This is an excerpt from the book I am writing called, “Living Your Purposeful Life”.
Do you really know what you want? I have to admit that I am still searching for what I want, but I am getting closer with each day. For me, I have gotten into a rut of the daily routine, or all the things that I had to do, which were masquerading as what I wanted. I am not saying that there is nothing good in my life, there is a lot of what I want in my life, but I had never taken the time to sit back and ask myself what I wanted.
Take my job for example. I enjoy my job and it offers me a lot of challenges and opportunities for growth, but I never really sat back and asked myself what role I wanted to play in the company. I had just let the company decide what role the company needed me to play. It wasn't until I started to ask what I wanted that I realized that I was not doing what I wanted in the company. As I focused on what I wanted to do in the company, my role started to change to what I wanted my role to be.
Now, I am in a role that both the company wants me to be as well as I want to be and it is time to start looking at how do I want the role to change, because getting to where I am is only a step along the journey. I am currently looking at how could the role change and how could I change to be better in the role. If I stop to going on this journey, then I know before too long, I will be back into a role the company wants me to be, but I may not want to be in.
There are two questions that I have used to ask myself to help me determine what I wanted and the first one is, “what do I want?” This question seems very obvious, but how many of us really ask the question? And, on top of it, how many of us really know what we want? I know for me, there are a few things that hold me back from being able to answer what I want. First, sometimes I do not know what I want because I really do not know and I believe that comes from how big of a question you are asking. I look at my daughter and she is in high school and she is being asked what she wants to do in her career. I understand that this question helps the school help her determine what schooling she needs, but I can also understand how big this question is for my daughter, because a career is such a big thing, especially for her, since she does not have an idea of what is possible. In this case, I think you need to break things down and ask some simpler questions, like “what do you like to do?”, and then take these answers and find something you can learn to help you get to what you like to do, or if you are already working, this may help identify a job you may want to investigate even more.
There are some other related reasons that I do not know what I want and they are because I do not know what is possible, I am afraid I may not like it, or I do not believe what I want is possible. In each of these cases, I have needed to break down what I want to smaller chunks and take action on the smaller chunks. After taking action, I can then re-evaluate do I still want what I wanted originally. If yes, then I continue with another chunk. If not, then maybe another want has emerged for me to follow.
If you are really stuck and have no idea what you want, then you can ask, “what don’t you want?” I do not like focusing on what I do not want, but sometimes you need some contrast in your life to help you get closer to what you want. When focusing on what you do not want, you need to get clarity on what you do not want. Just do not say, “I do not want my job.” Get deeper, “what do you not like about your job?” If something like, “I do not like Mike.” Ask more, “what is it about Mike that I do not like?” Keep digging until you get something that you can turn into something that you want. For example, maybe you got, “I do not like the way Mike takes credit for my ideas.” You could turn that into, “I want to be in an environment where I am given the proper credit for my ideas.”
Great, now look for ways to get what you want. Do you need to make some changes in your life to get credit for your ideas? Maybe you need to speak up at meetings where ideas are presented. Oh yea, did you feel the fear in thinking about speaking up? Sometimes you have to go through fear to get what you want, but if it is too much fear for you to overcome right now, is there a smaller step that you could take? What about telling another co-worker, not Mike, about your idea and having them prompt you to talk at the meeting, especially if they think you have a good idea? They could say, “I think Bob has a good idea.” They can break the ice and show support for your idea.
Just keep asking yourself what you want. Sometimes you will get what you wanted and not like it, but there was probably something along the way you needed to learn or go through that was required. Maybe in getting what you thought you wanted was not what you really wanted and you did not know it until you got it. For example, may be you wanted your boss’ job and not that you have it, you do not like it. Ok, take stock in what you learned or experienced in getting your boss’ job, because looking back can help you make a better decision going forward. It can show you what you a capable and it can give you some clarity on what you may want next.
Then, ask yourself, “what do I want now?” You may be surprised to learn that you still want your boss’ job, but that you want it to be different than how your boss was doing the job. Make those changes and see where it gets you and then ask again, “what do I want now?”, and keep going!