8 Powerful Questions for Discovering What You Really Want

Discovering What You Really WantThe key to living a life that’s brimming with satisfaction, happiness and meaning is discovering what you really want.

And yet few of us know how to get to our core desires.  We end up letting life live us instead of living according to our own intentions and designs.

I’m writing this article in December, and every year at this time, I watch people grapple with the New Year’s Resolution dilemma: To resolve or not to resolve?  And if so, what?

Most of us have learned from experience that making resolutions doesn’t change our lives.  If we decide to make one anyway, thinking this year we mean it, we pick something we think we should do to be a better person:  Lose weight, quit smoking, find a better job.  But in the end our resolution turns out to be just so much wishful thinking.

Deciding to enhance your life is a noble act.  But will power burns up quickly.  Temptations and distractions loom large.  And setbacks can send your  whole effort  crashing to the ground.

To create a life that excites you and lets you unfold your true potential, you need to begin with identifying what you really want in your life.

When you know, deep in your heart, what you want to have, and do, and be, you have authentic guidelines for living.  You wake up in the morning with a sense of direction and purpose.  

When you know what truly matters to you, you’re alert for opportunities; you know when to say yes and when to say no to things; you’re not pulled by momentary distractions, temptations, or setbacks. You’re living intentionally, in alignment with your own purposes.  And that’s a powerful way to live.

Ask Yourself These Questions

To get started on discovering what it is that you really want in life, take time to consider the following questions and to answer them for yourself.

You may want to print them out to keep them where you can see them.  Then set aside some regular time for working out your answers – even if it’s only for 15 minutes a day.  Pay attention to the thoughts and signals that come to you during your day that give you clues.  You have all the answers inside you.  And the process of discovering them can be life-changing—and great fun.

1. Which parts of your life interest you the most? What are your priorities?  Rate each of the following areas on a 1-10 scale, where 1 means you don’t really care about that aspect of life very much at all, and 10 means it’s one of the most important parts of your life.  Then decide, if you could focus on only 3 – 4 areas this year, which would you choose?

  • Health
  • Job/Career
  • Finances
  • Significant Other/Romance/Family
  • Friends/Social Life/Community
  • Personal Growth/Spirituality
  • Fun/Recreation/Hobbies
  • Physical Environment

2. How would the key areas of your life look if they were ideal?  How would an ideal day unfold if you were giving this aspect of your life your best?   Take time to imagine it.  Who kinds of things would you be doing? How would you feel?  Who would be with you?  What would people be saying about it?  A clear vision of what you’re aiming for is a dynamite motivator.

3. In what ways do you want to develop more mastery or competence?  What are you curious about learning in each of the priority aspects of your life in order to make it better?  What new behaviors would you like to begin practicing?  How might you go about it?

4. What stops you?  What barriers stop you from being more?  In what ways, or in what activities or environments, do you feel insecure?  How might you begin to practice more courage in this area?  How can you take more risks?  In what new ways can you respond when you feel fear?

5. What resources do you need?  What information, materials, time or support might you need in order to develop priority areas of your life?  Where might you get them?  Who can help you?  What are you willing to trade or give up in order to get them?

6. Do you know  your personal character strengths? (Learn more here.) How might you use them with greater focus and intention in your daily life?  How can you apply them to move you toward your ideals?

7. What tools do you have for reducing the stress in your life?  How regularly do your practice them?  Would it benefit you to add a favorite or two to your daily routine?  Would you like to learn new techniques?  How might you go about it?

8. How can add more happiness into your day?  What pleasurable activities might you do more often?  Happiness comes in different flavors.  Which of the following positive emotions most mean “happiness” to you?  How might you choose to experience them more often during your day?

  • Joy
  • Gratitude
  • Serenity
  • Interest/Engagement
  • Hope
  • Pride
  • Amusement
  • Inspiration
  • Awe
  • Love

Set aside time during the next two weeks or so to play with these questions and see the new sense of direction that develops.   Then work out a plan for applying the ideas you generate into your real life.

Yes, it takes some concentrated attention.  We’re not used to doing the kind of digging-for-inner-gold that these questions require.  But the reward is living a rich, satisfying, self-directed life and worth every second that you spend on it. Why not get started today?

If it feels like it’s more than you can do alone, shoot me an email and I’ll give you a call. We can talk about what you want to achieve and the ways that personal coaching might offer you the clarity, confidence and support to move ahead.

Illustration by svilen001

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How to Live a Meaningful Life

Most of us don’t lie awake at night wondering whether our life has meaning and purpose.But if you want to live life fully, knowing what really matters to you is crucial.

