“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,” says Mark Twain.
Mr. Twain, thank you. You’ve expressed my sentiments exactly.
How does a person not know what s/he wants?
To know what you want means to know who you are, first and foremost. If you don’t know who you are, how can you possibly know what you want?
When we don’t know who we are or what we want, we slip into depression and anxiety. And since we don’t know who we are or what we want, we find ourselves being influenced by other people’s goals and desires and then in our struggle to work toward those goals that we think others want for us, our misery magnifies as our self-esteem plummets because we know deep inside that their goals and desires are not what we want for ourselves.
So, how do you find out who you are and how do you discover what you want?
By making a conscious effort to listen to yourself. This means going within yourself and taking a self-inventory to find out what kinds of things you like doing. This is where you will discover your gifts and talents. These gifts and talents are the spiritual pointers of the direction you are to take in life, regardless of what society or others may tell you.
When I first started college, I majored in chemical engineering, not because it was what I wanted but because that was expected of me. I thought I had no choice since my father was paying for my education. But halfway through the semester, I began suffering debilitating migraines that landed me in the hospital at times. I grew more miserable with each passing day. I knew I had to do something or the stress was going to kill me.
So, I quit.
I enrolled in another school. I started taking classes that interested me. I worked three different jobs to pay my way. And though it was challenging, I was happy because I was doing what I wanted to do, not what I was expected to do. The migraines stopped.
I learned some valuable lessons, and hopefully you will find these helpful in figuring out who you are and what you want:
1. It’s your life, not anyone else’s. You have to live with yourself. If you make choices based on other people’s goals and desires, you put yourself in serious jeopardy. Realize that you have needs and wants and that they are important to your self-expression.
2. Listen to your body. You may not know what you want intellectually, but your body will know, and it will react physically when you are not in alignment with something. Practice self-care and self-love. Do things that make you feel good. Your thoughts will become less erratic and you will feel a lot calmer so that you can face any challenges.
3. Let go of expectations. This is key. What other people expect of you does not matter. What matters is that you live in harmony with who you are. You are here to live your dreams, not someone else’s. When I learned that I didn’t have to live up to someone else’s expectations, I was freed.
4. You do not have to justify your worth. Don’t get caught in the trap of thinking, “If I do this, then I am worthy of that.” Such conditional thinking is destructive because it presumes that there is some kind of hierarchy of people’s worth. You are who you are and you want what you want; there is no need to defend that to anyone.
5. Try different things to figure out what you enjoy. Take classes that interest you. This will provide you with greater insight into what you really enjoy. Plus you will have some fun along the way.
6. Don’t try to fit in. Instead be yourself. Sometimes it seems that belonging to a certain group is the most important thing. I have found that I am unique without being connected to a certain group, and the few close friends that I have love me for my unique qualities, not for my “role” within a group.
7. See life as full of opportunities to grow and expand. I could have easily looked at myself as a failure for not pursing chemical engineering as a career, but taking those classes showed me what I didn’t like. Knowing what I didn’t like helped (and pushed) me to discover what I did like.
What tips can you offer to help others figure out who they are and discover what they want?