Over the last few weeks I’ve shared advice on journaling, affirmations, the Law of Attraction, self-image and how to stop caring about what other people think. But all of that kinda assumes you actually know what it is you want to work towards – when so many of us don’t!
In this week’s series, I’m going to be sharing some different things you can do to figure out what you want. And I hope you find it helpful! But don’t be surprised if your brain is a little reluctant to start coming up with answers. If you’ve been letting your brain off the hook, it’s NOT going to like it when you ask it to go to work. And that’s ok – I just don’t want you to think that this being challenging means that something’s wrong. It’s part of it!
The way I see it, it’s not like you either know what you want or you don’t know what you want. I think it’s more of a spectrum. At one end there’s total uncertainty and at the other there’s total certainty. So going into this, just think of the goal as moving a little closer towards the ‘knowing what you want’ end of the spectrum. It helps keep the pressure off and makes this whole thing a little less intimidating!
And as always, I’ve created a free workbook as well as a podcast episode and YouTube video that will help you dive further into everything I talk about in this blog post. So make sure you check out everything else from this series if you want to start feeling a little less lost!
WHY YOU NEED TO FIGURE OUT WHAT YOU WANT
First I want to talk about whether you actually need to figure out what you want, because I don’t want you to just take my word for it! Plus you’re going to need a compelling reason to do this work on yourself – otherwise, you’re never going to make it past the resistance you’ll feel when you try to work through this (as I mentioned before, if you’ve been in an ‘I don’t know’ habit then this is going to feel like going to the gym when you haven’t been in YEARS).
Most of us know what we don’t want. In fact, most of us find it insanely easy to go into a long, detailed explanation of all the things we don’t want. We think about the things we don’t want all the time and we tell people what we don’t want on the daily. But you might’ve noticed that knowing what you don’t want doesn’t necessarily mean knowing what you do. And that when you don’t know what you want, it’s hard to figure out what to do next.
And as I spoke up in my series on affirmations and my series on the law of attraction, you get what you focus on (thanks to your reticular activating system). Which means that if you’re constantly focused on what you don’t want, you’ll continue to get more of it – even though you don’t want it! So you need to give your brain something else to focus on (like what you DO want) to start getting something different.
It’s also very challenging to do any planning, goal-setting or basically any kind of personal development work if you don’t know what it is that you’re trying to achieve. So knowing what you want helps for that reason too.
WHY YOU HAVEN’T FIGURED OUT WHAT YOU WANT
You guys we often block ourselves from figuring out what we want without even realising. And it’s absolutely crazy but so so true! And because there are so many reasons that we block ourselves from figuring out what we want, I thought I would chat about it in a podcast episode so I can really dive into it all.
So if you’ve been struggling to figure out what you want, make sure you give this week’s episode a listen on 5 Reasons You Can’t Figure Out What You Want because it will help you find the reason. And once you have that awareness it’ll be so much easier to figure out what to do next.
You can listen to the episode below, click here to download it and come back to it later or you can find it anywhere you listen to podcasts, just search for Episode 28 of The Smart Twenties Podcast.
WHAT IT FEELS LIKE TO KNOW WHAT YOU WANT
So what does it feel like to know what you want? I think it’s important to talk about it!
I think a lot of us put this whole ‘knowing what we want’ thing up on this pedestal. We convince ourselves that knowing what we want will make us feel AMAZING about life. We convince ourselves that people who know what they want must feel AMAZING about their lives (even though they often say differently).
But the truth is that knowing what you want is often uncomfortable AF, especially if there’s a big gap between where you are and where you want to be! So don’t be expecting it to feel good to know what you want, ok? I mean, it might feel good to know what you want but it will definitely bring up a lot of uncomfortable feelings too – like self-doubt. So I just want to let you know that if what you want is making you feel uncomfortable, you’re likely right on track.
STEP 1. FOCUS ON ONE AREA OF YOUR LIFE
So last week I spoke about how it’s impossible to overcome a fear (like the fear of what people think) when it’s vague because you can’t get a grip on it or poke holes in it. And the same thing applies to figuring out what you want. If you’re always keeping it at this vague big picture level, it’s very hard to actually nail your dream life down. So you need to get specific.
There’s an exercise in this week’s free workbook to help you, but I recommend choosing just one area of your life to focus on so that you can give it your 100% attention and you don’t get overwhelmed with trying to change everything at once (if you have an all-or-nothing mindset then you know what I mean)! So maybe you want to figure out want you want with your career, or with your living situation, or with a relationship or with your body. Whatever it is, just choose one thing. And again, there’s an exercise in this week’s free workbook to help you do this!
STEP 2. DREAM WITHOUT JUDGEMENT
I think one of the biggest reasons we struggle to know what we want is because we judge our dreams and goals and ambitions before we even give ourselves a chance to entertain them. It’s something we do to protect ourselves from the shame we’d feel if we disappoint ourselves or our loved ones. It’s something we do to protect ourselves from other people’s opinions and judgement. It’s something we do to protect ourselves from failing.
But what if you could allow yourself to really dream without considering whether you can or should try to go after it? I’ve personally found that whenever I separate idea generation from judgement my ideas are 258320X better than when I brainstorm and judge simultaneously. There’s an exercise in this week’s free workbook to help you with this, so make sure you download your free copy for some guidance!
