What do you want? Such a simple question. Children always seem to know exactly what they want.
Years ago when I asked my five-year-old cousin what she wanted to be when she grew up, she shyly, but yet confidently replied, “myself.” I have never forgotten that answer.
Now when you ask an adult what they want, it’s not unusual to get a blank stare. They will not be able to articulate what they really want. Or they may say something vague or out of their control like world peace or to end poverty. Or many times people will simply say “to be happy.” That sounds innocent enough.
But if you dig a little deeper, beyond the surface and follow that up with and what will you do to make that happen? Once again there is that blank stare. When did this question become so hard to answer, and why is that?
Here are three reasons you don’t know what you really want:
1) Lack of a burning desire.
Too often, we find ways to buffer our emotions. We forget how to feel.
There is a pill for when you are sad. A different one for when you are too glad. A pill to calm you when you are excited. Pills to help you sleep and pills to keep you awake. Is there any wonder that we don’t know what we desire? Desire is an emotion.
Not getting our needs and desires met has become commonplace. We know how to cover and bury our desire. But fulfilling a desire feels good. When buffering emotions is the norm to avoid feeling bad, we also prevent ourselves from feeling good. How would we know joy if we never experience the opposite emotion of sorrow?
When we get a puppy, we easily become attached and grow to love it. We care for it and feed it. But in the back of our minds, we know that it is very likely that this puppy will grow old and die in eight to ten years.
Yet that does not stop us from taking this puppy into our home, loving him, and making him part of our family. We know the love and we will know the pain of losing him, yet we still cherish and enjoy every moment of the experience.
Avoiding the pain of loss by deciding never to have a pet denies us the joy that comes from owning a dog. It’s no wonder that they are called man’s best friend.
Another reason we cannot answer the question of what we want is that we are afraid of desiring something that we may never obtain. Fear of failure is simply failing ahead of time.
We deny that we really want something when it seems impossible to obtain. Instead of risking failure and beating ourselves up about it, we spare ourselves the heartache and simply just don’t go after it.
And there can be so many benefits that come from going after a dream even if we do not obtain the ultimate prize.
Think of the athlete who trains really hard and perfects her craft to the point of going to the Olympics, yet fails to get the gold medal.
Do you think they will come home devastated that they did not get the gold medal and wonder if it was even worth it? No! I am sure they are happy with silver or bronze, and equally happy to have had the experience even if they did not obtain any medal. And those athletes are in better physical shape than the people who never got off the couch to even run around the block in their neighborhood.
Many times we don’t know what we want because we are afraid that people we know may think badly of us or look down on us because we desire something that they may deem unworthy or inappropriate.
I remember how surprised people were when I tried out for cheerleading and drum major. I was very shy in high school, and people never imagined I would dream of going for those “high profile” activities. But I tried out anyway. I didn’t get the positions, but I got a great story out of the deal!
But what if we just refused to believe or care so much what other people think?
What if we just owned our desires, dreams, and goals, and didn’t allow others to influence that desire? What if we just got tired of living out someone else’s vision or plan for our life? How scary and eerie is that? Yet how equally freeing and restoring. It lets us off the hook.
When our mind is no longer pre-occupied with pleasing everybody else on the planet, then how much time will we have available to search for the answers to what we truly want and create that using our imagination. Creativity makes life exciting, absorbing, and affirming.
So what will you create or discover today that will be something that you truly want? I can’t wait to see it!