Light BearerOkay, most of us don’t lie awake at night wondering whether our life has meaning and purpose.  We’re too occupied with paying the rent, delivering tomorrow’s presentation, wondering if that new woman at work is available, remembering the errands we have to run in the morning.

We tend to put off the Big Questions until they’re staring us in the face, usually in less than pleasant circumstances:  We find out we have a life-threatening disease.   A relationship ends.  Our work becomes unbearable.  Someone we love dies.

But if you want to live a life full of zest and joy and satisfaction, knowing what really matters to you is crucial.

 What is a Meaningful Life?

Some say life’s an amusement park.  Some say it’s a school.  For some its purpose is to find enlightenment or the will of God.  For some, life has no meaning at all.

But what I’m talking about here isn’t some abstract, philosophical truth.  I’m talking about the kind of meaning that counts when the rubber meets the road—the kind that powers your real, everyday life.

Maybe there isn’t any other kind of meaning.  Maybe Anais Nin nailed it when she said,

“There is not one big cosmic meaning for all, there is only the meaning we each give to our life, an individual meaning, an individual plot, like a novel, a book for each person.”

She gives us the key when she says meaning is something we give to our lives.  It’s not something “out there” that we find; it’s something we project into the world through the choices we make in our lives about the values we will live by, through our dedication to the causes and people who matter to us.

Why Meaning Matters

In his article “Find Meaning,” motivational writer Chuck Gallozzi said, “the purpose of life is to live a life of purpose.”    

Man, apart from all other creatures, is a seeker of meaning.  Without it, life feels empty and provides no genuine satisfaction.   Power, wealth, or pleasure are hollow in and of themselves, leading to nothing but a craving for more.   It’s only when they come as natural byproducts of our will and passion to create, to give, and to serve that they truly enrich us.

When you know how you want to be in the world and what matters to you, when you have a sense of purpose for your life, you feel enriched and eager for each day.

Purposeful living gives us a sense of direction.  It lets us spot opportunities to express ourselves in ways that give us feelings of satisfaction and self-worth.    When we know what is meaningful to us, we greet our days with courage and see them as offering us yet another chance to experience life’s challenges with strength and a determination to be the best we can be.

How to Discover Meaning in Your Life

Viktor Frankl, whose book Man’s Search for Meaning – considered by the Library of Congress to be one of “the ten most influential books in America” – , says meaning comes to us when we accept full responsibility for how we will respond to life and how we will give ourselves to the world.

It’s a matter of the attitude you determine to take toward life and of what you choose to give of yourself.

Know Your Values

One way to drill down to the attitudes and values that mean the most to you is to assess your personal strengths.   Is it important to you to be courageous? Creative? Kind? Authentic? A strong leader?  Knowing your top strengths gives you guidelines to follow when you’re faced with a choice about how you want to respond to the world.  It allows you to choose in a way that’s meaningful for you.

Decide What’s Important

Another way is to think about the different life arenas—relationships, family ,health, career, recreation, spirituality—and pick out which one or two mean the most to your right now.  They may change in their level of importance as you go through your life, but pick the one or two that take top place for you right now.

Next, ask yourself how you want to act in this life arena.  How would your Ideal Self behave?

Spend twenty minutes writing about how you see yourself acting in that sphere of your life.

Think about it when you’re on your commute or waiting in a line somewhere.  What you focus on expands in your experience, so take the time to consider what kind of actions you want to see yourself doing.

Spend time imagining how you could put these kinds of actions into play in a challenging situation.

Begin practicing your ideal behaviors right away, a baby step at a time, until they become second nature.  Because these are actions you have identified as meaningful, you will feel wonderfully enriched and satisfied when you do them.  And opportunities to put them into practice will become enticingly attractive to you.

Find Opportunities to Give of Yourself

To know that we’re making the world a better place is a powerful source of meaning.  Whether it’s making a decision to follow your big dream to join a service or volunteer organization, making regular donations to a cause, or simply smiling at the clerk at the grocery store, all of us have ways to contribute to the world’s well-being, to serve our fellow beings.

Focusing on what you can do for others lets you transcend yourself.   Serving others, in whatever way is compatible with your personality, talents and skills, benefits you as much as those you’re serving.

Service breeds positivity and is one hallmark of positive living.  As positivity expert Dr. Barbara Fredrickson observed, positive people not only feel good, they do good.  And they do it because it gives their live meaning.

Take the time to identify what’s most meaningful in your life, then commit yourself to it with all your heart.  Not only will you feel a heightened sense of self-worth, purpose and direction, but you will touch the lives of others in meaningful ways, too.  That’s just the way it works.  Isn’t that beautiful?

If this article was meaningful to you, please “Like” it, below.  And feel free to share what gives your own life meaning.

Photos courtesy of stock.xchng
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