Do You Know What You Want to Do with Your Life?

by Bonnie

 

 What should I do with the rest of my life?

What is my calling?

What will make me happy?

What am I deeply passionate about?

How can I create more meaning in my life?

These are the kinds of big, important questions my clients are seeking answers to when they come to me.

So far, not one client has been searching for answers to life’s smaller questions such as what to wear to a party, what movie to see, or where to go for dinner.

There is a connection, though, between the big and the small questions in our lives: they are both easier to answer when you are in touch with what you want.

How Could You Not Know?

You might think you should know what you want. Doesn’t everyone? Certainly by the time we are 50 we should know what we want!

In reality, many women do not know what they want. They have lost touch with that part of themselves.

Have you spent any time with a toddler? I’ve never met one who wasn’t clear what she or he wanted (sometimes much to the chagrin of the parents!).

Yet somehow by the time we’re adults, we’ve often learned to not be aware of or pay attention to what we truly want.

How Does This Happen?

Once you were a toddler who knew what you wanted. Now you may be an adult who doesn’t. At least you may not know as often or as clearly as you did when you were a child.

What happened between then and now?

There are many factors that could have caused you to become disconnected from your desire.

* You may have sensed danger in knowing what you wanted. What if your wants upset or angered the people in your life (parents, spouse, partner, friends) whose love and approval you sought?

* Perhaps you didn’t want to risk disappointment. What if you wanted something intensely and didn’t get it?

* Maybe you were so focused on taking care of and pleasing others, you set yourself and your wants aside. Isn’t that what good little girls do?

* It could be you realized that if you let yourself know what you wanted you would then need to take some action or ask for something. Better not to know.

* When someone asked you what you wanted you might have responded with “I don’t know” or “It doesn’t matter” or “Whatever you want” so often that eventually you became cut off from the place in you that knows. (Surely I’m not the only woman who has answered the question, “Where would you like to go to dinner?” with “Where would YOU like to go?”)

Whatever the causes, if you’re like many women, you are not able to clearly discern what you want as often as you’d like.

Knowing what you want is like a muscle: if you don’t use it, it atrophies. As your “knowing what you want muscle” weakens, you lose the guidance it offers for life’s many choices, large and small.

A High Cost

Our desires are an important part of who we are. They motivate us to take action towards whatever it is we want.

When you’re thirsty, your desire to quench that thirst will lead you to drink. If you want to be a kind person, that desire will motivate you to act kindly. If you want do the Breast Cancer 3-Day, that desire will get you training so you’ll be able to finish the walk.

Everything we do is driven by some kind of desire.

But what if you’re not clear about what you desire?

What if you’ve lost touch with that knowing?

What if you can access it sometimes but not always or not often?

Without the clarity, power, and action that comes from knowing what you want it is much more difficult to create a life you love.

I’ve worked with many women who say they don’t know who they are, who feel bored and stuck, or who are unclear what to do with their lives. It’s often the case that they have so long run their lives by “shoulds” and to please others that their connection to what they want is faint.

Part of my work with clients is strengthening their connection to what they want; it’s a critical piece in discovering and creating what they would love to do with their lives.

You “work” that muscle by listening to it. When you pay attention to what you want, you strengthen your ability to know what you want.

I pay attention to what I want by noticing what lights me up. You may discover your desires through your lights, intuition, heart, inner voice, or some other way.

Whatever signals you use to identify what you want, pay attention to them. The more you notice and follow these clues, the more you’ll build your “muscle” for discerning what you truly want.

In Your Life

To strengthen your ability to know what you want, I recommend practice, practice, practice. Here are a few tips.

1) Start small. Lift the five pound weights first. Rather than “What do I want to do with the rest of my life?” begin with smaller questions such as “What would I like to do for fun today?” or “Who do I want to invite to dinner?”

2) Frequently throughout the day, stop and ask yourself, “What do I want right now?”  What would you want if you had no judgment, doubt, worry, or fear about it?

3) Give yourself time to notice your responses. What, if any, answers come up for you? What are the little whispers or glimmers or faint clues?

4) Let yourself off the hook. You don’t have to do anything at this point. You’re just building your muscle.

You don’t have to ask for what you want or act on what you want or make any decisions based on what you want.  All you have to do initially is just notice. Nothing more.

