Knowing what you really want

In his book entitled “Manage Yourself, Manage your Life” Ian McDermott states that the ability to know what you want is the single most important skill in managing both yourself and your life. He then devotes a whole chapter to this subject. I tend to agree with him.

Many of us are really bad at knowing what we want, and therefore making the most of our lives. Many of us don’t really start to think about this until we are getting towards the end of our lives, when a sense of urgency creeps upon us. But isn’t this something we should teach our children? Surely we can show them how they can manage themselves and their lives in such a way as to get what they really want and thereby make the most of their time. It would be great to think that we could teach this to our children, but first we need to master it for ourselves. So where do we start?

If we seriously want to be clear about what we want in our work and in our life generally, it is important to dedicate time to deciding where we want to go and why we want to go there. If you know what you are trying to achieve, and why, you stand a better chance of getting there. Unfortunately even those of us who bother to set goals for ourselves seldom take the trouble to make them compelling in terms of our senses.  We don’t ask ourselves to imagine the specific details in terms of what we might see, feel or hear when we achieve our goals, and so our goals lack the power to move and motivate us. We need to inject some energy. A friend of mine, Diana, who is highly visually creative, has what she calls her “Dreams board” displayed on her study wall, upon which she has pasted colourful interesting pictures which represent to her the life she is working towards. The vision she has created generates energy and excitement for her, and helps her focus her efforts.

Most of us already know that if our goals are going to work for us they need to be SMART - Specific, Measureable, Achievable, Relevant and Time bound......but that’s not all. Compelling goals will be stated in positive terms so that you allow yourself to imagine doing positive things. Never settle for a goal that is negatively phrased because if you do the results you get are likely to be disappointing.  Take the time to dig a bit deeper and work it into a positive compelling outcome. For example “I want to give up smoking” is likely to drive your focus onto the negative aspects of having to give up something you enjoy.  Ask yourself, “If I gave up smoking, what would that do for me?” and the answer might be something like “I would have more money to spend on buying beautiful clothes”. So ask yourself “what do I really want?” and the answer might be “I really want to have more money to spend on buying beautiful clothes?”

Now this will give you something positive to work with.  So, how will you know when you have achieved your goal?  In order to answer this question, imagine what you will see, hear and feel when you have achieved what you were aiming for.   Maybe, like Diana, you will create your own Dreams board to help motivate and inspire you towards achieving the life you want. Or perhaps, when you watch this film clip about “Museum Days” you will feel compelled to create a series of images which represent the important things that you have done or intend to do with your life; Whatever gets you going.  Remember we only have one shot at life – this is not a rehearsal, so make sure you know what you want to do with it.

© Barbara Capstick

April 2014.