What do you really, really want?


“Those who cannot tell what they desire or expect, still sigh and struggle with indefinite thoughts and vast wishes.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

Have you ever felt the frustration of spending hours looking for something and not finding it? Of course. We all have.

But imagine the frustration of spending all that time looking for something — and not even knowing what it is you are looking for. Yet many of us choose to live our entire lives in this way.

How often we feel this vague sense of yearning without knowing what it is that we want. Rabindranath Tagore wrote, ‘I have been stringing and re-stringing my instrument while the song I came to sing remains unsung.’

Restlessness is becoming a major contagion in the developed world. Maybe this is because we have everything we could possibly need, and yet still have powerful cravings for more.

My challenge to you is to answer this deceptively simple question, “What do you really, really want in your work, life, relationships, health and wealth?”

It’s not always the easiest question to answer, but it’s certainly one of the most important ones you can ask yourself. If you don’t, you’ll usually find yourself wandering off along the road to nowhere.

I remember sitting down with a vocational psychologist at an assessment centre during a period of great upheaval in my career. She asked me, ‘Adrian, what do you want?’ I didn’t have a clue. I just could not answer the question, except by listing all the things that I didn’t want.

I was so busy working 16 hours per day — in the belief that the harder you worked, the more likely you were to succeed — that I’d never stopped to think about something so apparently simple.

What’s more, I realised that I’d never known the answer. It required a degree of self-knowledge that I simply didn’t have at the time.

If we choose not to ask ourselves the question, it’s usually due to fear. The fear, perhaps, of facing what the answer reveals — the fear of voicing our desires lest we have to face the prospect of failure. Years ago my wife said to me, ‘I just don’t want to think about that. It could open Pandora’s box. It would be much worse to know what I want and then not to be able to have it.’

I reached a point where I needed to sort out what I was all about. I remember the exhilarating, if bewilderingly uncomfortable experience of going to the Birmingham NEC to see the over-the-top American guru of personal development, Anthony Robbins, lead his famous fire-walk weekend. He asked all 1200 of us the same question, ‘What do you really want?’ I suddenly realised I was not alone. Almost nobody could answer.

But then came the most powerful and frightening question of all: ‘If you knew that you could not possibly fail… what would you do for the rest of your life.’

Imagine the feeling of elation. The elation that comes from knowing just what you want and then going for it fearlessly. The elation that comes from recognising when you are being the real you.

You’ll feel, I shouldn’t wonder, like you are flying!

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