“What do you want to be when you grow up?”
We hear this often before we reach adulthood.
Some people know at a young age, some of us continue to wonder well into our adult years.
The question is: how do you figure it out?
How to Decide What You Want And Go For It
Step 1: Take Control of Your Happiness
I expected the company to make me happy.
That was my pattern.
Others fixate on personal relationships or even something they can purchase.
The underlying notion is something external provides happiness.
That’s not how it works.
Maybe we’d be better off if it did, but the person who purchases the latest and greatest mobile phone has, in a very short time, an outdated toy.
Satisfaction through this is temporary.
Likewise the person who looks to a relationship, to someone else (or a company), for happiness will never quite get what they want.
He or she may lead a productive and admirable life, but not necessarily a fulfilling one.
I substituted the company’s vision for my own.
It worked for brief periods, but whether you have any conscious inkling of what you want or not, it is somewhere inside of you.
The chance your desire perfectly matches another’s—ora company’s—is next to zero.
In this first step it is only necessary to make the decision to take responsibility for your own happiness.
It is a change of mindset and, for many, a frightening decision because our critical eye is rarely directed inward.
Step 2: Listen to Yourself
The irony is I knew what I wanted years ago and just didn’t pay attention.
About fifteen years ago, a friend asked mewhat I wanted to do.
“Find a job in writing,” I said. A few months later I was a book editor. His question provided the focus for my job search.
Being an editor was a big step in the right direction.
Unfortunately, I still didn’t get it.
Writing was always a favorite part of each of my jobs, but I only thought of it as a skill.
In hindsight, my life was waving gigantic fluorescent banners.
Indirectly, teachers tried to tell me; work tried to tell me and I didn’t listen because it was beyond my perception.
Take a look at your interests and career, whether professional or academic.
What things do you most enjoy?
What skills or tasks provoke your interest?
What hobby would you love to turn into a job?
Temporarily set aside your ideas of what a career looks like or what others think is possible.
We’ll deal with that problem next.
You will also enjoy our article on making the right decision.
Step 3A: Open Up, Let Excuses Go
Our notions of the world form a mental cushion around us.
These ideas shape our perceptions.
They determine what we believe is possible.
If you have some solid ideas from the previous section, you probably heard an internal voice expressing doubt.
How do I know it was doubt?
Because if it wasn’t, you would already be doing the things you want to do.
So something internal doesn’t think what you want is a viable option.
This is what has to change.
First, ask why you believe it isn’t possible or practical.
Most likely it is the result of innumerable influences and the information you were fed about what life or a career looks like.
The problem is those ideas were based on the perceptions and prejudices of people.
Even if your parents led the life they wanted to lead, had the careers they wanted, it was still what they wanted, not what you want.
Their ideas help in that they expand the range of possibilities within your awareness, but those same ideas may just as likely limit you.
Step 3B: Heart and Head – Fed by the Same Source
Once you’re aware of the source of your doubt you can let it go.
Is it just that simple?
It can be, but maybe what holds you back has more of an emotional base.
Something that suggests you don’t deserve to be happy or you have less to offer.
The effect is the same: paralysis in terms of moving forward.
The cause is also the same because much of the information we receive from others is emotional.
We inherit emotional baggage handed down for generations.
Unsurprisingly, we reinforce these feelings through action.
Think you don’t contribute?
Others think it too, not because it’s true, but because this perception fuels your behavior.
These emotions are just as false as any ideas holding you back.
You know this or you wouldn’t be reading how to change.
We can change our emotional perceptions as easily as we change opinions based on new information.
This is establishing worth where it was lacking, or finding joy where you were told it shouldn’t exist.
Whatever your past tells you, the only moment you control is this one.
In this moment…if you don’t want the past to dictate your future, you must release its emotional weight.
It controls your perceptions, of both the world around you and yourself.
Choose not to see the world as you did a moment ago.
This moment is the one that matters.
Step 4: Set Your Wide Open Future
So far we 1) made the decision to be happy; 2) identified perceptions that hold us back; and, 3) changed those perceptions.
This process may be quick or it may take a long time and consultation of several sources.
Every person is different.
Going through this process is much easier with help, but, again, everyone has a different path.
Basically, we created the possibility of getting what we want, whether professional or personal.
The next step is directly answering the question “what do I want,” just as I did with the decision to “find a job in writing.”
My advice: be bold.
Let me explain why.
Writing is the focus of my career.
Yes, I achieved this by opening myself to success.
I had the irreplaceable help of my wife Amy, who co-created our children’s series and also illustrates the books.
We have a common vision and it goes well beyond books.
There is a multitude of prospective authors.
Some have a great story to share, but something in the head or heart tells them ‘no.’
Many writers make it to the next step.
Their story is written, but that’s as far as it goes.
The ambition was to finish the story.
Once achieved, that’s it.
Some writers make it yet another step: to see their book in print.
They pay a service or publish on a print-on-demand sales platform.
Either way, their book is in physical form and the desire is fulfilled.
The book doesn’t sell well because the writer’s ambition was realized.
A relative few writers envision earning a living from their work, or even selling movie rights.
They seek out agents and editors or come up with a way to sell the book on their own.
They ignore or clear away ideas and emotions that otherwise would prevent the pursuit of these goals.
If you can visualize it, you can achieve it.
This is why I suggest aiming high when deciding what you want.
The question, after all, is “what do you want?”
not “what will you settle for?”
Don’t hold back because whatever you decide guides your actions.
Your actions, naturally, determine the outcome.