This is a dilemma that can confuse and frustrate you at any point in life. Though usually associated with young people who are about to begin the journey called life, it can also happen much later in life.
When you are young and exploring what you want in life, you may consider your talents, skills, likes, and dislikes before making the decision.
For a grownup, things are not so simple. After traveling in one path for some time, when you are unsure that this is the path you want to travel or that you are meant to do other things, things are bound to get difficult, overwhelming, complicated, and stressful.
Typically, this happens when you discover a new passion or rediscover one of your long-lost dreams. The question here is, is this what you really want to do?
Read on to learn how to deal with this dilemma, find your purpose, and figure out your real mission in life.
Dissatisfied and looking for a change
Many of us feel discontented with what we are doing at present. The reasons for this can be as many as the stars in the sky. All we know is we want a change for the better. Though commendable on many fronts, this is as vague as it can be.
The first step in this scenario is to gain clarity on what you really want in life. This may seem easy and simple to achieve but, believe me, it is one of the hardest tasks you would encounter in life. The more choices you have, the harder it gets.
Let us approach this from another angle – what you don’t actually want. Most of us have emphatic answers to this question. Such as illness, lack of money, hatred, and unrest in society.
You should analyze your life and come up with a list of things you don’t want. These are the things that are already present in your life – things you have experienced – so that you know that they are not good to have.
Such as an uncaring spouse, unsupportive family, ungrateful kids, unappreciative boss, empty bank account, or unpaid bills. How many times have you wished for a miracle to change these negative aspects that are weighing heavily on you and constantly pulling you down? How nice would it be to wipe your slate clean and start something fresh?
How to make the change happen?
Here is the good news! Knowing what you don’t want is a starting point to make changes in your life. If you can recognize what you don’t want, figuring out what you want is a doable task. It is much easier and definitely within your capability.
The reasoning is straightforward. To experience happiness, we need to know what sadness is. To appreciate the value of good health, at times you need to endure a bout of poor health. To enjoy the state of abundance, you must have gone through a phase of lack or poverty.
To truly appreciate the good times, you should know what it feels like to be at the other end of the spectrum. The contrast and comparison between the two extremes help us enjoy the good things better.
To find your purpose and figure out what you want, you need to know what you don’t want. The reverse is also true. They serve as reference points for each other.
So, coming back to the question at hand – how to find your purpose and figure out what you want to do – all you need to do is flip over the items in the list of things you don’t want. For example, your job. Write down every single thing that you don’t like about it. Such as long hours, repetitive work, low pay, grumbling boss, uncooperating coworkers, … the list can go on.
Now for each one of the items on this list, ask yourself what you would really want to have instead. Write them down with as many details as possible. Each one of them will give you a specific detail about the job you want. Assimilate all the entries from the “want” list to come up with the description of your dream job.
See! That was simple enough.
For more on this topic, see our ultimate guide on how to manifest your dream job in 6 steps.
Are your likes and dislikes permanent?
So, now you have figured out what you really want and the next step is to work towards achieving it. At this juncture, that small voice in the head may pop up with a question for you. Does it mean that you would really want this forever? After all, you need to invest a good amount of effort and time to make the change.
Unfortunately, the answer is not very encouraging or reassuring. There is no guarantee that you will continue to like this for the rest of your lifetime. There is always a possibility that you would change your mind. And, again you would have to restart the search for what you really want to do. That is how we humans are made. You just need to accept this hard truth.
In fact, this is to be viewed as a positive step and not as a setback. When your preferences change over time, it doesn’t mean that you don’t know what you really want or are confused about. It is an indication that you know what you want instead of what you have at present.
Focus on what you want now and take it forward. Desiring a change need not always be viewed in a negative light. The reason why this was not considered earlier may have a simple enough explanation. Such as the information that led to your desire for change was not available to you earlier. Do not think of this situation as quitting something when the going gets tough but as taking up new challenges that interest you.
The truth of the matter is there is no finality in life. As the saying goes, change is the only constant in life. Every time you come across something new, it adds new information to your knowledge, offering an extra dimension to your perspective. This opens up new possibilities.
Just because you want to pursue one possibility doesn’t mean you are rejecting the rest. You may come back to them at a later date.
