It’s a question we hear all the time. On the surface, it sounds pretty simple, and usually yields a quick response. My most recent reply to this question was:
“I’d like a G & T please.”
Because it’s Friday; because that’s my signal for the end of the week; because I’ve had a great day; because I’ve had a bad day; because I’m thirsty. There can be a variety of different reasons for the same answer.
That might be what you want right now, but what do you really want? What are you working so hard during the week for? It’s for more than a G & T at the end of it, I’ll bet.
In Jack Canfield’s book, The Success Principles, he asks the reader to make a list of 30 things you’d like to be, 30 things you’d like to have and 30 things you’d like to do, to help you to decide what it is you really want in life. It’s a really fun exercise to do. When I started it I thought there were so many things that I wanted that it would be easy, but it surprised me how after just a few minutes of frantically scribbling down my list, I was staring into the distance whilst gently rolling the end of my pen between my teeth thinking: “What do I want?”
There are many different techniques to help you get to the bottom of this question, but why do you need to know?
Well if you want to avoid a midlife crisis, it might be worth your while to have a go at finding out what you really want out of life sooner rather than later.
I mentioned finding my IKIGAI in a previous blog and I had a number of people ask me what the word IKIGAI meant.
IKIGAI Ikigai (生き甲斐, Japanese pronunciation: [ikiɡai]) is a Japanese concept that means “a reason for being”. The word refers to having a direction or purpose in life, that which makes one’s life worthwhile, and towards which an individual takes spontaneous and willing actions giving them satisfaction and a sense of meaning to life.Wikipedia
So your Ikigai is essentially your “raison d’etre” or life purpose. I truly believe that as individuals we all have a reason for being here. I also think that there are a great many people who are not living their lives on purpose. There are those who are in the centre of the crowd, content to be carried along by the masses, with no direction of their own; then there are those at the front of the crowd, who have chosen to steer it to whatever destination they perceive to be the right way. Some will break away from the edges making choices to go where their heart tells them, and others might feel the need to fight their way through to go completely the opposite way, causing all sorts of chaos as they do.
By finding your Ikigai, you grow wings, and get to rise out of the melee below, and follow a totally new, completely unique pathway to ultimate peace and happiness.
It might sound quite deep, but let’s face it, the question itself is a biggy.
Until you actually know the answer, there will be numerous times in life where you’ll end up asking yourself: “What am I here for?” “What’s it all in aid of?” “Who am I?” “Why is this happening?” I have found huge comfort in the knowledge that I am living my life on purpose meaning that nothing that happens to me is by accident but is intrinsically part of the bigger plan. It prevents me from getting caught up in trying to understand the cause of events, and allows me to ascertain how the outcome may guide, shape or teach me.
So what if you already know what you want, but you don’t know how to get it? I make no apologies for using this cliche:
“Where there is a will, there is a way.”
Meaning just that: if you really want something, you will find a way. Having found your ikigai, you will find that it permeates every thought and action you make. You will naturally be drawn to people, places and situations with the same or complimentary ideas and ideals. It’s as though by discovering what you want to do with your life, you allow a map to be created, and it gets delivered to you with your own personal guide who lets you know when you’re going off course, and will reroute you when needed.
Be open to trying something new. Try not to let the fear of failure hold you back from having a go. If it doesn’t succeed, it still serves as feedback as to finding what will. It’s in listening to the response that we learn.
I have had to explain this to my daughter in relation to her riding lessons recently. As she is in a phase of exponential learning at the moment, there are a lot of firsts: her first show; her first oxer (a type of show jump for non-horse people); the first time she cantered without stirrups… Many of these warrant a feeling of real elation and accomplishment, but at some point a little later down the line, they go wrong. And when they do, it feels to her as though all the wheels have come off. But as I keep telling her, this is where the learning is happening. It is not in the experience of when it all goes perfectly, although there is obviously learning merit in those times too, but rather when there is an error that the inherent problem solving part of your brain kicks in to resolve the issue. This is when there are new neural pathways being paved, and when the most valuable lessons are being learned. A new tool for fixing issues gets added to collection, and the result is a better, stronger, smarter version of the person who has had to forge it.
I never lose. I either win or learn.Nelson Mandela
I have always felt that there is power in knowledge, and in knowing what you want you definitely gain power over your life’s direction. The knowledge you have in finding your ikigai propels you to the next level and affords you super powers, that you might be able to shine your light into places where shadows have always been.
The benefits of finding out what you want in life extend far beyond the individual at the centre of it all. They emanate outwards like light catching a prism. As you become more certain and more determined, that light shines brighter and intensifies. You owe it to the world, not just yourself, to determine what it is you really want from life.
In recent years, I began meditating regularly, mainly because I felt a bit lost at the time, and felt like I needed some direction. There are some brilliant guided meditations you can listen to on Spotify and YouTube and the like. I would strongly recommend trying this as a way of figuring out what you really want. Try Jess Shepard https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kyPvfDV1Z-s as an introduction.
So the next time someone asks you, “What do you want?” even if they are just asking for your food order, use it as a reminder to ask yourself the deeper question: “What do I really want?” and check that what you are doing is in alignment with what you’re aiming for in the bigger picture. Make sure you can answer with the conviction of these girls from the 90’s:
I’ll tell you what I want, what I really, really want,
I wanna really, really, really wanna zigazig ah!Wannabe by Spice Girls