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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If Wishes Were Horses: How to Make Real Change Happen in Your Life

If the New Year brought to mind some changes that would move you nearer to living your ideals, good for you! To see the arenas of our lives that we can enhance is a beautiful thing. Now take the time to think them through.

Two horses running through snowy landscape

“If wishes were horses, beggars would ride.” ~ English nursery rhyme

“Make any New Year’s resolutions?” Darlene asks me as we get into the elevator after the holiday.

“Yup,” I say, grinning, “sure did.  You?”

“Nah,” she says.  “They never work for me.  What’s yours?”

“Well! Since you ask,” I say with great drama, “I resolve to turn up the heat on my happiness.  To suck all the marrow I can from life.  To ride that positivity spiral right up to the sky and keep soaring.  That’s what I’m gonna do!”

She laughs, shakes her head and rolls her eyes as the door opens to her floor.

She’s right you know.  Resolutions don’t work.  At least not the kind that we make on New Year’s Eve.  You know, the standard  “quit my bad habits,” “get fit,” “start my own business,” “live within my budget” ones we make.  They’re really more wishes than they are resolutions.  And even if we squeeze our eyes shut really tight, cross our fingers and click our heels as we make them, chances are pretty slim that a pony will materialize.

The Stages of Change

Change doesn’t happen that way.  It doesn’t come through wishing.  It comes through choices and commitment that develop through stages.  The stage you need to step into when you first recognize that you want to make a change is not commitment and action.  Not if you want to succeed.

The step that follows your recognition that you want to do something different in your life is a stage the behavioral scientists have labeled “contemplation.”  You need to take some time to think things through, to try your idea on for size and get accustomed to thinking of yourself in a new way.

Even then, after you have thought things through, you’re not ready to make the leap.  You need to go through a phase of preparation, of putting things in place to allow the change to occur.

Changes are like falling dominoes; no major life change happens in isolation.  It impacts a whole series of related behaviors and patterns; it affects those around us.   The preparation stage allows you to anticipate the way your change will ripple through your life and environment so you can make its impact is as positive as possible.

Where to Start

If the New Year brought to mind some changes that would move you nearer to living your ideals, good for you!   To see the arenas of our lives that we can enhance is a beautiful thing.  Now take the time to think them through. Choose the one that’s most important and appealing to you and get ready to make it happen, for real, in your life.

To get started, spend some time thinking about, and writing down, the answers to these questions:

  • Why do I want to make this change?  What will it do for me?  Spend some quality time on these questions.  Paint as clear a picture as you can for yourself of the benefits the change will bring you.  How will it feel?  How will you feel and act once the change is a real part of your life?  What doors will it open for you?  What new opportunities will it bring your way?
  • What will I need to release and let go of in order to make this change?  Your current behavior pattern provides you with some rewards.  What are they?  What’s in it for you if you don’t make the change?  Are you willing to let go of those rewards in place of the new ones the change will bring you?
  • If the change will require an investment of your time, what are you willing to give up to make room for it?  Will you get up an hour earlier?  Work on it during your lunch hour? Give up some TV or Twitter time?
  • Will the change require a financial investment?  If so, from where will you pull the necessary funds?
  • Will it require that you create a physical space in order to do it?  If so, where will you set it up?  What materials will you need?  Where will you get them?  When will you need them?
  • Do you know how to do what you want to do?  Do you need information?  Training?  A mentor or coach?  A support group?  If so, where can you find what you’ll need and how will you go about accessing it?
  • How will your significant others and close associates react to the change?  How will it impact their lives?  How can you enlist their support?

Asking yourself questions like these will not only help you prepare for change, it will add depth to the power of your intention and will signal your subconscious that you’re serious.

You’ll find yourself noticing reinforcing ideas, drawing unexpected support and getting more and more confident that you truly are going to see your vision become your new reality.

Finally, set a date and begin—boldly, and with enthusiasm, commitment and faith.

Do you have a New Year’s wish that you plan to make real in your life?  Are you making some plans?  Share them so we can wish you well!

Then, come the end of March, I expect to see you riding in on a brand new pony.

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