Don’t Know What I Want (Redux)

If you’re reading this article because you don’t know what you want, and/or wonder if this is all there is to life, let me begin by assuring you of a few things:

  • You are far from being alone. In 2012, the largest number of visitors came to my website by typing in “don’t know what I want” in Google and finding my original article with the same title—second only to doing a search with my name. In third place was the search phrase “Is this all there is to life?” Plenty of others feel the way you do.
  • I can so relate to your pain and torment, because I myself felt the same for most of my life.
  • You can decide to end the torment anytime—Yes, you CAN! You can decide to begin right NOW!

Death is not the greatest loss in life. The greatest loss is what dies inside while still alive. ~ Tupac Shakur

Photo by Alex Bellink

Photo by Alex Bellink

When we don’t know what we want and continue marking time, not following what makes our hearts sing, a piece of us withers away every day. We’re all meant to be and do far more than going through the motions day in and day out in an empty shell of a human body suit, disconnected from our heart, from our soul, from our purpose for being. That’s why the above Shakur quote is so poignantly spot on. Isn’t it more tragic to suffer the pain of existing aimlessly than to actually die?

What keeps us from knowing what we want?

Culprit #1: “Should’s”

Since we were little children, we’ve internalized all kinds of messages about who we should be, what we should do, and what kind of a life we should aspire to live. Before our capacity to think and decide for ourselves has had a chance to mature, our innate desires were obscured by all the “should’s.” We’re conscious of some of these messages, e.g., make a good living so that you can provide for your family, or you need to be practical and realistic in your career choice, etc. The vast majority of them, however, are unconscious to us.

The average person has 60,000 thoughts per day, or roughly one thought per second, automatically driving most of our decisions and actions. Where did we get those 60,000 thoughts per day? How many of them actually originate from conscious listening and thoughtful processing, instead of what we’ve picked up as how we should think and what we should do? No wonder we can’t hear our authentic selves! What we want is buried under lifelong programming and conditioning that needs to be cleared out before we can hear our own voice and listen to our heart’s desires.

Culprit #2: Fear of Knowing

Because we have deep layers of “should’s” making choices and decisions for us—and the longer we have lived, the thicker the layers are—it can be rather daunting to even begin to consider what our authentic selves may tell us and what knowing our heart’s desires may actually mean.

This past Sunday, I co-led a workshop to help participants release what limits them and to call in the highest vision for them to guide them this year. One prospective participant was on the fence for weeks about doing the workshop. The part of her that wanted to do the workshop knew it was just what she needed to say “Yes” to the life that’s waiting for her to stop limiting herself. But the fear-based part of her couldn’t give herself permission to do that, and came up with all kinds of excuses. Finally, she conceded that she was afraid of what might come up that she’d have to own and change. It’s far safer to continue to hide behind not knowing.

undeservingSadly, that’s a very common reason why many remain stuck in the land of “not knowing what I want.” It takes a conscious, courageous commitment to be truly willing to know. Because, once we know, we relinquish the ultimate excuse for choosing pain. Yes, it’s scary to know, but you can do it!

Culprit #3: Feeling Undeserving

One of the biggest reasons why we can’t commit to knowing what we truly want is because, deep down, we fear we don’t deserve to be happy. It absolutely breaks my heart to know how many people feel this way, knowingly and unknowingly. With all the programming and conditioning mentioned in #1 above, part of us is resigned to accept whatever lot we have, feeling that it’s the best we can do. A telltale sign of that is when we say to ourselves, “Just because so and so managed to live the life of their dreams, it doesn’t mean it’d work for me. I’m not that brave, smart, resilient, resourceful, [fill in the blank]. I should just be grateful for what I have.”

The part of us that holds feelings of learned lack and inadequacy proffers all kinds of reasons why it isn’t in our cards to know what we want, and to be able to create a life of joy and passion accordingly. These reasons are self-sabotaging excuses and lies to keep us safe, not the truth. We can cultivate the consciousness to see them for what they are, and choose to turn to the truth–that it’s out birthright to be happy.

To Know or Not To Know

With all that said, it’s entirely doable to cut through the layers of programming and conditioning to know what you want. Here are two major starting steps:

Step #1: Decide

Yes, it really is as simple yet as critical as that. DECIDE unequivocally to give up the protection of not knowing for fear of what changes you may need to make. Give yourself some time and space to acknowledge and face that fear. It’s counter-intuitive, as our instincts are to run from fear. But when we face fear, its power over us dissipates.

Ask yourself: What’s the worst that could happen if I gave myself permission to know what I really want? What’s your worst fear? Death? Would making changes in your life such that it honors what you want be worse than death? Perhaps, the real question is whether you agree with Shakur, that the worst is not death, but rather dying inside while still alive.

Step #2: Accept Help and Support

By nature, we human beings aren’t lovers of change. Yes, some of us are more adventurous than others, and get bored more easily. Nevertheless, human beings are wired to create comfort zones and stay there, even if our comfort zones don’t make us happy. When we’re trying to summon our courage to face our fears, not going through it alone, as well as having guidance and support can make a world of difference.

There are programs, support groups and professional help of all different sizes, configurations and price levels to help with different needs, situations and preferences, especially around this time of the year. If you’re ready to embrace knowing what you want, do yourself the ultimate favor and accept help. You don’t have to continue to be among the living dead any longer. Isn’t it time to say “Yes” to knowing what you want and having it?

Let me close by saying this: It’s perfectly within your power and ability to know what you want. What’s keeping you from that knowing is purely your decision to know. Are you ready?


30 Days To Living Your Best LifeSpeaking of support, one opportunity to get some is my upcoming program, 30 Days To Living Your Best Life, to begin on February 7. Early Bird Special ends this Sunday, January 20.

If you choose the group coaching option, you can invite a friend to join you at no additional charge. That’s 2 for the price of 1!

If you’re interested in becoming an affiliate for this program (receive 25% of each sign up), please email me.


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About Alice Chan, Ph.D.

Dr. Alice Chan is passionate about developing conscious leaders and organizations. Her path to serve her life purpose has included being an award-winning Cornell professor and a leader in the corporate world for nearly 15 years. She’s the author of the book, REACH Your Dreams: Five Steps to be a Conscious Creator in Your Life, and creator of the program, 30 Days to Living Your Best Life. All content on this blog and website is her own, not the opinions of her employer.

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