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What do you REALLY want?

There are all kinds of obstacles to achieving what we want in life, and a common one that has tripped me up is not being honest about what I really want.

We sometimes forget to look inwards and use our own wisdom to determine what is important to us. When we do take the time to listen to ourselves, we often end up hiding our aspirations away in a drawer because we are afraid to think about what it might mean to take them seriously.

If this sounds like you, I encourage you to at least take the first step of dusting off your hidden wants and giving them some careful consideration. You can always stick them back in the drawer where you found them. OR… you might realize they aren’t so big and scary and impossible after all. You might get inspired to take steps towards making them a reality.

Here are a few things that it took me a long time to accept that I wanted. Now that I have them, it was well-worth making the necessary changes and sacrifices to achieve them.

I want down time.

For most of my life, starting from when I was in grade school, I was someone who overscheduled myself and found an activity for every hour of the day. As soon as I was old enough to work, I got two jobs working in a diner and for a catering company. I also loaded up with after school activities. I spent years stressed out and constantly running late. I kept telling myself, I wouldn’t take on so many activities if I didn’t secretly love it. Right?

I wore it like a badge of honor. I got a thrill boasting about how much I could get done in a day and how much I could accomplish on very little sleep. But after several burnouts and countless temper-tantrums, I’ve finally allowed myself to acknowledge, I want a schedule that is realistic and manageable. I want time to futz and read and sleep and be quiet. I want down time.

I want a flexible work schedule.

I haven’t had a steady 9 to 5 job in over 10 years. It’s been challenging not having a reliable paycheck, and I experienced plenty of anxiety when things got lean for an extended period of time. And yet, I have fully accepted that I want the autonomy and freedom of making my own schedule. All the benefits far outweigh the frustration I would feel being confined to a normal work week schedule. I like taking a walk at 10am on a weekday when I have the trail to myself. It’s a gift to be able to run errands and make doctor’s appointments without having to request time off. I want a flexible work schedule.

I want money.

I used to admire and embrace the concept that money wasn’t important. And then I went broke in my mid-30’s. I remember sitting in a Peat’s Coffee House in Union Square across from a potential client, who had just quit his high-paying job because the environment had become too toxic. He said he’d discovered that money just wasn’t important to him anymore. As I sipped my small earl grey tea (A latte would have been too much of a splurge.) I thought to myself, “Sounds like something someone with a lot of money would say.”

I can tell you without hesitation or shame that I want to have money. Not an excessive amount, but enough so that I can pay my bills, store some away each month, and occasionally treat myself. I want money.

Breaking through the barriers to what we really want.

So, what stands in our way of being honest about and accepting of what we truly want? I imagine there are as many barriers as there are desires, but here are a few obstacles that seem pretty common.

Peer pressure and comparisons

In this age of social media, influencers, and curated lifestyles, it’s easy to aspire to what other people do and have. Focusing too much attention on what others are doing blinds us to what our intuition is telling us. We end up pursuing things we think we want instead of what we actually want.

You might also fear what other people will think of your wants. Remember how I was silently projecting my insecurities onto that man, who had just quit his job and decided money wasn’t important to him? My judgement wasn’t about him. It was about me and my fears around money.

Yes, others may judge you for the path you choose, but their criticism is usually connected to their own fears and have nothing to do with you. It never feels good to be judged, but is that a good enough reason to ball up your dreams and throw them away? Maybe you’re not sharing your dreams with the right people.

It's just not possible!

Things are only impossible until they aren’t. I’m working with a client who, up until six weeks ago, felt trapped in their circumstances and overwhelmed by their obligations. They couldn’t see any way out. It was impossible. Then, they were abruptly hospitalized for a serious medical condition and needed to relocate for their treatment. They are now living in a new apartment and prioritizing their own needs. Everything that was impossible to let go of is being handled just fine by someone else. The impossible was suddenly possible.

I don’t wish those extreme events on anyone, but it provides a dose of perspective. Simply entertaining the idea that something is possible can remove your blinders and help you see solutions you hadn’t noticed before.

I don’t know how, so I can’t.

It’s perfectly natural to avoid doing things you don’t know how to do. It means learning new things, making mistakes, and (GASP!) asking for help. There is always a place to begin. It can be helpful to start by asking some questions. Seeking answers will give you more information to work with and a path forward.

It’s NOT what you really want…

It’s always a good idea to entertain the notion that you can’t accept this thing that you want because you don’t actually want it. It’s just some bee that got stuck in your bonnet. Now that you are looking at the effort required and sacrifice it will cost you, it is suddenly not that important at all. If this is true, it’s okay to let it go and free up the real estate.

So, all that being said, what do you REALLY want? And why? And what is a tiny first step you can take to achieve it?

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