Throughout this holiday season many of us were asked the simple question “What do you want?” Interestingly, I have found that answering that question is difficult for many people. It seems on the surface that it should be a no brainer, but in reality our brains go through a multi level filtering process to evaluate whether it is permissible to answer the question.
Early in our childhood many were given the message that asking for what you want is selfish. Some of these early messages included statements such as “It isn’t always about what you want”, “Life doesn’t revolve around you”, “ Why don’t you think about what he, she, I or they want for a change”. Any of these sound familiar? Our parents did not teach this with malicious intent. They were simply teaching what they had been taught. No one would argue that thinking and doing for others is not important. Equally important however, is being able to assess what it is that your heart desires. It is what shapes our destiny, helps us decide where we will live, what we want to do for a living, who or if we will marry, how many children we may want or not want to have or even something as basic as what we wan to eat.
Throughout the year I do many workshops and lectures on the science of happiness. In the workshops one of the things that we discuss is the how your thoughts create chemical messages that enter each of your cells. All the cells in your body participate in this process in one way or the other and the thoughts you think have a significant impact on the happiness you experience. At the end of each session I give out my email and invite people to comment or ask questions about any of the information presented. Almost without exception, after each presentation I will have one or two people that will write and say that they loved the information and it really made a lot of sense but how do I figure out what I want? My first thought was, “How could I possible know what they want?” However, as it continued to occur it became apparent that saying “I want” was an issue that needed to be addressed.
There are many reasons that people have difficulty asking for what they want. For some, asking for what they want means drawing too much attention to themselves and not worth the exposure. For others, the fear of rejection keeps them from saying I want. It is easier to just not ask than risk being hurt or exposing the reality that they wouldn’t give it to you anyway. For some they feel as though they will be obligated if they ask for anything and don’t want to have to owe anyone anything. Still others would just prefer that you already know what they want and expect you to give it to them without asking. This is often accompanied by some overt or covert punishment because you should have known that they wanted it. There are some that believe themselves to unworthy to even think about what they want much less ask.
I believe that deep down people do know what they want but for a multitude of reasons just don’t say or ask. As we begin this New Year many will be evaluating what they want to accomplish in coming months, setting new goals and creating new visions for their lives. To be authentic to yourself you must be able to say I want. Evaluate, and ask yourself where you fall on the “I want meter?” Are you able to say I want? If not determine what it is that stands in your way and make that the first thing that you want to do this year.