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How to Know What You Really Want

(Originally published 2018)

What do you want?

We are confronted with this question daily. We’re asked overtly, by restaurant servers or coworkers or our spouses (if we’re lucky). But more often we’re asking ourselves this question silently, countless times a day.

What do I want? What do I really want?

Sometimes the answer is simple: I want a large French fry and a Coke. Done. But too often, the answers to the countless silent questions can sometimes evade us for a lifetime.

When you don’t know what you want, you are left with a deep longing. You go through your days unfulfilled with a vague yet persistent feeling of unfinished business, a yearning for something more, something undefinable. You know that what you seek is something real and tangible — or at least it could be if you could just figure out what’s missing.

The truth is, your spirit knows what’s missing long before your mind does. In fact, your spirit — your soul, your inner being, your conscience, or whatever you choose to call that deeper secret part of you — knows everything. It knows who you truly are beneath the stresses and distractions you get caught up in. It knows your heart’s desires long before you know them yourself. It knows them even if you never take the time to discover what they are. It knows because this is where all your desires come from. Your hopes, your dreams, your destiny, your fate — all those mystical-sounding words about our purpose in life and the paths we’re meant to take to fill our lives with joy and love and meaning — they all originate from and reside within your spirit.

What’s more, your spirit does not keep secrets. It wants nothing more than to make known to you what your deepest desires are, for its purpose is to guide you toward those things that will bring light and joy to your life and to others, to rescue you from the pain and frustration of poor decisions and mistakes large and small, to help you find the path to unconditional love and complete fulfillment.

Why, then, is it so difficult to listen to our spirits, to understand our desires, to heed the call and to follow our true path? Because we don’t know how to listen. Or more to the heart of the matter: We’re so busy telling our spirits ‘no’ that we are not allowing the truth to come forth.

If you don’t believe me, ask yourself this question: When was the last time you had a desire that you immediately shut down?

I’m guessing as recently as the last hour. And this is a good thing, usually. We are constantly flooded by wants, desires, and wishes, and not all of them are good or serve our higher purpose. Being able to say ‘no’ is a vital life skill, one that helps us become the master of ourselves instead of letting our physical appetites and weaknesses — as well as external pressures — rule our lives.

We know when saying ‘no’ is the right thing to do. The reason we know it’s right is because we feel at peace after we’ve said it and drawn the line. We might also give ourselves a little pat on the back for saying ‘no’ to that second donut, for example, or we might feel the love of our children after saying ‘no’ to time with our phones or Facebook and instead taking the time to read or play as a family. Or maybe we’ve had to set some boundaries and say ‘no’ to someone who wanted more from us than is healthy to give. But no matter the circumstance, when we say ‘no’ to something that does not serve us and others, we feel good, peaceful, empowered, overjoyed — even when the decision was a difficult one. That is our spirit telling us we’ve made the right choice.

But the trouble is, over time we get a little too good at saying ‘no’ and we don’t realize when it’s time to say ‘yes.’ And while we’ve been told that the inability to say ‘no’ is one of our most serious weaknesses, I believe the opposite is true:

It's more important to understand when it's time to say "yes."

When we allow ourselves to say ‘yes’ to our healthy desires, we are allowing our spirit to speak to us freely. Not only that, but we are teaching ourselves to follow the promptings of our spirits, to heed the call and follow our path. Even if the decision or desire seems small and insignificant, it’s an important exercise in listening to our spirits and honoring the truth they have to share.

Our spirits never lie. The path they urge us toward will always lead to happiness and peace.

I'll leave you with two simple questions to ask yourself:

What do I want? What do I really want?

Let these questions run through your mind freely, and follow where they lead. Don’t sensor yourself or judge your response. Simply ask and answer. The next time we meet I will tell you what to do with this knowledge and how it can change your life if, you let it.

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