The whole idea of chasing after what you want is big for me.
I was raised in a family where "do whatever you want" or "do as you please" was code for "I do not approve of that". I was also raised in a super Christian environment where there was this general expectation of living for others as opposed to for yourself.
It took me quite a while to realize that you cannot live for others unless you're capable of living for yourself first. And that you cannot live for yourself unless you know yourself first. And that part of knowing yourself is knowing what you want. And that in giving yourself permission to go get what you want, you give yourself permission to truly know yourself.
This post is a summary of what I learnt in the last 7ish years of trying to work on me. And so it's less of an advice and more about me :)
What you want vs. what you feel like
Doing what you want to do is very different from doing what you feel like doing. In fact, doing what you feel like doing is the exact opposite of doing what you want.
When you do what you feel like, you're simply letting your emotions dictate what you do in the moment. Think procrastination. But to do what you want is to be committed to yourself.
Going after what you want helps develop a clear sense of direction.
But doing only what you feel like (or only what you have to do) can make everything feel like a haze.
When you think of what you feel like, it makes you think of why it is okay.
When you think of what you want, it makes you think of ways to make it happen.
Doing what you want incentivizes you to change and improve yourself. Doing what you feel like is like saying everything is okay. (Which may be true.)
Doing what you feel like is not necessarily a bad thing, but it is very different from doing what you want.
The three stages of doing what you want
Firstly, there are two rules about what you're not allowed to want:
- you are not allowed to harm yourself, and
- you are not allowed to knowingly overwhelm yourself.
Doing what you want should make life easier over time, not make it worse.
The three steps to working towards getting what you want would look something like this:
1. The wait
This stage is meant to make you see things with clarity.
To be able to do what you want, the first step is to figure what you actually want. And whether you really want that. The only way to find out is to wait actively.
Let's say you think you want to learn to play the piano. It's not wise to wake up one day and be like "I'm going to buy a piano today". Instead, wait actively.
This waiting involves understanding the commitments learning the piano calls for. Time, money, others having to tolerate you practicing your scales, etc. It involves coming up with a plan. Like finding a piano teacher to help you get started. It also involves—even if in an implicit sense—understanding what draws you to the piano.
This active waiting is also useful for one-off things. Say you wanted a tattoo. Try not to get it immediately. Wait for three months and use that time to look for what you're going to get and where and who should do it and so on.
At the end of the wait period, you can do one of 4 things:
- ✅ Decide that you still want it, because you know you truly want it.
- ❌ Wait for some more time, because you are not sure if you want it.
- ❌ Decide against it, because you are not sure if you want it.
- ❌ Decide against it, because you know you don't want it.
If you decide to wait for some more time, it's ok. Just be sure you're not waiting because of anxiety or fear.
If you decide you're going to do it, but you are scared, do it scared.
2. The act
Now that you've waited and decided, you get to go ahead and do the thing you've wanted to.
This could be that first piano class, or your tattoo appointment, or whatever else you wanted to do. Maybe that vacation. Or maybe a full and healthy breakfast. I dont know, you know.
The most important thing here is that you do something because you decided. It's a matter of respecting yourself.
3. The watch
By separating "the wait" and "the act" we've manage to make sure that emotions don't stop us from getting what we truly want.
In this stage, you look at the act (which is now a few weeks in the past, or has been ongoing for a few weeks) and ask yourself if this is what you wanted. And how you feel about it. Also remember why you starting doing this in the first place.
Pay attention to toxic negative or positive emotions. If you feel guilty about being repeatedly late for piano classes, work towards changing that guilt into acceptance. Or if you often find yourself practicing the piano late into the night because it makes you feel good, work towards establishing priorities.
Also pay attention to whether it's overwhelming you. A tattoo surely won't. But piano practice schedules, or having to prepare breakfast every morning could possibly become a pain over time. Maybe adjust the expectations of the piano teacher, or only cook twice a week, etc. Only be honest to yourself.
Basically, anything that obscures the ability to seeing things for what they are is a sign that you need to tweak a few things around.
You don't have to be perfect. Patient consistency over a prolonged period of time will get you farther than overemphasizing on getting things right.
Lastly, this is also where you decide if it's not for you. Only let the decision reflect what you now want, as opposed to what you feel like in the moment.
Ideas of things you could want
I see three broad categories of wants:
- One time things, like a vacation or a major purchase. You work towards a goal and when you've achieved it, you've achieved it.
- Habitual things, like eating healthy or exercise. You work towards making it a habit, and when you get there you can't be without it (in a good way).
- Character things, like being honest, keeping your word, etc. This can take a while but change happens. The trick is to never give up but to let your recognition of failures encourage you. The more we recognize and acknowledge character flaws, the more we gravitate towards fixing them.
A few ideas of things to want:
- Get enough sleep everyday.
- Set aside time for leisure every day and every week; do not wait for a vacation.
- Do 5 push-ups everyday.
- Walk for 10 minutes everyday.
- Work on a skill for 10 minutes everyday.
- Live in the present.
- Commit to being honest, starting with the people close to you.
- Buy that piano.
- Or that car.
- Go on a vacation.
- Or take a vacation only to stay at home.
- Make that career change.
You get the idea... maybe now is the time you should open your notes app and make your own list. A list of things that appeal to you. And then pick ONE and work on it.
It is more fun than it sounds. Really!
Random but relevant link I found while googling about this:
- Doing what you feel like doing and doing what you want to do by William Taboas, M.A.