You Don’t Know What You Want


What do you want?

Isn’t that the question that we are constantly asking ourselves? Especially when the system that we find ourselves a part of offers so much, yet keeps it ever so slightly out of reach. It seems that the answer to that question is always: more.

Bigger houses, more money, a better body, more stuff, more shiny shiny, more, better, bigger, faster, newer. Because how can we be better as people, unless we have better stuff? How can we have better lives, unless we have more things?

But, of course, there are two issues around what we want. The first is that when we constantly want more, we are telling ourselves that what we have is not good enough, that our lives and everything in them are not good enough. That we are not good enough.

When we are constantly in a state of wanting, we are in a state of lack, we are focused on all that we don’t have, and unable to appreciate all the good things that we do have. We are focused on our weaknesses and not our strengths, so our confidence and self-esteem suffers. We are focused on trying to get something tomorrow that we don’t yet have today, and so we are living in the future rather than truly living where we are right now. We are in a trapped in a state of permanent dissatisfaction

A mindfulness practice that centres on gratitude can go some way to healing us of this affliction. But it’s not just about appreciating what we’ve got, because improvement and growth are worthy things, so surely there is some degree of positivity in aiming to get better and be better, and to build a better life for ourselves and for others. So some wanting is inevitable. But that’s not the issue.

The issue is, we don’t really know what we want at all.

If we did know what we wanted, we’d have found a way to get it by now – or at least be on the way to getting it. After all, we’re not entirely stupid. We are blessed with the power to do things that deliver results. We are here because the things we have done in the past – the choices and actions we’ve taken – have brought us here. As much as we would like to blame others for our misfortunes, or to claim that we are victims of circumstances, the fact is we are the authors of our reality, and we are currently living the results of our actions.

So if it’s a matter of cause and effect, why have we not taken the actions that will give us what we want? Other people have found ways to make all the money, buy all the cars and have all the exotic holidays. How come we haven’t?

Because that’s not what we really want.

Sure we yearn for the life of luxury and glitz and glamour, but when we tell ourselves that we want ‘lots of money’ we’re doing ourselves a disservice by not digging deeper. Do we really just want lots of money, or do we want to be free from the stress of making ends meet, of not being able to meet our material needs, of having to save for things we want, or being unable to provide for our loved ones? The two are not the same thing.

Do we really want all the bling, the clothes and the cars, or do we want the status, the respect, the validation that we’re as good as the next person? That we are of importance and significance? That we matter?

When we get past our superficial needs for stuff and material gratification, it highlights the real things that we yearn for. The dreams of the laptop lifestyle might really be a yearning to have more time to yourself. The dreams of bundles of cash might be a yearning to be free of the treadmill and the stress of not being financially stable.

Break it down. Step by step. Don’t just identify what you want, but identify why you want it. And keep going until you know what you are really longing for. And there you will find not only your goals and the things you can realistically move towards, but a glimpse of your true self and the things that are important to you. And armed with this insight you can start to take the actions that will deliver the things you genuinely want. As Simon Sinek says, “start with why.”

Let go of what you think you want, recognise and appreciate where you are and what you’ve got, and understand what drives your need for more. And when you really, authentically know what you want and why you want it, you have a clear target that you can realistically set your sights on.