Have you ever asked yourself “What do I want?” And then you realize there was no answer. Or maybe you’ve asked yourself “What am I supposed to want?” And you get stuck because you don’t know where to start.
The pandemic has caused many people to question the lives they are living, the work they are doing, the people they are engaging with, and their beliefs.
Many people are so disengaged with their work that they are quitting and embarking on career changes with better-aligned values, meaning, purpose, and working conditions.
When you ask yourself these questions, you’re asking yourself “What do you want out of life?” The only way to find out is to think about what you want in your life.
There’s no magic formula for finding what you want. It takes time, patience, and practice. To get started, here are 10 powerful questions to ask yourself.
Blog Post Summary
- If you don't know what you want, you'll stumble through life making decisions that are sometimes awesome, sometimes awful, and mostly mediocre
- If you know what you want deep down in your heart and soul you can use these wants as your guide
- Do the activities in this blog post to help you identify what you want
- Ask yourself the questions to help you with the activity
Many people are living someone else's version of their lives rather than the version that makes their hearts sing with meaning, purpose, fulfillment, and joy.
They may have listened to their parents who wanted them to go to college/university to become a [fill in the blank].
They may be living their lives dictated by their employer who is expecting too much and appreciating too little.
They may be living their lives as defined by their partner or friends who make decisions that are acceptable but not ideal or maybe they aren't acceptable but the person is feeling powerless to object.
Eventually the disconnect between what they are experiencing and what makes them feel fulfilled and joyful shows up with strained relationships and health issues.
We have one life and it's important that we live each day in the best way possible based on what we want, our core values, our purpose, and the vision we have for our lives.
Sure, some days suck and unforeseen events happen to us that can go on for ages -- that's life -- BUT knowing what you want is extremely valuable as it will help you when you have tough decisions to make.
When I started my business, I found a mentor to help me because I was learning the hard way through trial and error.
One of the first questions my mentor asked me was what I wanted – and I had no idea. She said to me “Well, how are you going to get what you want if you don't know what you want?” It was a massive eye-opener for me.
- How would I achieve any level of success if I didn't know what I wanted?
- How would I know what goals to make if I didn't know what I wanted?
I had been going along, rather unconsciously surviving as a single mom living my life without any real purpose or plan except to care for my daughter.
Sure, I was doing my best to have fun on my wages and I was, mostly, enjoying life (except for my workplace, which was toxic) but I didn't really know what I wanted.
When I met my husband (we celebrated our 25 year anniversary in 2020… woot! woot!) I was able to shift from simple survival to pursue my goals but I still didn't really know what I wanted until my mentor asked me that very important question.
Do you know what you want?
If yes, awesome! If not, now is a great time to start thinking about what you do want and what steps to take to get you there.
Below are some questions to ask yourself to discover what you want. Some of the questions may be eye-opening for you too. Sometimes people are so stuck (like I was) that they can't seem to find answers (see the Activity Tip).
Once you know what you want, you'll decide how you are going to change things so that you are more aligned. Some changes might take a long time and lots of planning. Other changes can happen more quickly.
Regardless, any time there is a change, the status quo is disturbed, which will create ripples of impact.
Each action has a consequence and sometimes the consequences can be quite difficult before they become good. For example, if you are living someone else's version of your life, that person isn't necessarily going to be supportive when you announce that you intend to make a change so be ready for objections and reactions.
That said, it's your life and you deserve to live it in ways that are aligned with your true self, your core values, and what makes you happy.
10 questions to ask yourself to discover what you truly want so you can live your best life
Answering this question will help you to get out of your head and all the things you've been told or expected to do and instead connect with your dreams.
Go to this post about how to achieve what you want in life, to find out more about this exercise.
Here are some examples, which are simply starting points.
What does the best day in my ideal lifestyle look like?
I would love to wake up at 8 am, go for a run, eat some breakfast, then work out for another hour or two. After working out, I would spend the rest of the morning reading books, writing articles, or doing research. Then, I would have lunch, and after lunch, I would do some more research, read books, write articles, or brainstorm ideas. Then, I would work from 6 pm to 10 pm, and then I would watch TV or movies until midnight.
The best day in my ideal lifestyle looks like waking up early, having breakfast at home, working out for about an hour, going to the gym, eating lunch at home, and then working from home until late afternoon. This is when I spend time with my family, relax, and watch TV shows. After work, I go out to eat dinner. Then I go back to my house and sleep.
I would love to wake up at 7 am and go for a run, then go to the gym and do some weights. After that, I would spend the rest of the morning reading or writing and having breakfast. At 12 pm, I would go out to lunch with my best friend and then come back and work until 4 pm. Then I would go home and relax for an hour. Finally, I would go out again to dinner with family and friends.
You'll want to expand on the details though, to become very clear about what your perfect day in your ideal lifestyle is. My advice is to be so specific that an actor and director could recreate this day perfectly.
For example, where are you living? Who are you living with? What does your bedroom look like? Where are you going for a run or to the gym? Who are you having lunch with? What are you eating? What research, books, articles are you reading? What type of work are you doing? Who are you working with (co-workers, employees, clients)? How much are you making? Why does your work fulfill you? Each of these questions helps draw out your purpose and passions and the vision that you may not have been able to articulate.
As you ask yourself the other questions below, you may find that you need to revise your ideal day, and that's great. Sometimes getting to your perfect day vision is like peeling an onion. There are layers and layers of other people's version of your life that you need to shed to get to what you really want.
If money were no object, what you I do today, next week, and next month?
This question takes the common objection of “money” out of the equation. Maybe money is a challenge right now but, for many people, it's usually about priorities.
