‘I don’t know what I want?’ or ‘How to know what I want in life?’
These are the expressions made by some people. There are others who know what they want in life, whereas many just go through life driven by circumstances or necessities, while others seldom ask such questions.
‘What do I want?’ or ‘How do I know what I really want’ can be a useful and good reflective question, especially in this stressful and busy life. This will help us to get into more insightful aspects of our life so that we could create more value and meaning.
On the other hand, such questions may not be helpful to move on with our life, as on one extreme, many things we do can be construed as not really meaningful or relevant to what is fundamental about life.
In striking a balance between ‘in search of deeper meaning in life’ and ‘over contemplating about the mystery of life’, we will have a discussion on ‘I don’t know what I want?’ and ‘How to know what I want in life?’ By doing so, we can move on with our life, in a practical and meaningful way.
Questions in the Contexts
There are situations whereby such questions become relevant and important.
When a person is under stress, high workloads, attending to busy schedules, … basically life is in motion due to circumstances and pressure from the external, not as a result of desire from within, then it is worthwhile to ponder on these questions.
It can also be a situation of a person under routine type of life, which can be un-interesting or boring.
Some teenagers may often ask such questions, especially when they are faced with questions about their future study : what course or subject matter to choose for their higher educations. Or, they are in search of their own identities in the transition periods from childhood to adulthood.
Great People and Ordinary People
To look for the ultimate destination and purpose in life is no easy task for most people. We can think of a few great men and women, like Buddha when he was young, in pursue to find the answer to life on poverty and suffering, or Mother Teresa who aspired to serve the sick and the poor, or Gandhi who was determined to liberate India from the British Empire. And there were many famous scientists who had single purpose in life, bringing to this world many important discoveries of science.
Their aspirations, deep sense of purpose in life, and knowing what they really want began at an earlier age until they accomplish the results in the later part of their life.
However, most of us are ordinary people – and many of us take time to acquire experiences in life before we could have answers to these questions on ultimate destination in life. Or, in this world of complexity and over abundance of choices, what we want today can change to something totally different tomorrow.
At the same time, there are great men and women who develop deep sense of purpose in their later life.
Hence to ponder and practice on ‘What do I want in life’ can be necessary and useful before we get swept by the tides of life, not at all in synchronicity with out inner yelling or calling.
Big Vision and Small Action
There are various strategic approaches to address the questions ‘I don’t know what I want?’ and ‘How to know what I want in life?’
One can start with the current strength and weakness of the person, or value drivers, or reviewing past pattern of
behaviors, etc. to determine the preference or inclination, or painting of future scenarios to find out what he or she wants in life.
This strategy is looking for what could be the final destination or middle range goals and then one can begin to do something on daily basic that can path the way towards the future. It is like establishing a big vision, and start with a small action daily.
However, we will discuss another pragmatic approach to practice what we want in life. Instead of contemplating or deliberating to the long distant future, whereby we may not have the necessary experience or data or information, we will focus on the immediate future or even the very next day to concretize what we want.
Usually when questions like ‘I don’t know what I want?’ or ‘How to know what I want in life?’, the sentiment felt can be the feeling of life being dictated by circumstances, necessities or expectation from people and not at all from what one desires. At the same time, there are no clues what exactly one wants in life.
We will then use the following strategic and pragmatic approaches to address such situations.
There are many immediate necessities in life we have to attend to, even though we do not really enjoy it, look forward to it.
For example, in response to our survival instinct, we need to eat. In this aspect, our life is dictated by our survival instinct, and we may not be conscious of the fact that we want to eat. But we cannot not eat for too long! Because of this necessity, we can have many practices on ‘what do I want in life?’
We will be using as much creativity, imagination and sub-modalities, which are described below using a case of ‘have to eat the next meal.’
If you have the choice to cook or treat yourself for the next meal, start practicing by, writing down or talking to yourself ‘I WANT to eat xxx and I am going to enjoy it thoroughly’ Now imagine the setting, say kitchen, or restaurant with as much vividness of the surrounding and environment, (you can make up scenes, as you are practicing in your mind), and bring in the full fives senses (sub-modalities) like picturing the food, hear the making of the food in the kitchen, the dynamic movement of the cook or your own eating gesture, the smell of particular type of ingredient, and most of all the taste. Play with these senses over and over, and keep repeating ‘I want to enjoy xxx food’ supported by these rich sensations you have created in your mind.
(Note: sub-modalities are using the five senses; visual, audio, kinesthetic, smell and taste)
Now you test these ideas you have created by ‘operating’ on these ideas. That is, you cook the food and eat the food or you are taking the food in the restaurant. You eat and chew the food and check for similarities or differences in the actual act with that of your earlier mental preparation.
If you have detected much similarities, i.e. successfully accomplish what you wanted, you congratulate yourself. You can now design or program with more challenging or sophistication what you want for your next meal.
If there are gaps between ‘what you imagine you want’ with the actual, investigate for factors that cause the differences. Ask yourself ‘what did I do, or how did you do it, that made the differences.’ (Don’t ask ‘why?’ which will lead to all sorts of not useful speculations). Improve on it the next round, until you get what you wanted as per your original programming in your mind.
