Your heart knows the way.
Run in that direction.
What do you want? What do you really, really want?
Maybe it’s a new car or a better apartment or an iPhone 7. Maybe you want a partner who loves you or a boss who appreciates you or a baby who needs you.
Maybe you want to be more grateful or less judgmental. Maybe you want to read more or weigh less. Whatever it is, ask yourself: Why do I want that?
We are thinky creatures, we humans (especially we American humans), hell-bent on our pursuit of happiness. Which is a cool and natural inclination, to be sure. But when we focus on what we want, we go at it backwards. What if we started with why instead?
Go back to what you want. Ask why you want it and then ask why again. If you want a new Tesla because you want to use less fuel to get around, why do you want to do that? If you want to lose weight because you want to look better, why do you want that?
At some point, if you keep asking why, you will come to a feeling: I will feel responsible. I will feel relaxed. I will feel confident. I will feel included. I will feel loved.
The feeling is at the core of what we want. The new house or job or relationship are really just means to an end. They are things that we think will make us feel a certain way. Why not focus on the feeling and start at the heart?
Let’s say I want to lose those 10 pounds. And let’s also say that the feeling I want to have (whether I am conscious of it or not), is to be more relaxed and comfortable in my skin. If I go about losing weight by cutting back calories and taking diet pills that leave me feeling hungry and irritable, of course I’ll bail on the whole enterprise. I’ll bail not because I’m weak or have no willpower but because I don’t feel the way I wanted.
Instead, if I focus on the feeling, I can find many opportunities, activities, and experiences that help me feel relaxed and comfortable in my body. That might include moving in ways that feel good, taking fragrant, steamy baths, getting a massage or eating foods that make me feel good even after I eat them. The whole thing goes a different way when I focus on the feeling.
Or let’s say I want to make more money and my why, the feeling I want, is stability and security. If I take a job at a hyper-competitive company that regularly threatens to fire me, I’ve approached the whole thing bass-ackwards.
Instead, if I focus on the feeling of stability and security, I might spend more time with trusted friends, save instead of spend, and yes, take a better job but in an organization that values my work and doesn’t bully me into performing.
My suspicion is that one of the reasons for rampant dissatisfaction is that the “what” doesn’t make us feel the way we think it will. Why not start with the feeling and build the whats around that?
Here is a simple approach you can take to get to the intentional why of anything you want:
Think of something you want and imagine yourself fully possessing it. What do you see when you have it? What do you hear? What do you smell and taste? Who is with you or are you on your own? And most of all, what do you feel? Inside and out? Physical and emotional? What do you feel like when you have this thing you want?
Get crystal clear on the feeling that your desire will give you. Then close your eyes and let the desire fade out of your imagination and let the feeling stay strong. With the feeling in mind, think of as many activities/situations/people/ experiences that already give you that feeling in your life. Then think of other ways that you can get that feeling. Focus on the feeling and expand your imagination and make a list of as many ways as you can that you can get that feeling…including perhaps, but not necessarily, the thing you started out wanting.
Do this exercise with anything you feel a strong desire for to get to the heart of what you really want. (Thanks to Jamie Catto for reminding me of the feel-first approach.)
Intentionally focus on the feeling. How do you want to feel today? Let go of the what and start at the heart.
Author: Susan McCulley
Editor: Travis May