How to Know What You Want In Life

Written by Karl Perera, MA, DipLC 

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Knowing what you want in life is a question that so many of us all struggle with. It tends to show up as we age. We find ourselves in jobs or relationships that do not feel the right fit, but we may feel stuck. It can be scary to leave something comfortable even if, deep down, you know it is not the right place, person, job, or situation for you. If you have found your way here, you may be in precisely that place.

Being clear about what you desire and need to feel happier is so important because it is hard to move in the right direction unless you know what your aims and goals are. So how can you know what you want in life?

To understand how to know what you want in life, it’s necessary to know what motivates you. Ask yourself what excites you emotionally, brings you joy, and what your most important goals are. Answering these questions is a step towards bringing more of what you want into your life.

There are many ways to dig into our feelings and thoughts to help identify the next path in life to take. There are four questions below that are a great starting point. Following these questions are a few suggestions to help put the answers to those questions into action.

What Questions to Ask Yourself to Know What You Want in Life

Grab a notebook and a pen and get ready to start writing. Even if you have not been a fan of journaling in the past, this is one of those assignments where it is essential to put pen to paper and answer these questions fully. The answers do not have to make sense to anyone else but you. Think of them as the blueprint in how to know what you want in life. Start with the four below and see where it leads you.

What motivates you?

Is it money? Or making a difference in the world? The things that intrinsically drive you will point you in the right direction of what you want in life. Forcing ourselves to follow desires that are not of our most authentic self will lead you to the same place of feeling stuck. If your bank accounts drive you, then there is no shame in that. Write down the financial number in your head that would satisfy you. If it’s helping others, write down the result you’d most like to see from working to make a difference for others.

Once you’re able to pinpoint the things that motivate you, think about hobbies that interest you, you may soon notice you have a better idea of what it is you want in life and how you might be able to obtain it. Once you’ve figured out what excites you the most, I highly suggest you dedicate more of your time to these activities and pay attention to how your life changes for the better.

What brings you joy?

When you were a child, think of where you were your happiest. When you didn’t have responsibilities or society telling you what you should do, what did you love to do? Write down memories, especially those that group together under similar experiences. You may have loved to be in the kitchen with a family member. Or maybe it was drawing or writing alone in your room. Perhaps you were the child always finding lost or hurt insects or animals and wanted to take care of them. The things that bring a smile to your face may point you in your heart’s direction.

What would you choose to do, if anything were possible? If there were no limits to you getting started today? This is a huge, life-changing question, but one that will enable you to start dreaming of the possibilities. That’s one step closer to knowing what you want in life because you have to imagine a thing before you can make it a reality.

If you wish to improve your life, then first you must imagine what is possible. Forget the limits you believe hold you back or stop you, most of these are in your mind and not real limitations.

Don’t believe me? Check out Amy Purdy’s amazing story of how she made her dreams come true despite the incredible setbacks she had to go through – truly inspiring! You need to dream big to achieve big.

What affects you emotionally?

Our emotional triggers are often significant signals to what is most important to us and may help us know what we want in life. These can be positive emotions, such as the joy you feel when you make a sale in your job or get a positive review on your business. They can be negative emotions such as anger when you see the injustice caused to a person, an animal, or even the environment. Write down some of the things that trigger you emotionally and see if they lead you to a similar place.

What are your ultimate goals?

Everyone has a couple of “lifetime” goals. Take some time to really detail the ones that always pop in your head or that you have whole Pinterest boards dedicated to. These may include having kids. If so, how many? Maybe you’ve always wanted to buy a home and rehab it or turn one into bed and breakfast. Or you want to say you climbed Mt. Everest. The lifetime goals can be grandiose or small. These are the ones you know you want to look back and say, “I said I would do that, and I did.” 

Get clear and focus then write your goals down – as many as you like. Take your time to think about this, don’t rush it. My advice is to think BIG and forget your inner objections. Anything that comes to mind that you want to achieve, write it out as a goal. Think about it, if you have twenty goals and can achieve only half then that’s ten successes. If you only have two goals and achieve half that is only one success, so go for it!

How to Get More Of What You Want In Your Life?

Hopefully, now you have pages full of things that motivate you, bring you joy, affect you emotionally, and a few ultimate goals to accomplish in your lifetime. It’s time to take all those fantastic ideas on paper and set them into motion. Below are three easy mindset shifts and actions you can take to get more of those things from paper into fruition.

