What do you want?
Numerous studies show that goal setting works and intrinsically links to increasing motivation. There is an arsenal of self-help books and blogs (including this one!) that will teach how to do it.
Why then, do so many people have a difficult time figuring out what they want? I am not just talking about long-term visionary goals, like what they want their legacy to be or what they want their business impact to be over the long-term. I’m talking about even near-term desires, like what to eat for dinner, what exercise to do or what movie to watch.
It has nothing to do with intellect. Just look at a group of MBA-types trying to decide where to go for lunch, an intellectually minded couple deciding the best place to go for a weekend getaways or a savvy millennial choosing the right method to save for retirement. In each case, you will witness utter gridlock. Analysis paralysis. Delaying tactics. Avoidance. Hope that someone else will make the decision. All these things happen regardless of how educated or smart someone is.
Making a choice is simple, but that doesn’t mean it is easy. As a result, people avoid making decisions. When you avoid decisions and choices, life ends up deciding things for you.
It is like bobbing around in the ocean, and letting the current take you anywhere. You might be happy with the destination, or you might not. Things remain to chance.
When I work with coaching clients, all of whom are smart and savvy folks, my coaching sessions start off in a very similar fashion each and every time. I begin by asking what they want to discuss. Inevitably, or at least 80% of the time, this is the first roadblock. Even though my clients, many of whom I’ve worked with for many months, know this question is coming, they regularly struggle to answer.
Sometimes it takes 5 minutes to sort out the purpose of our coaching session, other times it takes the entirety of the session!
Either way, it is worth doing. The process of deciding what future you want to create is a powerful life skill to build and practice.
The art of making choices, big and small, is something that is vital if you care at all about creating a future that is even brighter and more attractive than the life you are living today.
Some people talk about this as goal setting, but it comes down to even more simple choices, the conscious and consistent decision to pick a direction you want to head in, and then doing your best to get there.
According to legendary personal development author and speaker, Zig Ziglar, the habit of answering the question, “What do I want?” through proper goal setting, is so powerful that it will literally change the wiring of your brain.
I have no idea if this is true, but I know from personal experience, and in working with many clients, that the habit of regularly deciding what you want does change (for the better!) how you feel about the direction your life is going in. Curiously, you will feel better about life (and career, and relationships, etc.) even if what you want to happen never occurs. It is the pursuit of the goal that creates the learning and the motivation to keep moving and growing, even if where you end up is different from what you hope for.
There is a certain magic in deciding what you want.
Psychologists also understand the power of the question, “What do I want?”. It opens up possibilities, and moves the mind into a much more creative space that does not dwell on past failures or current limitations, but instead runs into dreams and ideas for how things can be looking ahead.
Thinking is the most useful activity we can do as human beings, it is the source of all creativity and invention. If you are going to think of anything, you would be well-served to think about an answer to this simple question every day, “What do you I want?”. Think about what you want, in big terms and small terms, for your career and your relationships and finances. Just build the habit of asking the question to yourself, and noticing what comes up for you.
Even better, take note of what comes up, and do something about it. This habit can transform your life when consistently done. You will feel better about the direction you are moving in, and inevitably start noticing resources and tools that can help you along the way.