What Do You Want?

The first question you need to ask yourself when searching for a job, determining your career path or trying to realize your passion should be, “What do I want?” Every plan and every action that you take should begin from that very simple question.

What you want should come from your desire, passion, skills and intuitive reasoning to want to arrive at the place that speaks to who you are and where you see yourself going. When you get to that essence of living and being, the picture will become much clearer. You can then put together a plan based on your desire and the strategy that accompanies it.

Depending on where you are in your life, experience will dictate your options, to some degree. It’s not easy for the 20-year veteran of consumer banking to seamlessly switch to a career in print journalism. But experience should never limit or dictate your personal choice of what you want for your life.

This is a critical distinction to point out. What you really want may not be a job or career that can happen overnight. But it’s worth working toward for a future day. This way, you ensure that you are taking steps to live the life that is really yours, as opposed to trying to live someone else’s.

Finding What You Want

You need to find experience doing things that you want to do, even if it means beginning at the entry level. The Self-Determination Theory, developed by Edward L. Deci and Richard M. Ryan states that three specific psychological needs must be met:

“Conditions supporting the individual’s experience of autonomy, competence, and relatedness are argued to foster the most volitional and high quality forms of motivation and engagement for activities, including enhanced performance, persistence, and creativity.”

Enhanced performance and creativity are qualities that we could all agree make us better and happier. We reach these levels when we’re motivated by doing work that aligns with who we are; work that kindles the fire inside of us.

21st Century life, at least for many of us blessed enough to live in peace and safety, is not about everyday survival. All of us, across different financial strata, have needs that must be met, and surely many of us come from varying educational backgrounds that provide us different opportunities.

Despite that which holds us back — and opportunities which reveal themselves in their own, unique ways — we have a real shot in this world to live the life that we want. Maybe not all the time. But we have a shot.

Building Toward Your Future

“The new year stands before us, like a chapter in a book, waiting to be written. We can help write that story by setting goals.” — Melody Beattie

Each day is a building block toward living life more and more on our terms. For a precious few, these moments will come seemingly overnight. But for most of us, this is a gradual process. If we’re willing to endure temporary defeat, adversity and the battle against time, we will come out on the other end in triumph and personal empowerment.

Life gets tangled and crazy, sometimes by our own doing, and often in the way we respond to the stimuli we encounter. I’ve seen friends and colleagues choose directions based on a lack of thinking things through. Heck, I’ve done the same thing in my life. Maybe you have too.

Lack of planning and preparation positions us in the direction of paths which often lead us to question ourselves. As we go down these roads, there will be moments of anger, frustration, soul-searching. Highs and lows that aren’t easy to make sense of at the time.

When we don’t know what we want, or never honestly ask ourselves this question with intent to change and grow, we lose time. Depending on the people around us and the variety of motivating factors in our lives, we may end up moving forward but perhaps not in the right direction.

When it comes to our careers, we can follow the wisdom of the great Robert Plant of Led Zeppelin: “There are two paths you can go by, but in the long run, there’s still time to change the road you’re on.” Just know, as you progress forward in your career, it gets tougher to turnaround; which is never to suggest that you cannot change course.

Rather, this is to inspire you to take action sooner in the direction that most aligns with your inner-sense of worth, desire and being.

The Cost to You

What is the cost to you to live a life that makes you unhappy- that feels unfulfilling because you aren’t doing what you love? Life is going to keep challenging us and it’s undeniable that obligations of all sorts will come and go. Depending on the urgency of these obligations, they will take up our time and take away time from what we love to do most. This is where planning and careful thought come into the equation.

Plans are nothing; planning is everything.” — President Dwight D. Eisenhower

You must first plan to set yourself up for success. As plans change, continuous improvement- or kaizen- will be essential to your success. Root yourself in core values and principles that you are unwilling to compromise. These will be your guiding force, as the zephyrs and winds of change influence your emotions and thoughts.

When you have rock-solid values, firm principles and time-tested morals and ethics, you have a compass that will always guide you in the direction you want to go. From there, it’s a matter of tactical details — how you get there and how soon. Persistence and perseverance will lift you as you peel back the fear and ask yourself the different questions. But it all begins with finding the answer to what you truly want.

Live Boldly

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Additional Writing

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The Formula that Leads to Wild Success — Steve Jobs