1. Tell people what makes you happy

Talk to the people you love and are close with about some of the things you think will bring you more of what you want in life. You’d be surprised how many will be supportive, suggest ways to help you achieve those dreams. They may even join in on the fun! Accountability makes things real.

2. Say yes!

It is as simple as that. Say yes to new things, scary things, and things out of your comfort zone. You told your sister you want to climb Mt. Everest, and she calls and suggests you guys sign up for a long weekend hiking trip to try some easy and maybe one challenging climb. Say yes! Opening yourself up for the possibility of experiencing new things will validate many of the things you knew you wanted and even help you discover new goals and dreams!

3. Remove what doesn’t move you

If it doesn’t serve you any longer and you don’t enjoy it, tell it goodbye! I’m not saying up and quit your job without a backup plan. What I am saying is to stop feeling pressured to keep doing things out of obligation or comfort. If it doesn’t help you in your quest of how to know what you want in life, it no longer fits in your plan.

We only get one life and one chance on this earth. Make it count! Take time to really ask yourself some of the questions above and make some shifts in mindset and lifestyle. Every single person has so many gifts to give and a purpose that will help others around them and the world while fulfilling what drives them inside. Use what you already know of yourself and share it with the world!

Whether you believe it or not, your mind is the only thing standing between you and your dreams. So it’s time to push yourself towards a more positive approach to life and to think about what you want to do with your life.

4. What don’t you want in life?

It is important to realize what you do NOT like and do NOT want in order to figure out what you DO want in your life. It is important to remember what it is that you’re truly passionate about in life and to separate this from things that you may be convinced into doing but you don’t actually enjoy. Don’t let this become negative though, treat it as a list of the things you want to remove from your life to make it better and to move closer to your dream.

Psychology Today has good advice on how knowing what you don’t want can help you identify what you do want.

If you are to be truly happy in your life, you shouldn’t say yes when you want to say no! For this, you might need to learn how to be more assertive.

5. Commit to getting everything you want in life

This is the biggie! If you have answered the above life questions then you cannot just sit there, you MUST take action. Problems will come, and you mustn’t give up. You need a positive attitude and resilience to overcome the difficulties and challenges ahead. One of the biggest problems is fear. You have to be strong and have support to fight this when doubt arrives, as it will.

Decide how committed you are to your life changes and be 100% determined to work to bring about positive changes in your life. What will you do if things get tough? Who can you tell about your intentions? Telling someone you can rely on is important. If that person is helpful and supportive they will also hold you to account. A friend is priceless in helping you commit to your future. Remember that most successful people don’t focus on the negative, they are both realistic and have an optimistic attitude.

More than anything else, successful people don’t give up easily!

Would you like to be crystal clear about setting your life priorities?

If your answer is YES, then I recommend you get this amazing self-hypnosis program which will teach you how to set the goals that matter to you and ensure your mind commits to achieving them:

So now you know what you need to do to get clearer about what you want in life. It takes time to answer each of the above questions, but it is time well spent. Be honest with yourself and go for it! get that pen out and get to it now!

Before you leave this page, please share it with someone that needs to read this. Good luck and do let me know how you get on with these questions. I wish you sincere success in whatever you choose to do in life!

References

Business news Daily. (2020). Life’s Too Short: 4 Reasons to Do What You Love For a Living. https://www.businessnewsdaily.com/7995-reasons-to-do-what-you-love.html

Canfield, J. (2015). Do You Know What You Really Want from Your Life? Decide Today!  [accessed 27 October 2015]

Christ, S. (n.d.). 7 Powerful Questions To Find Out What You Want To Do With Your Life [accessed 27 October 2015]

Pease, A., & Pease, B. (2016). Why Men Lie & Women Cry: How to get what you want from life by asking. Hachette UK.

Vilhauer, J. (2019). How to Figure Out What You Want in Life. Psychology Today. https://www.psychologytoday.com/intl/blog/living-forward/201909/how-figure-out-what-you-want-in-life

Website Author and Your Guide

Karl Perera is a fully qualified Life Coach (DipLC), Teacher (MA), and author of the book Self Esteem Secrets. He has taught at various universities including Durham, Leicester and Anglia Ruskin, Cambridge. He has run More-SelfEsteem.com since 1997 since suffering from low self esteem for more than 25 years overcoming it in his thirties.