We know what we don't want, we don't know what we do want.
Neil Pasricha writes in his book The Happiness Equation that the flawed premise of society in general is that if you work hard you will be successful and if you are successful you will be happy. Many of you reading this can resonate with this. We have been told as children to study hard and that we will get a good job and if we have that great job, we will be happy. I myself fell into this trap. I found it very difficult to "work hard" as a young person. I tried to and I wanted to but never lived up to the potential that others saw in me. I remember at parent teacher interviews year after year hearing the words, "If only he could live up to his potential". I felt like I was constantly failing at life and would never achieve success. I had the desire but not the motivation.
All of that changed when I found social work. I went back to school as a mature student, an adult, a husband, a father. For the first time I had found my passion and truly what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. I was excelling and managing the challenges of being in academia as well as handling full time work and family life. I understood what Pasricha was suggesting that the true-life path should be. He was saying that you should seek out your passion and the thing that brings you joy. When you do this, you will work hard because you love what you're doing, and success will find you. It will find you because success is now determined by you and not by society's standards.
What do you want? It seems like a simple question doesn't it. How many times has someone asked you wanted you wanted for dinner? You reply with the standard response…anything. Then they make a suggestion, and you say no not that! You know how the rest of that conversation goes. The truth is we often know what we don't want but rarely can articulate what we do want in life. Often the response is a vague and general statement like I want to be happy. When asked what happiness means to you specifically it requires a lot of thought and the answer is often "I don't know". Why do we not know what we want and need in life. The truth is the human brain has an overdeveloped sense for seeing the negatives. It has kept us alive as a species for thousands of years. It is no surprise then that we have a keen sense of what we don’t want. It takes effort to spend the time to counter a lifetime of programming. To learn how to dig deeper and find out what our true needs and wants are. It requires asking yourself difficult questions and being your true authentic self.
This is one area that a therapist can help you to investigate and answer. They won’t have the answer for you but can provide the questions that will help you discover your true wants in life. Spend some time with yourself and be reflective; find out what really excites you in life. Aside from speaking to a therapist, there are other steps you can take.
Some of the other steps you can take are:
· Journaling – This is a great way to reflect on your current situation and to get a clearer sense of your wants in the future.
· Mindful Meditation - By learning to be still you can develop the ability to listen to your emotions and thoughts without the "noise" of life.
· Five-year plans – Life can be overwhelming at times, especially when you don’t have a target or plan. Write down your hopes and they become a plan not just an idea.
Experiment with a few things and see what works best for you.