“If only I knew what I wanted to do, I would do that.” I often hear others and myself saying this. That feeling of being stuck in one place and knowing that you want to be somewhere else is a common ailment of modern life. Particularly in middle age, when you have already done so much in life, you may feel lost about what’s next for you. So why is it so hard to know what you want?
Societal expectations are loud voices. One reason why it is often hard to know what we truly desire is that we are so accustomed to hearing what we are “supposed to want”. From the media, our friends, our family, for generations, there has been so many messages about what we are supposed to want in life. These societal expectations are so strong and loud that we often don’t hear anything else. These mainstream messages can drown our inner desires out. A house with a picket fence, marriage, 2 kids—a boy and a girl, a dog or cat was what I heard growing up. Be a lawyer or doctor, be successful but not too successful, be unique but not too different—these are all common things we are supposed to want. And don’t get me started on how you are supposed to look.
The good news is that there is a growing trend to expand the common notion of what we should do and want in life. Sure, there have always been people who have followed their own path, even if their way was unusual. For everyone else, these days the range of what is common is growing, making it easier to follow a path that is true to your self. Career options have exploded as more and more people consider entrepreneurial vocations and non-mainstream jobs. The definition of a family has expanded with marriage equality and options for child rearing. So the societal voice of what you are supposed to do has enlarged in general. Nonetheless, you probably still have some pretty loud voices in your head from many years of internalization. It is hard to undo those beliefs—but not impossible.
Search for your own inner voice. Finding your inner voice isn’t something that comes easy to everyone. To find out what you really, truly desire requires concentration, time and effort. Focus is not easy when you are very busy and going through the motions of everyday tasks. You must set aside time to dream and think about your life. You need to step away from the everyday to hear your own voice and unearth your own desires. And it helps to have guides for this process. Consider going to a retreat that forces you to immerse yourself in going deep. Hire a life coach to help you on your path—I offer free discovery sessions. Download my Big Picture Guide here for steps to dream and plan. Just don’t ignore what’s possible for you and give up because you don’t know what you want. Believe in yourself and believe that your life has plenty of room for trying different things as you search for what you truly desire.