Also just a reminder that dreaming without judgement takes a bit of practice, especially if you’ve been in the habit of blocking your dreams before they can even be considered. Just commit to giving this a try. And know that it might take a few attempts to really get into a place where you can allow yourself to dream without judgement.
STEP 3. REVERSE ENGINEER WHAT YOU DON’T WANT
Ok, so now that you’ve chosen one area and you’ve done some dreaming (without judging!) I recommend having a look at what you don’t want as this will help you clarify what you do want.
There’s an exercise in this week’s free workbook for this one too but basically all you’re going to do is write out a long list of all the things you don’t want in that area of your life. But instead of leaving it there (like you might normally do!) you’re going to turn those things into the things you do want. It’s a simple exercise but it will have a huge impact.
STEP 4. IDENTIFY YOUR FUTURE REGRETS
When I’m stuck on figuring out what I want, I always find it helpful to think of the future me and what regrets she might have. When I was deciding whether I wanted to quit my full-time job to give blogging a shot, this mental exercise was something that helped me A LOT! The decision was challenging to make in the present but if I thought of myself in the future, I knew for sure that I’d regret never backing myself and giving myself a shot. And that made what I want so much clearer.
STEP 5. STATE WHAT YOU WANT
To bring everything together, I want you to go back over everything you’ve written and create a clear statement of what you want in that area of your life. And the reality is that this will likely feel uncomfortable AF to state what you want because it’ll bring up all the self-doubt and overwhelm that you’ve been trying to avoid until now. But please don’t let that deter you!
Also, you might have noticed that I haven’t said to go back over everything you’ve written and judge whether or not it’s possible. Whether or not something is possible is the wrong question. This isn’t a blog post on how to figure out what’s possible, it’s a blog post on how to figure out what you want. And if you want something badly enough, and clearly enough, it can’t help but become possible.
So don’t get caught up in thinking that what you want isn’t possible for you. If someone in the world has it, you can have it too. Also, make sure that you don’t let time be a big consideration here. Just because something will take you time to get doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t let yourself want it. The time will pass anyway girl, so don’t be afraid to dream BIG!
And by the way, thinking through all of the stuff I’ve talked about isn’t going to make a difference. You need to actually take out a pen and paper and write about it. So if you’ve just been thinking through all this and believing that’s going to be enough, it’s not. This only works if you do the exercises properly.
STEP 6. CREATE AN AFFIRMATION
Once you’ve decided on what you want, I recommend putting it in the form of an affirmation, which you can learn all about in my series on how to use affirmations to achieve your goals.
There’s a few reasons this helps. The first is that an affirmation will help you focus your mind on what you do want. Thanks to your brain’s Reticular Activating System, once your brain has heard your goal enough times it will determine it to be important and will filter all of the information around you to show you what you need to achieve your goal (it literally feels like magic – I talk about it more in this post).
The second reason is that you cannot achieve anything unless you believe that you’re the kind of person that can achieve it, as we are always trying to prove ourselves right. I spoke about this more in my series on how to transform your self-image, but creating an affirmation and repeating it again and again really helps you to see yourself differently. And when you see yourself differently, you will feel and act differently. And that makes all the difference.
Anyway, I won’t keep blabbering on about affirmations here because I’ve already done a whole series on them. But make sure you don’t skip this step – it’s SO important!
There are a couple more things I want to say before I wrap this up:
TAKE THE PRESSURE OFF
Ok, so I think we really mean well when we do this, but telling ourselves that we should know The Answer is not actually helping us figure out what we want. And I know it’s not easy to take the pressure off yourself to have your shit sorted. And I know it feels like taking the pressure off yourself will mean that you never figure it out. But please trust me when I say that letting go of your desperation and your neediness around having all the answers is SO helpful.
I’m sure I spoke about this in my series on the Law of Attraction but when you have this really needy and desperate vibe, you’re actually stopping yourself from getting what you want. Sounds crazy, I know! But it’s kinda like what they say about dating – you always meet someone when you’re not looking. Having a goal in mind, without having desperation, actually helps you get it. So if you’ve been beating yourself up for not having everything figured out, please stop.
BE CAREFUL WITH YOUR WORDS
The more often you hear yourself say the words ‘I don’t know’ the more you will perpetuate the not knowing. So instead of saying you don’t know, say you’re figuring it out. It’s a subtle change but it makes all the difference. There’s also a great episode on The Life Coach School Podcast about this here so have a listen to that too.
DON’T KNOW WHAT YOU WANT?
Guys, basically, the reality of all of this is that you really do know what you want and you’ve just been staying confused so you don’t have to be uncomfortable. And it’s crazy right, because it’s so uncomfortable to not know what to do. But it’s less comfortable than knowing what to do and not knowing how to get it. Does that make sense?
I filmed a YouTube video to chat about what I mean because I think this is something that SO many of us are doing without even realising it – and I catch myself doing this all the time! So I just really just want to bring this to your attention.
READY TO GET STARTED?
And if you have a question, leave it in the comments below or post it in the Smart Twenties Community on Facebook!