Do you know what you want?

Do you know what you want?

I mean do you really, really, really know what you want?

This question is a powerful one.  

To know the answer to this question sets you up for a greater chance of creating meaning in your life and work.  

To ask such a question also opens you up to the possibility of challenges in the form of resistance.  Resistance emerges in your emotional response, limiting beliefs and habitual hindrances.

Yet it is fascinating what happens when you truly declare and seek what you want in life and work.  Depending on you the shift can be little by little or giant leaps and bounds.

Remembering self

If you have followed my work over the years you will know I am the queen of reinvention. What I mean by this is I continually commit to personal growth no matter whether I go up, down, sideways, backwards or forwards. In the pursuit of being the real me and remembering who I am from the inside out I challenge values, beliefs, assumptions, habits. I invite and open up to new ways of being. I am passionate about knowing what is right at least for me in this world, this life and acting congruently.

So in my latest personal exploration this question ‘what do I want’ came up and stared me in the face.

Back in time for some wisdom

A sense of curiosity and an online audio subscription to use, lead me to download a series of original lectures from Napoleon Hill.  The writing of Mr Hill precedes and follows the Great Depression.  In the core of his work is the focus on knowing exactly with precision what you want.  So much so that he repeatedly reinforces the importance of having a ‘burning desire’.

It strikes me as such an irony that anyone would ask the question 'what do you want?' in the midst of a time when the major focus was on what you need.  Yet it makes sense. When we look at anyone from a successful businessperson to a political activist they all share this element in common - a passionate desire for what they want.

Opening up

Separately I then encountered this question from a mentor of mine. Being in such a reflective personal growth phase I reached out for some guidance.  In her response and support she asked me to focus on what I want not what I need.

Again this question landed in such a way as to turn everything upside down.  How you may ask can such a question turn things upside down?  Well, I pride myself on listening to my intuition. In other words I follow my heart and let it guide me in the direction I want to go.  What I realised is that when I am overwhelmed by what comes up, ie the truth and scale of my passion, it is easy to distract myself and in a sense choose to go off track.

Choice in perception

So sitting with such a deceivingly simple yet powerful question faces us square in the middle of an intersection of choice. Choice is a powerful ally. With this question we can choose what we want.  This does not mean we get or have what we want now. It simply means we create a sense of purpose and focus. This is the power of such a question. It also helps us to find the courage to rise above any misfortune, challenge or other calamity faced in life that can delay or sidetrack the attainment. We all have them.

Your answer to this question is then a reframing of your actions. When you see what you do in the context of why, you operate with more meaning, a bigger why.  Reframing is important because if we don’t reframe then our focus stays on the barriers. For many barriers come up left, right and centre.

Observing and noticing the barriers then gives us another option. We can discern that which is within our control, influence and that which is not.  We can then choose where we direct our energy. On a practical level we may conserve our energy and go after 'small wants'.  Yet if what we want is to actually change something that many perceive as unchangeable then we may need to realign ourselves.

Big is not bad

Sometimes, when we sit and reflect on what we want, what comes up is so big that it can be dismissed.  But if that was the case then the work of Steve Jobs would never have changed the world of personal computing.  Or the work of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. would not have created such an impact in the American Civil Rights Movement. So if the question leads to big answers then you might think you need to take big action.  Only you will know what action is right for you.  This is a different conversation.  For now though the important step is to not get in the way of listening to what you intuitively know is what YOU want.  

Overcome your fear of change

So if it were this easy then why do we end up stuck, self sabotaging, avoiding, getting in our own way? Fear. Fear of success, fear of change, fear of losing control. Conscious and unconscious habits.  For when you get what you want then you no longer have to focus on getting what you want but actually enjoying it and leveraging from this place.  (Now read that again. Got it?) This is a change in a way of being.  If all you know is one way, then it takes time to be another other way.

I notice this a lot in my coaching. People come to me with problems - usually ones about work,  career or business generally.  They don’t know what they want. They do however know what they don’t want.  The trigger of pain to get us into action is not new. However the mode of operation becomes running and avoiding the pain.  When we focus on what we want then we set off on the road of possibility, positive action, creation.

It’s personal to you

Here’s the point. What you want will vary by individual. The question really is can you identify what YOU want without ANY influence from ANYONE else? Can you come up with what you want from your heart, from the intuitive inner self of you? This is a real challenge. And from my point of view the only way to go.

Too many times we say I want XYZ and someone slams our idea. What happens? We end up shelving the idea.  Or what if we discount our self because we have negative beliefs that we don’t deserve or shouldn’t.  Again language reflecting states of mind that are not conducive to creating what you want.

It’s also internal, even if it appears external

Then there is this other perspective. What you want is not just about things or possessions. A lot of times we sit with the list. We see a car and say I want a car like that. We see a house and say I want a house like that.  We go on list building like we are shopping. But coming up with what I want is more than the things we can attain. It is about how we feel and experience life and work.

So when I ask ‘what do you want?’ consider more than the face value of what you want. Consider how you want to feel every day, how you want to live your life, what you want to experience. Then if you find living in the nice house or driving the fancy car is part of this desire great. Otherwise you are simply checking off lists.

For example there is the idea of a bucket list. I have seen the movie and heard of people having lists. There is even an app now for your phone.  I love the idea of this type of list as long as the source of your list is what you truly want from the inside, from the heart.   


What you want is going to lead you in a new inspired direction.  But will it sustain you?  For me the bigger question to ask after asking what you want is why? Then you get to the heart of what you really want.

So what do you want?  Really want from your heart? And why?

Jenn Shallvey