Easy question, right? I want a new car. I want to earn twice what I earn now. I want to travel to Europe. The list goes on ad infinitum. And trudging on day after day, maybe year after year, without acquiring these wants can by quite depressing. Clients I’ve worked with have expressed questions of identity and self-worth because they hadn’t yet acquired one or more items on their list.
After many years on this planet, I’ve discovered two simple but valuable inquiries for myself that lead me to some quite complex answers:
- Why do I want _______?
- Why don’t I have _______?
Just the exercise of asking myself these questions always tells me a lot about what’s going on in my life.
Do I want to keep up with the Joneses? Step over a colleague’s career?
Own more land? A bigger house?
Find a more attractive spouse?
These wants have all shown up on my clients’ lists early in their clarity work with me. I could see how they appeared to demonstrate success for some, but it depended on whose definition of success they embraced.
Who defines “success” for you? Your parents? Your professional peers? Your close circle of influencers?
How do YOU define success? When you strip away the picture of success your parents drew for you, the scenario you paint to impress your friends, and the new man-cave you imagine building for poker nights with your buds, what’s left?
Here’s the test: If or when you finally get the car, raise, house, job, airplane, boat, yada, yada, yada, and you find yourself bragging to someone—or even just quietly puffing up your chest—then you may have accomplished this more for them than for you. So what’s left on that list that isn’t simply for some form of external validation? In other words, what do YOU really want.
Determining this can take considerable time, as we’re all pretty blind to the influences that sometimes make us who we are. Those same influences, I believe, can make some of our wants loom huge in front of us, overshadowing the more internal “just for me” desires and aspirations that, when focused on, can be transformational.
There’s no shortage of child prodigies in the public light. Musicians, athletes, writers. And among them are examples of kids driven to distraction (or incredible focus?!) by parents’ aspirations.
As a pre-teen, I wanted to play the piano. We had a piano in the house, and my Dad was quite entertaining with his ability to play whatever he heard. That’s what I wanted to do. So Mom found me a piano teacher. Turns out I was technically pretty good. And this teacher, and the six others over the following seven years, wanted me to enter piano competitions. But I wanted to play baseball AND piano.
See the problem?
My “want” to play the piano was never pushed by my dad; if I picked it up, fine. If not, that was fine too. I never looked to him for validation. That was my test. I wanted to play the piano for ME. Not so my dad could brag about me. I still love to play the piano—whatever song I’ve heard—for my own entertainment. I long ago abandoned playing baseball.
And “Why don’t I have _____?”
My take for why you don’t have something is because it’s not really what YOU want. It’s more like something you’ve been sold that you want for reasons that are all externally driven.
Once you’ve made the effort to categorize the list of external versus internal wants, then the clarity of your aspiration can work wonders on eliminating all impediments to your goal.
I watched a wealth management counsellor who couldn’t call on business owners (because his mom thought “sales” was an unprofessional calling) transform his practice from mediocre to spectacular with hundreds of clients and millions of their dollars to manage.
I watched a banker who always wanted to be a musician become a staple of Second Avenue in Nashville.
I watched a corporate guy, who decided he always wanted to be his own boss, make a three-year plan and become a hugely successful solopreneur consultant who now lives where he wants and does what he wants.
There are many more examples of folks who got clear about what they really wanted and eliminated the noise produced by others’ expectations of them.
What do YOU want? If you don’t know, when will you figure it out? What’s standing in your way?
Get clear now, because clarity is transformational.