The more you notice what you want, the easier it will become and then, when you’re ready you can choose whether or not to act on your noticing.

5) Be patient with yourself. If you’ve spent years ignoring yourself, it may take a while to rebuild that connection.

As you become more skilled in discerning your wants on the smaller questions, you may be surprised to discover you’re clearer about the bigger questions.

Knowing what you want in life is a crucial step in creating a life filled with pleasure, passion, and purpose.

Want Help Building Your “What Do I Want” Muscle?

If you’ve spent years only faintly or occasionally paying attention to what you want, it can be challenging to rebuild that muscle. If you’d like some support strengthening that muscle and creating a life with more pleasure, passion, and purpose, check out Loving Your Sixties one on one coaching.

Leave a Comment

{ 25 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Dorothy Sander April 28, 2011 at 9:56 am

Wonderfully post Bonnie! I’m posting it on my FB page, hope you don’t mind! :)

2 Bonnie April 29, 2011 at 8:53 am

Thank you, Dorothy! I’m glad you like this. Mind that you posted it on your FB page???!!! Indeed not! I’m honored and delighted. :)

3 Ruth May 1, 2011 at 11:12 am

Bonnie, what a powerful message – thank you! You are so right in saying we lose the ability to know what we want as we grow up; along with the sense of wonder and awe we felt as a child. As we assume the responsibilities of being an adult, we so often lose sight of who we are as human beings. When I was married, my then-husband didn’t like it when I did what I wanted because he felt excluded. I finally figured out that was his problem, not mine. But in today’s world, selfishness isn’t considered a desirable trait in women, and it should be. (Selfishness in the sense of taking care of ourselves, first. Because of we don’t do that, we can’t take care of anyone else.)

4 Bonnie May 1, 2011 at 9:11 pm

Hi, Ruth! Glad you liked this message. I agree with you that “selfishness” is not a desirable trait in women today. Here’s my take on the importance of self-care and how to make the most of one’s self care, Healthy Selfishness

5 Sandra May 8, 2011 at 4:46 pm

I am turning 62 in August and have to admit, I have simply lost sight of what I want. Sometimes I feel I am just litterally killing time until I die. I don’t like this feeling and this is helping me focus on trying to find my dream again. I have not discussed or mentioned to my husband as things like this, he just shruggs off. But small steps, sounds like a place to start. I know the dream won’t be the same one I had 20 years, 30 years or more ago, but everyone needs a dream to work toward, no matter what the age. I think I go find that 5-pound weight (ok, maybe 2 1/2 to start with) and see what happens.

6 Bonnie May 9, 2011 at 3:20 pm

Sandra, thanks for so openly sharing. I’m sorry you’re in a tough place. My specialty is helping women discover what they truly want so I know what a huge difference it makes to have a clear, inspiring dream or vision for our lives. And how awful it can feel when we don’t.

Start with a 1# weight if you have to, but please do start. I hope you’ll stay connected here & keep us posted on what happens.

7 Connie Callis June 1, 2011 at 11:50 am

I sent you an email this morning and hope to hear from you soon.
I’ve never looked via email for any direction in life.
I am most interested in what the cost for me will be.
Since this is my first adventure on line, I will continue my search.
Have a great day!
Connie C.

8 Bonnie June 2, 2011 at 8:36 am

Hi, Connie! I responded to your email yesterday afternoon & look forward to hearing from you. Hope you’re having fun with your online adventures.

9 pat price March 15, 2012 at 11:18 am

A great article Bonnie I too am sharing with my baby boomers. Retirement can be a confusing time for many when they leave work behind. They can suddenly feel that they have no further purpose or contribution to make to life which of course is completely untrue. I’m sure this will help to focus their minds and help them see that a new life is beginning and should be grasped with both hands.

10 Bonnie March 15, 2012 at 5:40 pm

Pat, I’m glad you liked this article. Thanks for sharing it. I understand retirement can be confusing for many. Figuring out “what’s next?” is so very important!

