How to Know What You Really, Really Want
In what may be the most unlikely reference we’ve ever made in one our blog posts, we’re recalling for this post some lyrics from a Spice Girls’ song:
“I'll tell you what I want, what I really, really want.”
The song then goes on to say: “If you want my future, forget my past.”
Granted, not exactly the most poetic lyrics ever written, and yet they introduce several important points related to the process of creating powerful visions. Here’s what we mean:
While it may seem obvious, our own experience as executive coaches has shown us that before creating a truly powerful vision a person needs to know what they really, really want. Because without that kind of passion fueling their quest, they will inevitably get detoured by the realities of day-to-day life.
Here’s the challenge . . . most of us don’t know what we really, really want. And if we do, we’ve often sublimated it somewhere deep inside because we’ve let someone convince us it’s not practical, relevant, or doable.
Sociologists suggest that there’s another reason for this challenge. For the vast majority of our collective history, they point out, we humans were faced with very few choices other than to find food, water, shelter, and a mate. In other words, we have been biologically wired to focus on basic survival.
As a result, our brains, some scientists suggest, have simply not evolved quickly enough to keep up with the exponential onslaught of information and choices we now face in our modern era.
Mark Twain said it this way, “I can teach anybody how to get what they want out of life. The problem is that I can't find anybody who can tell me what they want.”
While this may be true, there are some life hacks we've learned that can help. Here's a thought process that can enable us to gain more clarity.
What are some of the basic things that most of us want?
It’s easy to cite happiness, wealth, health, good relationships, to make a difference in our communities, and those are all true to various degrees for most of us.
But what really lights us up . . . what gets truly excites us . . . is what we actually want.
Often when we start with identifying what really excites us, we encounter conflicts between what we actually desire and what we believe we should desire.
For instance, when my dad (Will speaking) shopped for a new car when I was a kid, he took me along for the adventure. I still remember him sitting in a showroom convertible, clearly dreaming about rocketing down the highway with his hair on fire. Then we went to the Ford dealership across town and he bought a sedan.
He knew the family needed that sedan, but he really wanted the convertible. To take this to another level, let’s explore why he wanted the convertible . . . because it would have actually been a very impractical car for our five-member family (especially in Calgary, Alberta where we sometimes got snow in August). Truth is, he didn’t really want the convertible, he wanted the feeling that the idea of driving a convertible gave him.
The first important step in our thriving visioning process, is contained in the word “really.”
What do you really want?
For Will’s dad, he wanted the freedom that a convertible represented to him. No wonder. He grew up in the Depression era. His father died when he was young, leaving eight kids for his weary, poor mother to raise. He left school early, got a job, took responsibility.
Later, he dreamed of going to college and becoming an architect. But the habit that accompanied his work ethic was set so deep and he stayed in his safe government job all the way to retirement.
Of course, Will’s dad could have found freedom in a variety of ways, not just through buying a convertible or going to college. The problem was, he never explored the options. He settled for what he already had. Meanwhile, underneath, he still longed for something he didn’t have.
We can learn from this example, by simply going deeper
What is it that you truly long for? What is the feeling you’re seeking?
If we dare examine our lives--especially the parts of them that aren’t working—and ask, “What if?” we immediately open up a world of possibilities.
Here’s an even more powerful question to ask yourself, “If I wasn’t already doing this, would I choose to do it … today?”
This level of personal inquiry is designed to expose troublesome compromises. What about your job, your marriage, where you live, etc.?
If you come up with even a single “No way, I wouldn’t choose that today,” the next step is to ask:
“So, if I could choose differently, what would I choose?” In other words, “What do I really want?”
Now here’s where the second line of the Spice Girls’ song comes in (“If you want my future, forget my past.”)
You see, what we may have perceived as the problem—the job, the marriage, the situation—may not be the real problem. The challenge may actually be the way we’ve participated in those situations up until now—in other words, in the past. And—as we describe in our book Thriving in Business and Life and our online course—our past doesn't have to define our future, unless we let it.
Think about it for a moment. Will’s dad didn’t really want the convertible or the college education. He wanted the feeling attached to those things. So what feeling do you want that you are not experiencing in your current situation?
The real kicker here is that often you don’t have to change the situation or the relationship to get what you really want.
Once you’ve identified the feeling you desire, you can begin your own ““wonderstorm," as Kristen Morelli calls it, as to the best ways to achieve that. For example, you could explore, “How could I infuse some of the feelings and values that really light me up into my current job, relationship, etc.?”
This calls for us to look even deeper. While dire circumstances do call for an actual change, psychologists point out that our desire to change our circumstances often prevents us from recognizing a deeper truth. It's how we've participated in those circumstances that has determined the deeper nature of our experience. And it's the reason why we often tend to repeat the same experience even when we think we've changed our circumstances.
Now, this is where the real adventure begins. Our path to fulfillment is usually not limited by our immediate circumstances, but only by our willingness to re-imagine what’s possible within those circumstances. This same creative drive can also help us reshape our circumstances when needed into ones that are truly fulfilling.
And that’s a great starting point for building a truly Thriving vision.
Your Thriving Challenge for the week:
Think of some area of your life where you are not currently fulfilled. Ask these the questions listed her and drill down to the emotional level to discover what you really want. Then choose one action to take that will advance you towards that goal. And tune in next week for another step.
Will Wilkinson and Christopher Harding www.luminarycommunications.org