How I Figure Out What I Really Want

There have been gazillions of articles written on this topic. Reading their inspiring contents pushed me to think about how to figure out what I really want. But that’s all I got from them –a dose of inspiration and thought experiments. What I eventually realized was — reading is only 30% of the whole process of figuring out what I REALLY want. The other 70% consists of TAKING ACTION.

So how does ‘action’ play a role in the process? Much of what I read and think about only exists in my head — NOT in the real world. My brain is not smart enough to simulate accurate situations especially on scenarios I’m not familiar with. I can daydream doing this or that. I can dig deep in my childhood memories to figure out what I enjoyed doing back then. But in the end I still feel lost and stuck. Does this mean I’m not applying the lessons I learned from those articles exactly how they should be applied?

Having fantasies and thought experiments can only take me so far. But pairing them up with action, I see results — results I wouldn’t be able to consider from brainstorming/daydreaming. These results come with an ‘emotional reward’ of either satisfaction or disappointment which serves as an internal indicator to tell me if what I thought I wanted is actually something I really want.

A good example for this is the changes that happened in my career path. When I was kid I wanted to be a Veterinarian (because my dad was in that industry) but my mom wanted me to become an Accountant (because during that time, they were in-demand, I’m not sure). I didn’t become any of the two. After elementary school, I realized I liked Math (even though my marks were not that impressive). The career path to the animal field was scratched off because I suck at memorizing scientific terms. Working in the bank didn’t spur any excitement either and so I decided to become an Engineer instead (without knowing exactly what kind of engineering I wanted to get into). There’s more to it but long story short, I became an engineering technologist in the manufacturing industry — and I’m satisfied with it. Picturing myself in the engineering field way back when I was a kid was waaay out of my brain’s capability to foresee the future I wanted.

Another example was my dream of moving to a different city. I left the city I live in today to see what else is out there — but things didn’t work out. The life I envisioned in my head was sooo much different from what actually happened. I ended up moving back. I may be successful at achieving that dream of moving to another city but I wasn’t satisfied with the results. The experience wasn’t a waste of time. It helped me assess the thing I thought I wanted.

In terms of material things, back then I wanted to own an Acura TL for a car. Why? It looked cool to me. I could’ve probably owned one today (a used car though but the exact same model) but I didn’t. Why? Things changed. And when things change, priorities change. Now I care more about the convenience of owning a car instead of driving a “cool/awesome” car. I don’t have anything against people who love cars. But everyone’s different. I’m different. And so I ended up buying a Honda Civic — one of the most common cars I see Asians drive. Since most people I know own one, getting it fixed will be much easier (on acquiring replacement parts and finding solutions online on how to fix this or that).

To repeat basically what I was trying say: Taking action validates those things I thought I wanted. If I didn’t go out there and go through the struggle of achieving them, I will still be wondering how awesome my life would be if I had this or that. I can daydream and do thought experiments all day but without action — they’re useless.

Looking back on my previous experiences, there’s a pattern of events that led me to realize — figuring out what I really want in life is NOT a once in a lifetime decision. It’s a constant evolution of wants and needs. I adjust my dreams, goals and wants in life as I go. I’m not one of those people who knew exactly who they wanted to be ever since they were a kid. I’m not a success story. I’m one of those average people seeking ways to make an improvement in their life, one step at a time.

Here’s a thought experiment that could save you time without taking action:

If there’s that something you want in your life right now, what would it be? Have you done anything to get it? If not, why not?

The excuse you come up with for delaying action is probably a sign you don’t want that ‘something’ you thought you wanted.


Below is an article I found by James Altucher that somewhat relates to what I’m talking about.

“How Do You Find The Right Path?” @jaltucher