‘What do you want out of life?’
That is a loaded question. One of the biggest questions we can ask ourselves.
But we don’t really think about it.
We go through our day to day lives, reasonably content but with the feeling, things could be better. You’re listening to a podcast or reading a self-development book or watching a YouTube video or even someone asks you outright ‘what do you want from life’ and you draw a blank.
If you think about it, now knowing what you want in life is a recipe for ending up with whatever just happens to come your way. Which is how you get the niggly feeling of discontentment.
Now, this is a huge question to contemplate so it’s actually easier to consider related questions which will give you clues to the overall answer.
When Do You Feel Joy?
When I’m on a dance floor, not thinking, just feeling the music and having the BEST time, I feel joy. Huge, unabashed, feel like I could fly away with happiness kind of joy.
So when I think about what I want out of life, I want to dance more. Have solo dance parties as my work break, take dance lessons, go see live music and let loose.
Already, from identifying one thing, you can start to see elements of my dream life.
Starting with this question makes sense because you follow the feelings. You don’t need to think, just let the ideas bubble up. My guess is something popped to mind immediately on reading the question.
Tune into that initial idea, picture doing that activity and really feel the feelings you had. Where else do you feel that? What are you doing when you feel it on an even bigger scale? What about smaller, when the joy just whispers? Come up with as many things as you can.
What Do You Enjoy?
This may seem very similar to the first question but that’s kind of the idea. We want to access the things you want from several different angles so you get a really comprehensive idea of the elements of your ideal life.
Your answers to ‘what do you enjoy’ might be more prosaic, more grounded. To give you an idea, I enjoy figuring out how to do new things in Excel. I get great satisfaction from finally cracking a problem. I like the learning process of taking what I already know, adding to it, extrapolating it so I can do something new. Something as mundane as Excel isn’t likely to come when I’m reflecting on joy but as something satisfying, it has a place in my dream life.
Notice that I was pretty specific about what I’m doing in Excel that I enjoy. It’s not data entry or doing things I’ve done a million times before. It’s when I work into the edges of my knowledge that I get excited.
The more specific you can be, the more powerful your answers to any of these questions will be. The more deeply you’ll be able to connect to what you want in life.
What Are You Curious About?
Do you learn something just because you can? Are you putting miles of effort and your spare time into learning to code or speak Spanish or running Ultramarathons?
For years, my curiosity has led me to self-development books, fascinating podcasts, writing this blog and now all of those threads are coming together in Productivity Coaching.
The new thing that I’m about to embark on is learning about ancient gods and goddesses. I’ve always wanted to learn ancient history and just never done it. A couple of things recently have got me thinking that now is the time to start exploring. Mainly, I have a book recommendation so now I have a jumping off point.
So don’t limit yourself to curiosities that you’ve explored. Are you like me and have something that’s been in the back of your brain for possibly years? Surely part of what you want is to be able to explore the things that really call to you? So add them in.
What Does My Ideal Look Like?
Rather than this being a brainstorming prompt, I would write this as a diary entry. Start from waking up and work through to going to bed in as much detail as possible (the last time I did this exercise, I wrote nine pages so go for it!).
If you get a bit stuck, you can also think about this as, how would I spend my time if money wasn’t an issue? You’re going to get similar answers but personally, I think dreaming up an ideal day is more powerful. You’re gaining more clarity.
It makes sense doing this question last because you’re already opened yourself up to all of the possibilities. You’ve got plenty of material to include in your ideal day.
What Do You Want in Life?
The challenge with these questions is we don’t allow ourselves to dream fully. The mind gets really busy throwing up blocks. No one can get paid to do that. No one’s life looks like my dream day. I don’t deserve to have that freedom. I can’t be successful and only work four hours a week, you need to hustle.
This is all completely normal so let it happen. Feel the discomfort. If you want, you can write down your resistance. Acknowledging it’s there will help soften it (actually busting through this beliefs is a whole other thing).
Pay attention if the resistance is because your dreams aren’t actually your dreams. They’re your parents, your partners, even society’s. This is about what you want. If you include what you think you SHOULD do in this exercise, you won’t find the clarity you’re looking for.
Focus on what feels expansive, light, freeing. The things you genuinely want to spend your time doing will feel physically really good. You know the feeling you get when you listen to a song you absolutely love and always puts a smile on your face? Focus on things that feel like that, even a smidgen.
Lastly, remember this is about your life so there is no right or wrong answer. Maybe you came up with twenty things, maybe you came up with two. It’s all good. There’s simply what feels good to you and what doesn’t. Follow the feelings!