If the priority isn't about YOU and doing what YOU want, then money will always be used as an excuse.
As my parents taught me "When there is a will, there is a way" and it's true.
There is a series, called "Maid", on Netflix which is creating quite a buzz right now. The series is about a single Mom who left a bad relationship and became a maid, which enabled her to see the unseen side of the people and what they are hiding from each other and the world. The main character wanted to become an author -- and she did. Her book was picked up and turned into the series and now she has her own home and domestic help to help her run her home.
So, whatever your financial situation is at the moment -- whether you have the means to embark on your reinvention now, or you need to work toward it -- take money out of the equation and imagine what you would do on your best day in your ideal lifestyle and it will help you discover what you want.
This post "If Time and Money Were No Consideration" can give you more insight.
What are my personal values?
Living your life in alignment with your values is important because when you don't, you'll have an internal conflict that can manifest in illness, mental health issues, relationship problems, and coping habits that aren't good for you.
If you are looking for a new job, look for a company that has values you agree with. You will feel more comfortable working there.
If you want to know what your values are, ask yourself what you would do if you knew you could not fail.
Your core values are like your fingerprint. You can't change them, but you should remember them so you don't lose touch with who you truly are.
What am I tolerating?
Not to be confused with healthy tolerance, which is positive, these are things you put up with but they aren't helping you get to where you intend to go, with a positive experience and joy.
Perhaps you are tolerating a relationship that is damaging to your mental or physical wellbeing. Perhaps you are tolerating a bully at work. Perhaps it's something that you have more control over, like being stagnant with your personal growth, your career choice, your weight, physical fitness level etc.
What are those things, experiences, people, or situations?
What am I most passionate about?
This is also a great question to ask yourself to discover your Purpose, which will help you to figure out what you want.
You'll find that what you are most passionate about aligns with the core values you identified above and your ideal day in your ideal lifestyle.
I'm passionate about making the world a better place. I think if we all work together, we can make this world a more beautiful place for everyone.
What are my health goals?
Many people juggle their priorities and their health ends up low on the priority list. However, without good health, you cannot do everything you envision and the Best Day in Your Ideal Lifestyle may not happen.
What are my career goals?
Again, ensure that these are YOUR goals, not the goals of someone else. Are you secretly wanting to have a more fulfilling career? Are you perhaps second-guessing your choice of careers? (I know many people that have had major career changes even people who invested in a Ph.D.)
What are my relationship goals?
Who do you want to spend time with? Who do you need to release from your life? Are you missing some key people in your life?
How committed am I to get what I want?
Nothing is going to happen unless you are willing to commit every day to make decisions that align with what you want.
Getting what you really want requires a commitment to yourself. You will have to sacrifice the comfortable discomfort you are currently experiencing. You'll have people push back as you take a stand for yourself. There are always consequences for action and reinvention can get messy at times.
So how committed are you? Are you willing to stick with the tough days and work toward what you've identified in your ideal day? Are you driven to achieve what you want?
If you have identified some big disconnects between the life you are living today and what you really want, there will need to be some big adjustments made to get you more aligned. With big adjustments, you will find yourself resisting.
Check out the post on the Quadruplets of Discontent, which I identified are my biggest “foes” for reaching my goals.
What is going to make me want to spring out of bed each day?
This is another way of asking the other questions. Every day on “this side” of the grass is a good day (being alive). However, I encourage you to make decisions so that most of your days are better than simply good days they are great days.
“What do I want?” activity
After you have asked yourself the questions above, figure out which are the most important to you. Sure, you may have a list a mile long and that's great but it's easier to keep things manageable to combine different things into one more over-arching topic and to whittle your list down to a few topics.
When I did this exercise over 25 years ago, I wrote a section for myself, my business, and my family. There were roughly 5 topics in each section. For example, at the time I was a military wife and I was growing my business.
There was a huge disconnect though.
I'd hired employees, I'd leased an office and my business was on the upswing. BUT, being a military wife typically meant moving at the whim of the career manager and this wasn't okay with me.
So, in my “What Do I Want?” list, I wrote, “I want to live where I choose to live”. To this day this still holds true.
Family decisions were made based on this want and even though I haven't yet moved to Portugal (which is where the Best Day in my Ideal Lifestyle takes place), I'm still working toward that because I've identified it as important.
Activity Tip: If you do not know what you want, draw a line straight down the middle of the page and on the left side, list all the things you don't want (or download the What do I want PlaySheet instead).
When you are finished listing all the negatives, flip them around and write the positive on the other side. Then when you are done, rewrite the positive things you want somewhere (I prefer to type in Word and you can download the What I Want – Template here, but you might want to create a video montage or a vision board instead.) Do what works for you!
I encourage you to keep this close by (I kept it in my wallet for over 25 years!) and update it as your circumstances and priorities evolve. I've used my list a few times over this quarter-century (oh, I feel ancient now!) when I find myself stuck making a major decision.
After going through the pros and cons and discussing with my husband, children, and/or advisors, if I still couldn't decide, I pulled out my list, looked at what I wanted, and the decision was made.
It's THAT powerful if you spend time and work through all the questions I suggest so that you can get beyond your head and into your heart and soul.
Always remember that life is far too short to be miserable. You deserve to be happy, fulfilled, and live a life of meaning and joy. You are worth it, so stop living someone else's version of your life and start taking the steps you need to take to live your life in your authentic manner.
If you are ready for a reinvention, sign up for Carol's Reinvention Challenge.
If you are interested in taking what you've learned here (as an individual) and implementing it in your business or workplace, then check out the business-related posts in this blog. (I'll update this post as I add new resources and suggestions).