How to discover what you really want

Has someone ever asked you: "What do you want?" and left you stumped? Most of us have gone through short or long periods where we were not certain about what we wanted. We are torn between different options, or we might feel that we're not good at getting what we want (so what's the point)? It's easy to convince ourselves that life would be better if we just made the best of what we have.

There are two problems with this: One is that if you don't believe the world has anything new and good to offer you, it probably won't offer you anything new and good. We find what we look for.  The other is that not wanting anything doesn't give your mind enough to do. The human mind is naturally active. If it doesn't keep busy imagining good stuff, it's likely to keep busy imagining troubles.

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So how do you decide what to want? You've decided before: you made a decision to read this, for instance. Even someone who is really sure they don't know what they want makes choices, consciously and unconsciously, about what to give attention. If what you want is to find out what you want, here are three steps that might work for you:
  1. What's the one thing you would want to save if you could only keep one possession? (We'll assume you get all the people out of the burning building first). As you think about that thing, what do you know about what values or experiences it represents? Bring more of those into your life?
  2. Who is someone you admire? What have they done that you respect? Do more of that.
  3. What's the smallest change you are sure you would like to make? Do that.
After you've admitted you have values, that you respect some kinds of actions and that you are capable of following through, you'll find that you do know enough about what you want to get started. Having a clear vision for the whole of your life is rare. The world changes. Having a deep sense of mission is great sometimes, and sometimes it leads to missing some great opportunities. Instead of wanting to want something more, try wanting something just enough to keep moving.


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