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

{ 39 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.

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.

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.

26 Janet August 1, 2015 at 7:39 am

Good to hear not only myself feels stuck. I am not wealthy enough to quit working, infact I have to usually do over 40 hours a week. My energy level is less and thus my downtime is occupied with staying caught up on cleaning my houses and other normal everyday chores. I have 2 adult children who live at home with me. They are with me because they are not making enough to survive on their own either. Stuck , I sure am.

27 Bonnie August 3, 2015 at 8:58 am

Hi, Janet! Sorry to hear you’re feeling stuck. Sometimes even tiny actions, tiny steps can get us unstuck. Especially if they involve doing something that lights us up (energizes and enlivens us), something that we love. I hope you find your way out of being stuck. Wishing you all the best. Warmly, Bonnie

28 carol panattieri August 22, 2015 at 5:49 am

I’m 68 yrs. old divorced after almost 50 yrs. I met someone when I separated from my husband, started a relationship with him and after 2 yrs. decided to move in together. Now after living with him for 4 yrs. I want to live on my own but I’m stuck I don’t have the funds to do so. Don’t know what to do. I’ve been a house wife my whole life raised 4 children. Now at 68 yrs. old what do I do? Haven’t any skills other then being a mother and a wife I’ve taking care of my family my whole life I fell so stuck I’m so sorry I got myself into this situation. I still love the man I’m with, but I feel like I’m suffocating which causes a lot of stress. Don’t know what to do.

29 Bonnie August 24, 2015 at 10:29 am

Hi, Carol! Sorry to hear you’re feeling stuck in your situation. A few thoughts for you:

Can you have some conversations with your man and find something that works better for you?

How about a few sessions with a counselor to help you see your options more clearly?

Perhaps this article and the comments that follow it will spark something for you:

I wish you well in discovering the best path for you.

Warmly, Bonnie

30 Pam January 12, 2016 at 10:28 am

I just turned 60 and I feel lost. I never accomplished what I wanted in my career and I never got married or had children. I kept going from job to job as a teacher and never found the right job. When my parents died and I lost my whole family, I traveled and bought a house. I don’t feel accomplished but I think I’m too old and inexperienced to get a job. I am going to take your advice to focus on what I want to do for fun.

31 Bonnie January 14, 2016 at 2:27 pm

Hi, Pam! Sorry you’ve had some tough times and that you’re feeling lost. If it’s any consolation, I’ve heard from plenty of women who’ve also felt lost around this time of life. Most of us get through this and create lives we enjoy in our 60s. Hopefully that will be the case for you, too. Focusing on what you want to do for fun seems like a terrific place for you to start! Wishing you all the best, Bonnie

32 Donna February 6, 2016 at 6:35 pm

Thank you Bonnie for that article! It was an eye opener. My life has been fully engulfed with children, parents, grandparents and so on, and it still is.
You’re right, I have to “use muscle ” to regain myself, my desire, my wants.
Next month I’ll be turning 60, and I think I’ll be okay. Especially if I keep reading your posts. Your blogs are very encouraging, thank you!
Here I go, off to build muscle.: )

33 Bonnie February 9, 2016 at 11:28 am

Happy almost Birthday, Donna! I always enjoy hearing that what I’ve written makes a difference. Thanks! Have fun experimenting with and building your muscle.

34 amy July 6, 2016 at 10:50 am

So eloquently written. I feel as if I am Dorothy following the yellow brick road…part intuition, part instinct, and the freshly minted willingness to take more uncharted adventures….Thank you for your warm supportive voice on my journey.

35 Bonnie July 7, 2016 at 11:22 am

You are most welcome, Amy, and thank you for your kind words. Intuition, instinct, and willingness seem like great companions for your journey. All the best to you! Warmly, Bonnie

36 Stanley E Jones September 13, 2016 at 6:51 pm

This isn’t just a problem for women. I’m just shy of my 60th and I wake every day feeling empty, lonely, and without purpose. Most of the things I had passion for in the past no longer interest me. I truly feel lost…

37 Bonnie September 14, 2016 at 1:10 pm

You’re right of course, Stanley. My focus is on women and much of what I write applies to men as well. I’m sorry you’re having a tough time. Hopefully you will explore and experiment until you find new interests, passions, and delights. Wishing you all the best.
Warmly, Bonnie

38 spring moser September 21, 2016 at 9:07 pm

Hi Bonnie Looking at your site here and some of the comments from other women of my age and it is as always good to know “you’re not alone” . I am 60 + am about to do a big change. I have been living in a home that was so graciously provided by my mom who left this world in 2004, and have been working the same job since 1994. I would have kept working at this place even though I was not “happy” because I would have never felt financially secure enough to quit (even though i have made it a point to keep my life simple and debt free with the dream of early retirement) and not motivated enough to make a change. But the job situation was taken care of when I was laid off 3 weeks after I turned 60. So here I am in a house that I am extremely grateful for but will always be my moms house. It was good for awhile – my daughter moved here and I had my grandsons ALOT – my sister lives here – and I do have a good friend here. But my daughter and her husband moved to tennesee with my boys ( my grandsons) in feb. I was laid off in April so I have now sold my house here and bought a house in Tenn. Its done. I am on the road in a week – moving to a new place – no job and too early to apply for social security. So – here I go – I know I will be in a beautiful place with my daughter and my boys – but not sure what Im going to do when I get there. An adventure for sure!

39 Bonnie September 26, 2016 at 10:28 am

That IS a big change, Spring. Sounds like you have the right attitude for it. May this adventure be even better than you hope it will be.

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