Do You Even Know What You Want?

“You know this was a vexing problem for me for a major portion of my adult life. I was not sure of what I want. Every current fad and the smallest of shiny objects would catch my attention and I would be running after them only to find little later that that was not the thing. It was in the later years that I was getting near to finding what I really want. In the interim, I had lost quite a bit of time wandering. Wish I had known myself a bit earlier.”

This was a rather long reply from my friend to a seemingly innocuous remark from me about his journey towards self-actualization. By the way, I consider my friend to be a learned man, a role model and seek his counsel on many of my own dilemmas

Do you know what you want?

Do you know what you want?

We all go through this. I’ve hit this roadblock many times in my life and the accompanying feelings of confusion, frustration and loss of hope that go with it.

On the face of it, everybody seems to know what they really want. Scratch the surface a bit and I find lots of people who believe they don’t know.

But where does that belief come from?

Let’s examine some of the factors which make many of us believe that we don’t know what we want:

1. We suppress our true desire

There is a common fallacy among us which equates “success” with fame, fortune or both and also that contentment follows it. Yet we see countless cases of people who have acquired all the trappings of fame and fortune but are actually quite miserable. That’s not the fault of fame and fortune itself, but rather, the idea that pursuing it equals happiness.

Fact check: The 2012 Towers Watson Global Workforce Survey found that 655 of 32,000 full-time workers participating in their study are not highly engaged.

What it means is 2 out of every 3 workers slack for some reason. Do you find yourself in this camp? This doesn’t happen overnight.  Before you reach that level of dissatisfaction, you’ve spent years suppressing your real desires beneath layers of conditioning, habits and beliefs.

And by the time we start thinking about what you want the flame of our desires has burnt out.

2. Fear of failure

We live in a time where success at any cost is the sole mantra. In the pursuit of success, we mostly follow the path that was led by someone else. This is indeed the path of least resistance. It makes things easier for a normal course of life.

In a way, it makes our pursuit less likely to fail. This keeps us ward off the fear of unknown.  However, the worst part is that it is debilitating when embarking on a new life path is concerned. If everyone in the past had done the same thing and in a similar manner, we would not have collectively developed as humanity as we know it today.

3. Fear of goal setting

Many of us are turned off by the idea of setting goals because we associate it with typical type A behaviors – driven, over-striving and competitive. There is nothing wrong with having goals for certain things.

Having goals and breaking them into chunks is the best way of getting things done. However, we should take care not to become a goal driven maniac

4. Lack of focus 

Our inability to see forest through trees is the reason for a cluttered mind. We are conditioned to believe that nobody can get what they want for various reasons. This belief has percolated down to individual level over the decades or even centuries.

We may desire for a different lifestyle altogether. Not the regular 9-5 existence. We may crave for some new creation than a plethora of activities that lead to visible accomplishments. In the case of later, we try to fix into box that some else has created.

In doing so, we feel a sense of void which we need to fill with something. We even decide that we want what other people have, just to fit in. Then we go about populating our lives and spaces with these things — and even people. When all of your life space is filled up with stuff, it is impossible to uncover what your true desires or intentions are.

5. Lack of time management.

Time is our most valuable resource and so most likely to be frittered away. We tend to spend it on activities that perhaps try to make up for an otherwise boring existence. I know it for a fact; people who have found fulfillment are never bored. They’re too busy creating to be in a state of apathy.

Ideally we must be spending our best times doing what would lead us to our greatest accomplishments. This holds as true for finding a new path as for maintaining it later. The lies in finding creative solutions that encompass fulfilling responsibilities and still have enough time to explore till you find what you want.

6. Lack of personal care.

Almost all of us are busy running the race of life. We have so many commitments to fulfill and so many customers to serve. Customer is the king and he is the one paying for our bills, isn’t it? At the end of the day, we find ourselves exhausted. Many of us can’t seem to think about what we want under such circumstance.

Perhaps it is time we begin thinking in different ways. It’s fine to serve others, but we must also serve ourselves. On airplanes, we are told to first put the oxygen mask on ourselves, before assisting anyone else. This is to keep you alive. You can’t help others unless you are in a position of strength. If only we did this in life, as well. It really is common sense, but too often, we put everyone else before ourselves.

7. Unwillingness to experiment.

Life is a tumultuous journey. We experience a myriad of challenges even while following the path of least resistance. Many a spirit gets shattered.  Even a thought of doing something different becomes too daunting.

It takes ingenuity and tenacity to create anything new and this applies to figuring out what you really want. You won’t know unless you try new things. Until then, your life will always be what you had before.

Do you relate in any way to the scenarios? Do share as comments. I will examine the remedies in my next post.