11 Kathy Grainger November 25, 2012 at 4:10 pm

Hi , I moved away from my daughter, with my partner of 7yrs, i now know this was a mistake!! as my daughter has had my first grandson!! Whow, this is huge for me I’m 62yrs and i know i’m in the wrong place, right now, but i feel so responsible for my partners happines, I came up with a plan to be with him and also with my grandson but he reacted very definately against my plan, so here i am sad, tearful, pining for my grandson, it takes 6 hours to see him, i have a job which is shift work and not easy to get time off, i feel trapped in a huge way. My daughter needs a minder at times for my grandson and has offered payment for me to do this, i would have my own accommodation, this is what i want to do, but i feel i will loose my partner if i do this.. Confused, angry, distressed, as i moved mainly so my partner could have the job he desired. Which he has and is very content!!!!

12 Bonnie November 26, 2012 at 9:55 am

Ouch, Kathy! Sorry you’re in a tough spot. I hope you and your partner can find a way for you both to get what you want and, if that’s not possible, for you to do what matters most to you. Wishing you all the best!

13 Kathy Grainger November 26, 2012 at 11:16 am

Hi Bonnie, Thanks for your response,I suppose what has surprised me with all this , is I am still not listening to my inner voice, My first reaction to moving was “no” as my daughter was pregnant at that stage, and i didn’t really want to move. But i fell head first into the trap we women do so often and that is to put others needs first before ours…. and sadly think it is really what we have to do to keep our men happy, I’m sure men do the same thing sometimes but I am looking at it from a female perspective.
So yes i have some huge decisions to make for myself.

14 Bonnie November 29, 2012 at 9:28 am

Ah yes, the old “everyone before me” trap, Kathy. Women seem particularly prone to fall into this one. The good news is you can always make different choices, choices that make you happier. I hope you do.

15 jo January 27, 2013 at 9:23 am

so 100% true

16 Bonnie January 27, 2013 at 11:14 am

So nice to have you agree, Jo!

17 Maddie May 17, 2013 at 12:36 am

Hi bonnie
I am 62 and have just got a puppy in an attempt to connect more to the world but now know this choice is not what I want. Sitting here trying to decide what is the ‘right’ thing to do I came upon your article. I love it. It has helped me to feel less alone with my situation. I enjoyed not only your wise and inspiring words but also the responses you received.
This has given me the beginnings of some direction – so thank you so much. I am sure I will re-visit your words quite a few times to keep me on track.
Maddie

18 Bonnie May 18, 2013 at 10:00 am

Maddie, I’m delighted to hear my article was useful for you. All the best to you in discovering what you truly want!

19 Bonnie May 18, 2013 at 10:01 am

Maddie, I am delighted you found my article useful. That’s always good to hear. All the best to you in discovering what you really want in life and doing it!

20 Rozee. November 9, 2013 at 11:40 pm

Hi. I’m retiring as a dfulltime bookkeeper soon and as much as I love working with figures I love being outdoors. I’m thinking of finding work at a guesthouse or wine estate. I know I would love the change. I also know that I would miss my grandkids and children. I would love to travel but do not have enough retirement funds to do that. I truly have to start putting my wants first. I would also love to meet the right partner going forwArd. I know too that I cannot go back to my ex husband after years of verbal and financiAl abuse. Thanks for an inspirational website.

21 Bonnie November 11, 2013 at 5:25 pm

Hi, Rozee! I’m glad you found your way here. It sounds like you know something things that interest you and light you up. I hope you can experiment a bit with those things and see how they might fit in the next chapter of your life. It’s definitely time to start putting YOU first! All the best to you!

22 Nancy January 17, 2014 at 12:49 pm

Love the steps!! Wonderful!
Jan31 I’m turning sixty, I feel I’ve lost myself somewhere in the caring for others mode. I want my joy back.
So I’m stepping out of rut zone and attending a chronic pain management class.
It’s a start to better health and fitness.
It’s been a long gray winter trying to shake out the cob web brain.
Thanks:)

23 Bonnie January 20, 2014 at 1:01 pm

You’re welcome, Nancy. Glad you loved these steps. Good to hear you’re choosing steps to get out of your rut. All the best to you in getting your joy back.

24 Rita Caviness May 5, 2014 at 7:45 am

So glad I put in life after 60 how to restart..this hit tha nail on the head for me.mfor it is truly what I needed to see and read…

25 Bonnie May 5, 2014 at 10:12 am

Welcome, Rita! Glad you found Savoring Your Sixties and that you found what you needed to see.

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