“I don’t know what I want. “

We say this, and maybe it’s true sometimes.

Most of the time, we do know what we want. But the fear of not getting it prevents us from saying it, acknowledging it, or even considering it. We’ve had too many moments of disappointment in the past, where we didn’t get what we wanted, and we’ve made that mean that the future is hopeless, too. 

So we say, “I don’t know what I want” when what we really mean is “I’m afraid of pursuing what I want,” “I’m afraid of what it will take to receive what I want,” or “I’m afraid to fail.” It happens in our careers, relationships, creative pursuits, or lifestyle dreams. 

Man enclosed by his questions. Illustration by Allie Daigle

We mean “I’m afraid others will judge me for what I want.” Socialized restrictions about what a person should or should not pursue become the prison cell we live in. A comfortable prison cell for many us, the prison of not-too-bad or good-enough. The prison of making do, getting by, getting through this. Enclosed by the coolness of not caring or the frantic tumble of the hamster wheel.

“I don’t know what I want,” for many of us, is simply a lie. We know what we want, but we cannot be with the fear of the unknown. We rigidly maintain control by choosing guaranteed mediocrity over uncertain dreams. A comfortably so-so life, avoiding fear until we die, and we call it the best we can do.

“I don’t know what I want.” Sometimes we are confused between this and not knowing how to get there. “I don’t know what career I want” is actually “I don’t know which career will provide what I want.” But if you look, you probably know what you want: meaning, fulfillment, challenge or ease, stability or adventure. And that’s a place to start searching, if you are willing.

There may not be guaranteed paths to what we yearn for, but declining to acknowledge the yearnings guarantees no path at all. A life of sitting on our couches, in useless hope or despair.

Sometimes we squash our desires by saying “I just want to be happy right now,” as if being on a path towards something we desire requires a denial of present enjoyment. We equate resignation with satisfaction. We neglect the possibility of creating for ourselves what we want while also savoring with gratitude each moment of the journey. 

“I don’t know what I want.” We are afraid of appearing selfish, as if fulfillment can come only at others’ expense. We put our children or other loved ones before ourselves, just as our children may do, and their children, until someone awakes to the possibility that a parent fighting for both their inner child’s dreams and those of their children may grant a far greater legacy than the sullen pleasure of self-sacrifice.

None of this is a problem. It’s just probably not what we want. And ultimately, the world we want to live in will only be created if enough humans are willing to recognize what they most deeply desire, unite together in a common vision of what’s possible for humanity and the earth, and then boldly speak and take action to create it.

“I don’t know what I want.”

Most humans want to be happy. We want fulfillment in our careers, hobbies, and artistic pursuits, we want relationships that last, where there is acceptance, love, and joy. We want to matter and make a difference to others. We want peace within, peace in our relationships, peace in the world. We want to experience beauty, fun, and adventure. We want to create. We want shoulder massages. (Or maybe that’s just me…)

Of course, we’re not all the same. We each must answer for ourselves what we truly desire. Are you willing to declare what you want? And what you’re willing to pursue? Share in the comments.

Much love, Matt

P.S. Want to get clear on what you want and embrace the path of creating it? Connect with me or another professional coach. This is what we do, partnering with clients to clarify their vision, unleash their inherent gifts, and charge joyfully down the path of turning dreams into reality. Schedule a free introduction call here: thisishearthstone.com/schedule

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