(In the situation you could not prepare your own meal, or choose your own food, like eating in a family or dinner hall with limited choices of food, use the above strategies to focus on, say one type of food or its ingredients that you like and amplify that particular ingredients. Just be creative!,)
In summary, ‘In-it idea’ is on something you have to do (out of necessity or routine, or expectation from others,) and you develop ideas with as much creativity, imagination and sub-modalities (making full use of your five senses) ‘in’ the very thing that you have to do.
With more of such practices, you develop skills in creating things that you want.
We will continue to use the above example, have to eat the next meal and create ideas of association to practice what you want.
For the next meal, you think what other likely happening associated with the meal. Maybe you are having meal with colleagues, friends, family members, or even strangers in a restaurant. And you want to establish better communication, relationship or just make particular observations of the persons.
Maybe the meal is in a place whereby you want to study or pay more attention to, like the restaurant set-up (maybe you want to copy some ideas for your own business). You can use the above ‘In-it idea’ on what aspects of the food you want to enjoy, plus what you want to accomplish with the associated people or things along with the meal.
Again, use your creativity, imagination focusing on what you want to accomplish and develop in richness the sub-modalities or sensory experiences in your mind. For example, picture the person you are having meal with, with vividness, colour, what he or she wears, his or her gesture, expression, the tonality and volume of his or her voice, the breathing pattern and intensity, the smell of his or her perfume, and taste he or she prefers in the food, and from there, rehearse in your mind the conversation that could bring you closer to what you want in the improved communication or relationship.
During and after the meal, carry out the TOTE (Test, Operate, Test, Exit) ; like above. That is, if the actual happening is the same as what you set-out to be, or wanted in your mental rehearsal, hooray! If not, find out what actually happen, improve and try again.
In summary, ‘Association idea’ is on creating ideas in association with something you have to do (out of necessity or routine, or expectation from others,) and you develop the ideas with as much creativity, imagination and sub-modalities (making full use of your five senses) ‘in’ the very thing that you have to do, and at the same time, focusing on what you want to accomplish in the associated things or persons.
With more of such practices, you develop skills in creating things that you want.
Stepping Stone Ideas
As per the suggestion of the above sub-title, the very thing you have to do, (like eating a meal), you use that as a stepping stone to explore ideas on what may happen and what you want to happen or further accomplish, after the meal. Or with the accomplishment of what you want from the meal, or from the associated event with the meal, you create and develop ideas on what is next thing that you want
With full satisfaction of the meal (because you created the want and you get the result), you can think of the next thing you want to accomplish as you are no more hungry and you are in high state of mind. Maybe you want to start doing something that you have been procrastinating about. Before you did not have the satisfaction of accomplishment what you want (from a meal in this example) and no higher state of mind. And you would not be resourceful in doing something more, hence no thought of creating something that you want. Now it is different, as you are satisfied with your initial wanted and more resourceful now.
It can be a case of doing something about your personal financial planning, or school homework, … that you have been postponing it for a long time. In these examples, again you apply your creativity, imagination and sub-modalities, using the five senses as much as possible. Picture the financial planning template or tool, or homework workbook, set the scene or environment, hear your favourite music, feel the energy from the financial figures or homework formula, smell of the office or study room, the taste of coffee nearby etc. etc. whatever that could be to your wild imagination.
In the case of accomplishment of the association ideas, like better communication and relationship, the next step could be creating influence to that person, or learning something specific from that person, who has the expertise or skills that you want to know more.
Then apply the TOTE technique again.
In summary, ‘Stepping Stone idea’ is on creating ideas you further want to realize, after the very thing you have to do, with incorporation of something you want to accomplish,. You develop the ‘stepping stone’ ideas with as much creativity, imagination and sub-modalities (making full use of your five senses) ‘in’ the very thing that you have to do, and what you want to accomplish in the associated things or persons, and now focusing on what next thing you want to accomplish.
At this stage, you will realize that you have expanded your practices on creating your want from the very simple activity, or chore or routine into something more creative and imaginative.
Other Routine or Necessities
The above example is something so routine and mundane, i.e. eating a meal. We can take the approach further, like having o accomplish a project or assignment given by your boss on short duration, or school curriculum activities, which appear routine or boring. Apply the above suggested strategies ‘In-it’, ‘Association’ and ‘Stepping Stone’ ideas with creativity, imagination and sub-modalities to create more and more what you want from the above mentioned task.
From a sense of feeling of ‘not knowing what I want’, we use the power of your own creativity, imagination and sub-modalities to keep creating the wants in you. With more and more such disciplined practices, there is no reasons why you cannot acquire the skills in creating the ultimate destination or purpose of you life. You will develop the unconscious competence in generating more and more wants in you life. And you will be surprised soon that the language ‘I don’t know what I want?’ or ‘How to know what I want in life?’ is no more in your vocabulary!
You will begin to enjoy life, every moment of it, no matter how simple, difficult or minute.