know,” over and over again only perpetuates your not-knowing. So instead of saying “I don’t know” all the time, try saying “I’m figuring it out” instead. This seems like an insignificant change, but it will make a huge difference.
The basic summary of this post is that you actually do know what it is that you want. You’ve just kept yourself confused so that you don’t have to feel uncomfortable. That’s crazy though, because not knowing what to do is very uncomfortable. But it’s more uncomfortable to know what you want but not know how to get it.