Over the past two years we have all gone through a lot. Some of it very challenging (e.g., health issues, loss of loved ones) and some wonderful outcomes (e.g., adopting a pet, personal transformation), too.
As result, many people (including me) are standing at a crossroad trying to decide what’s next for them. Often this decision starts with the question “What do you want?”. You’d think that would be an easy question, right?! It’s often one of the most difficult ones to answer.
If you’re someone who already knows what you want, that’s fantastic! I wish you the very best as you move forward with your plans towards what you want.
If you’re someone who does not have a clear definition of what you want, you’re in good company! There are many people who don’t know what they want.
Let’s start with the benefits and drawbacks of not knowing what you want.
First, here are a few benefits of not knowing what you want:
- You can make changes to align with opportunities when they show up.
- You can skate along without having to take responsibility for your direction.
- Your decisions may be easier and less stressful because you’re not tied to a particular path.
Now, here are a few drawbacks of not knowing what you want:
- You may feel like you “should” know what you want.
- You may sense you’re not where you want to be, even though you don’t know where that is.
- You may feel you’re not using your talents.
As you looked at this list of benefits and drawbacks for not defining what you want, did anything ring true to you? If so, taking some time to ponder what caused that item to jump out, may give you insights about what may be holding you back from defining what you want.
Perhaps as you looked at these two lists you thought, “Helen forgot to include <fill in the blank> as a benefit/drawback.” If this was your experience, the item(s) you thought of may also contain clues for what may be blocking you from defining what you want. It may be helpful to take some time to think about that/those, too.
Here are some questions to help you explore the question: What do you want? You may want to jot down your thoughts as you go through these.
- When you think of the word want, what assumptions, beliefs, etc. do you have about it?
- What’s most important to you?
- What are your top 3 values?
- What task(s) cause you to lose time?
- Who do you love to spend time with and why?
- If you could do one thing all day, what would it be and why?
- What have you always dreamed of doing, being, etc.?
- What do you believe is possible? What do you believe is impossible?
- What don’t you want? Then look at the opposite.
- What would you do if you won a BIG lottery?
After going through these questions, take some time to review your responses and highlight the ones that resonate with you.
Another thing you can do with your responses is look for patterns. For example, if your response to what’s most important to you is helping people use their talents AND you have always dreamed of being a teacher, this is a possible pattern. When you come up with patterns, it can be helpful to consider other times where this situation(s) has shown up for you. To continue with the above example, let’s say that in college you worked as a Big Sister and your favorite part of that experience was helping your little sister with her homework. It’s possible that teaching, in some form, may be something you want! These patterns may provide some useful information to you.
Here’s a word of caution. When defining what you want, it’s natural to consider others (e.g., your significant other, your staff) in your decision. There’s a fine line between defining what you want vs. what you want because of the other people in your life. It may sound selfish to look at only what you want. Once you’re clear on what you truly want, then you can consider the impacts to others in your life.
Now that you have your answer to the question – “What do you want?” – What do you do with this information? That’s up to you! For some people, they’ll use it to drive every aspect of their life (e.g., family, business, spiritual). For others, they include bits and pieces of what they want into their life (e.g., hobbies). And yet others will decide to put the answer to this question away for a while, since the time isn’t right for them.
Okay, now for the elephant in the room… What if you went through all this and you still don’t know what you want? First, I want to say, “Bravo for being completely honest with yourself!” That isn’t something most of us are great at.
Sometimes figuring out what you want takes time and perseverance. Honoring your process, without beating yourself up, is important. Giving yourself time and space to ponder the questions without pressure, could surprise you with the discovery of what you want when you least expect it. Additionally, you can take advantage of the benefits listed above for not knowing what you want.
Wherever you are in the process of clarifying what you want, is the perfect place for you right in this moment. It may not feel that way. It’s likely that sometime in the future, you’ll understand why it was essential for you to walk this path to answering the question: “What do I want?”.