In the hustle and bustle of each day, it can be easy to get distracted and lose sight of what really matters to you. In order to identify what you truly want out of life, you can ask yourself a series of questions and piece together the implications contained in each answer. Here are five questions to help you refocus on reaching your most important goals.
1. What did you dream about when you were a kid?
Maybe your three-year old persona just wanted to be like Barbie or G.I. Joe, but what did your ten-year old or fifteen-year old self want? Did you want to work as a doctor who saves lives, a gymnast who won gold medals and wowed the world or a stay-at-home mom who made the best apple pie there ever was? I’m not suggesting that you quit a successful career and go back to school to become a nutritionist just because that’s what you were into in high school, but recognizing your past dreams can help you identify what’s true to your inner core or values.
If you loved helping people as a kid, the desire to provide service that lifts up your fellowman probably is still strong within you even if you’ve tended to ignore that urge for the past ten years. If you dreamed of having a big family but became jaded after hard breakups and decided just having a pet is easier, you may have convinced yourself to turn away from pursuing what actually would bring you the greatest sense of satisfaction.
2. What do you think about in the shower?
If you’re the type of person who only takes a three-minute shower while still managing to shampoo, condition, scrub and shave, perhaps you don’t think about anything but the task at hand. Alternatively, if you’re the kind of individual who takes your time to get ready in the mornings, what do you think about when you’re going about your business? Do you think about how excited you are to be meeting up with your friends tonight or do you daydream about having a certain career and what it would be like if you were getting ready for that job? If your mind continually wanders back to a certain topic when you have some free time to think about whatever, pay attention to what subject matter is involved.
3. Mentally and physically, where’s your happy place?
When was the last time you really smiled or laughed? Are you the happiest when you’re in nature because the distractions of society aren’t around to remind you of the bills you have to pay, the work you have to go do and the house you have to clean? Are you satisfied doing anything as long as you’re with your loved ones? Do you love being at the gym because you feel at your best when you’re taking care of your body? Understanding what makes you happy in the day to day can help you recognize what you ultimately want out of life. Maybe what you really want is to simplify life so you have more time with your family and less time running from one meaningless appointment to another.
4. When do you feel most in the zone?
When you love what you’re working on, you can actually feel more energized by the task at hand than by taking a rest. Analyze your mood changes and determine when you like yourself most and when you feel successful. Maybe you get a surge of positive energy after you successfully give a presentation at work or solve a challenging math problem. You might be scared during the process, but if your after-the-fact reaction is pure glee, then you’ve probably stumbled onto something you really are passionate about. Figure out what about the activity is so rewarding. Do you love that other people recognized you for your intelligence or did the surge come from learning you really can do hard things? What you really, really want may be as simple as respect from others or respect from yourself.
5. What do you do on your day off from work?
After you’ve run your necessary errands and done the chores, what do you do with your free time? Do you veg out while watching cake-baking shows on TV or do you always pick out a rom-com movie to watch? Do you grab a nonfiction book about a former world leader or do you flip through a fashion magazine? We all have multiple interests so I’m not asserting that watching five minutes of the Hallmark channel means you’re quantifiably a hopeless romantic, but noticing the activities that you repeatedly fall back to can probably help you discover what you really care about. Do you want a fairytale romance in your own life or do you want to be a successful entrepreneur like your favorite reality star? Even when you dismiss your interests as random, there’s probably a deeper meaning behind what continually entertains you.
If your schedule is hectic enough to just warrant a full day of sleep when you get the chance, perhaps you need to imagine having an entire month off from work and then conjecturing as to how you would like to spend your time. Or, ask yourself what you would do with today if you found out it would be your last time on earth–that way, all of the day-to-day essentials become obsolete. Although a tad morbid, I had a professor in college who made us write out our own obituaries containing what words we hope would be said about us when it is our time to pass away. Suddenly, life can be put into perspective and what we really want comes to the forefront. When you do discover what it is that you truly want, refocus your energy and time to make your dreams come true. Best wishes!