In the words of American author, Nora Roberts, “If you don’t go after what you want, you’ll never have it. If you don’t ask the answer is always no. If you don’t step forward, you’ll always be in the same place.”
With all the outdoor gigs on right now, music is on everyone’s mind, especially the very popular Glastonbury Festival taking place again for the first time in three years. I’ll admit that I am more of a sofa spectator than an active participant when it comes to festivals but I was waving along, phone in the air to Paul McCartney and Elbow from the middle of Somerset. It screams summer.
Yet a client told me that she dreads being asked what kind of music she likes; so much so, that she has a stock reply always ready which goes along the lines of ‘Oh me, I’ve a real eclectic taste, it’s very varied! What about you?’ She finds this to be an effective way to end the questioning without appearing rude! This deflection however hides a bigger issue, one that so many of us share and that’s, simply not knowing what it is we like.
As children, we know exactly what we want, because we know what we like. As we grow and evolve, we become aware that our parents/caregivers and teachers are quite fixated on getting us to like things we might not necessarily be hugely interested in, such as brushing our teeth, going to bed early, eating vegetables, not talking during class – you get the picture!
Part of the human development process involves us learning that if our ultimate aim becomes about being accepted, then fitting in with what everyone else wants and likes is a pretty good way to do it. Think of teenagers everywhere who morph into each other. They start to speak the same, dress the same and behave the same. For them, this represents belonging and community which at that stage of their lives makes sense. It should be seen for what it is; a survival technique and not deception.
Similarly, when we enter into romantic relationships, how many of us will own up to having ‘pretended’ that we liked a sport, or shared an interest, just to deepen our ‘we have so much in common” with our potential partners? We don’t do this to con the other person, well, not intentionally at least, but it can become an easier practice than waving our individuality in their faces!
Fast forward to a later time in your life, when you have greater adult obligations and become responsible for other people, those years most likely will become all about you making sure that everyone around you has what they want and what they like. Without ever having consciously been aware of it, you can find yourself not knowing anymore what it is that you want, having prioritised the needs of others far ahead of your own.
It is often the most confronting question I ask my clients, while obviously being also the simplest. ‘What is it you like?’ What do you like doing, eating, drinking, listening to, and working on? As you are reading this, I invite you to give some thought to this question also…do you know what is it that you like? Note that your answer should not be ‘what do you think others expect you to like, or what is the most popular thing that everyone likes, or what answer do I normally give to this question? These are the answers that will flow from you but I urge you to wait and just keep asking yourself the question until you find yourself locating the answers from further down inside of you. If you are really struggling to come up with, what you believe are your most truthful answers, then maybe these tips might help you.
If you can’t pinpoint exactly what it is you want right now, if you recognise that you’re constantly prioritising other people, please know it is perfectly appropriate to put yourself first. In fact, it is a definite requirement! I want you to think of this not as an either/ or, but as an also, or in addition to. And if you need reassurance, you thinking about what you want, is never going to deprive anyone else from having what they want!
What sparks joy
It may be a cliched way of describing this, but I need you to really think about what is it that makes you really happy? When you think of doing something, having something, or being with someone, what stirs up that butterfly, nervous excited feeling in your tummy? What is that? It could be the memory of doing something you really enjoyed doing as a child, it could be a smell that brings you back instantly to a happier time, a song that gets you moving or connecting with your creativity that makes you feel a little more alive. What is that for you and do you do it?
What makes you miserable
In the search for discovering what is it you want, uncovering what you don’t want or dislike can actually be incredibly helpful. It possesses inside it some very valuable information. Start with thinking about experiences that you know you don’t want to live through. It could be a form of injustice or cruelty that inspires these emotions in you. For example, someone who cannot tolerate any kind of animal cruelty could discover that they want to be in a position where they can foster animals, to do something meaningful. Consider what this might look like for you and then start planning ways of achieving what it is you want. This is you doing what you want.
What would you do if you weren’t scared?
When we think of what blocks us from knowing what we want, let alone doing what we want, so much of it is based in fear. We’re afraid if we state what we want, that others may judge us or even laugh at us! We’re afraid to go after what we want, in case we fail and perhaps surprisingly, we’re also a little scared in case we succeed, as we aren’t all that sure what we would do next. And so, what do we choose to do? We stay where we are, tending to everyone else’s needs, because that space feels more familiar, more comfortable to us, even if (and this bit is important) it’s making us utterly miserable! So, let me ask you this “What if there were no obstacles, what if you weren’t one bit scared and that you totally trusted that everything always works out for you; what is it then you would want?”
When you surrender to these exercises and give yourself the permission to go deep for the answers, the next step will be about bringing them to life, but for now, the most important thing is that you learn, at this stage of your life, what is it you want and what is it you like.
Everything starts here, when you know what you like, it helps inform what you should do next and your decision-making processes become much simpler. Everything feels easier because you are finally doing what it is you want and that’s going to feel very liberating, not to mention empowering!
Niamh Ennis is Ireland’s leading Transformation Coach and Author. She’s known for her practical solutions to life’s challenges and her ability to tell you not what you want to hear but always what you need. If you’re struggling trying to find out just what it is you want then Niamh is hosting a FREE Masterclass called LIMITLESS YOU on July 29th. To grab your space, just click here niamhennis.com/limitlessyou. Find her on Instagram @1niamhennis or niamhennis.com.
Photography by Pexels.