As bizarre as it sounds, “What do you want?” is one of the most difficult questions anyone can ever ask me. Not “what do you want?” as a roundabout way of implying “I don’t appreciate your presence here and wish you would go someplace else,” but as a meaningful inquiry into my hopes and dreams in life.
I used to pride myself on responding “I’d rather want what I have than know what I want,” but I’ve come to realise, while it is an honest answer, it’s also more of a shield to avoid answering the question.
I admire people who can easily rattle off a list of life goals without exhibiting any strain. Some of them even seem to relish the experience! I’m just not that way. I find it a truly stressful process. I need to sit alone, simmer, mutter, and grumble my way through a list, which gets edited, crumpled up, thrown away, and revisited numerous times before I’m eventually satisfied with it.
It’s meant to be an inspiring process that reveals the endless possibilities of life, but that’s rarely the way it feels to me. All the same, I think it’s a really important topic to meditate on, and revisit – especially when life beings to feel stale.
When I was in uni (aka college), I had a geography lecturer whose mantra was “Once you know what to think, you’ll know how to act.” He must have emphasised that phrase a hundred times by the end of term, and I’ve never forgotten it as a result. I learned a lot of valuable lessons in that class – some geographical, some not – and for that I’ll be forever grateful to him.
If you never spend any time contemplating what you think, want, or believe, how are you going to know what to do with yourself, what decisions to make, or where you’d like to end up in the world? In the worst case, you’d risk spending your life merely existing; whiling away the years until you realise it’s over and you never bothered to think about what’s important to you. That would be a real shame.
For me, clarity brings purpose, and aligning with purpose brings happiness. That’s why pursuing the question “What do you want?” is so important. It’s a process through which we find ourselves; achieving the goals themselves is merely gravy.