If you run your own business, you’ll know how crucial it is to connect powerfully to your goals and dreams. Knowing why you’re doing what you’re doing and seeing clearly where you’re heading is what helps you stay focused and on track.

In my business, I mentor people to build their own home based business around their other commitments, and to overcome the stuff (most of it in their heads) that gets in the way . It’s probably one of the most crucial things I do — helping people connect to their ‘why’.

And yet I struggled for the longest time with setting my own goals and declaring my own dreams. I understood the principle perfectly, but the practise always felt a bit … ‘gimme gimme’. For someone who gets their kicks out of helping other people get what they want, asking for what I wanted was a challenge.

Ask me what the worst name anyone could call me is and I’d say ‘greedy’. (All to do with a piece of cake at a birthday party when I was four. I helped myself to a very, very big slice. Reader, it did not end well.) So being a demand for money, income, possessions and generally desirable ‘stuff’ didn’t sit comfortably at all. Goal books and dream boards — I created them … and then hid them.

The chocolate cake scenario may be unique to me, but I think this is an issue lots of people struggle with. And it’s an important nut to crack. As Jack Canfield puts it: ‘Most people fail at achieving true success because they haven’t clearly defined what ‘success’ means for them. After all, if you don’t know what you’re looking for, it’s almost impossible to find it!’

Ask most people what they want, and they’ll start by telling you what they don’t want. Try to focus them on what they do want, and they’ll run out of steam after ‘a new car and a long holiday’. Perhaps we’ve all spent so long having to make do and be satisfied with what we’ve got that the ‘I want’ muscle hasn’t been flexed enough. It’s started to wither and lose strength.

And most of us (well women, anyway) find that asking for what we want is both difficult and often discouraged. If you’re raised to please others, to be a good girl, to put other people first, then KNOWING what you want and articulating it out loud is really hard. We’ve got into the habit of putting other people’s (children’s, partner’s, parent’s)desires ahead of our own.

Despite dozens of shampoo ads telling us that ‘we’re worth it’, there’s a pernicious background meme. As little girls we win far more brownie points for being generous than for being greedy. Modesty, humility and selflessness are subtly praised and rewarded. (And if you don’t relate to this then I applaud you and your ruby knickers.) So the seeds of ‘Am I worthy of having what I want? Do I deserve it?’ get sown early, and like weeds they spread and choke out dreams and desires.

‘I want never gets.’ Ever heard that when you were a child? It may have been intended simply to improve our manners and get us to say ‘please’, but the young mind takes things literally. What’s the point of wanting if you’re never going to get? Condition that in early enough and it can effectively scupper any powerful goal setting in later life.

And if you are bold enough to ask for what you want, there’s another hurdle you have to face. You run the risk of of being rejected, denied, turned way, even scorned and mocked for wanting what you want. ‘Really???! You want that?? Are you sure? How selfish/stupid/naff …’

Rumi, writing nearly 700 years ago, said ‘You must ask for what you really want.’ Clearly this isn’t a recent issue.

So how do we get better at flexing this muscle? How do we start to recognise what it is that we want, without shame or fear or inhibition?

Begin by noticing. Not judging yourself, not resisting, just noticing what old thought may be getting in the way or holding you back, and what, in an ideal world, you’d like to have or be or do.

Jack Canfield again: ‘When you are confronted with a choice, no matter how small or insignificant, ask yourself, “What do I really want?” Remaining unclear about what you want — and making other people’s needs and desires more important than your own — is a habit. You can break it by practising the opposite habit.’

Whether you can have, be or do what you want is, at this stage, irrelevant. It’s about distinguishing and acknowledging your dreams and desires, and giving yourself full permission to dream. And to enjoy dreaming. Go on — I dare you. Empower yourself to dream. Make a list of all the things you’d like to feel, to experience, to have, to be. And then don’t hide it but revisit it regularly. Flex that muscle.

Children can teach us a lot here, because they practise, without knowing it, the concept of commitment without attachment. Children ask for what they want. And if they don’t get it, they ask again. And again. And again and again and again. So they either wear the grownup down and they get what they want, or they realise it’s not going to happen and they move on to the next thing. Because their dreams and desires are HUGE! Whether it’s to fly to the moon, drive a tractor or own all the toys in the Argos catalogue, they don’t limit themselves. They haven’t yet lost their dreams somewhere in the back of the sock drawer.

Commitment without attachment. Not the annoying slip up of sending an email without the attached document, which we all do from time to time. Commitment without attachment means that the desire, the ‘I want’, can be pure and powerful. It’s not weighted down with the baggage of indecisiveness, low self-worth or fear of rejection.

I want … I really want … I’ll do all I can to get … and if I don’t, well that’s fine too.

It makes asking for what you want much simpler. And far more fun.

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