5 steps to figure out what you really want
Change is something most of us look upon with dread. Venturing into the unknown is a scary prospect. Creating a positive image about the new experience and about the process of change itself can make a big impact. This would involve a change in the mindset towards the change.
When your desire necessitates a significant change, you may choose to take small steps that would ultimately add up to larger transformations. Smaller steps or changes are easier to accept and implement.
Here are some steps you can adopt to help in figuring out what you really want to do.
1. Understand the present predicaments
Often a desire for change starts from dissatisfaction with the present situation. So, when you want to work out what you want, you should begin from the beginning. Make a list of everything you dislike about the present situation.
When doing this, clarity and details matter. Or else, what you infer from this may be wrong and you would end up again with something you don’t want. For example, if you feel that there is a lack of opportunities in the present job to suit your skillset, a new job would help in resolving the problem.
On the other hand, if you are not getting opportunities because you are reluctant to take them up, then you may face the same issue in a new job as well. The change is not going to make things better for you.
Get to the root of the problem you are facing now.
2. Identify the present positives
Even the worst of situations are bound to have some positives. Analyze your present situation and list them. You are indeed unhappy on many counts. But there have to be some good points about it. Such as a good boss, work flexibility, great pay, or a supportive team.
Write down why you are grateful for the good things you have now. You can create a mind map using this information. It may be able to help you grasp the idea better.
Recognize the advantages of the present job and feel gratitude and appreciation.
Related: 500 Things to be Grateful for Today
3. Investigate further
Now that you have recognized and acknowledged that the present job has some positives, it is time to dig deeper and find the real culprit. Often it is our own limiting belief that is preventing us from realizing our potential. And, we may have more than one of them.
To identify the limiting beliefs affecting our performance, you need to go through your belief system and weed out the undesirable ones. This is easier said than done.
Our belief system is a collection of beliefs accumulated over the years, most of them accepted without questioning from people we respect like our parents or elders. Periodic overhauling of the belief system is a necessity to help us function to our potential.
Once you identify the problem-causing belief, you may develop a positive belief to replace it. For example, you can replace “I don’t deserve success” with “I deserve success”. Affirmations can help you shift your mindset from negative to positive.
4. Reconsider your choices
Use all the information gathered until now about your present dissatisfaction and reality, look out for the choices open to you now. Remember to include “no change” in the list.
With a realistic view of the present situation and a comparison of the pluses and minuses, you may conclude that what you have now is better than any of the other choices available to you at present. At times, this can be the best choice under the circumstances.
While at it, also consider a few more points that can help you make a better choice. Such as, what you would love to do, what you are good at, what can help you earn more, and what conforms to the greater good.
5. Make the choice
Choose the option that ticks the boxes for as many of the above-mentioned points as possible, if not all of them. Again, keep your mind open to the idea that it can turn out to be the “no change” option.
The reason for this approach is simple. If you make a change just for the sake of change, it may not last long, you may end in the same predicament once again.
To help you analyze the information gathered, assimilate them, and arrive at the right decision, you may write them down in whichever way that suits you. Mind mapping is a good technique to consider.
So, there you are! You have figured out what you want to do!
The next obvious step is to devise an action plan to make it a reality.
Journal for a better life
Daily journaling is something that you can adopt to stay tuned to your desires, dislikes, beliefs, and apprehensions. Instead of digging up information when you are confused and frustrated, standing at an intersection trying to figure out which path to take, a journal would have all the information you need to make the right choice at any point in time.
All you need to do is read through the daily entries to gauge your mood and get a clear understanding of your concerns, strengths, skills, and experiences. You may even include your dreams for the future in the journal so that it would be easier for you to connect the dots and arrive at the correct answer every single time.Related: 365 Journal Prompts for Self-discovery
A systematic search can help you find your purpose in life and figure out what you want to do. Now all you need to do is take supportive action to make it a reality.
When you have finally figured out what you want to do, your inner voice may start raising objections by telling you that the change is beyond your capabilities or it doesn’t conform to your plans for the future. Now you are in trouble.
This means that there is a huge gap between your desires and expectations. That is indeed concerning. If this is the case, you need to work on your expectations and align them with your desires.
There is nothing unusual or wrong with wanting a change. It is the most normal thing to wish for. Follow your heart and all good things will naturally flow into your life.