To know what you really want to do in life isn’t always easy or simple — quite the contrary! The more complex and the more far-reaching your decisions are going to be (“Should I stick with my job, or quit and start something completely new?”; “I’m not happy with my relationship, what should I do?”), the harder they are for us to decide.
On top of that, there are usually more options than we even thought possible. And while sometimes having more options can be a tremendous help, sometimes it’s simply even more confusing and makes the decision even harder.
And in the end, most of these difficult decisions can be reduced to the same, not less difficult, question:
What do I really want?
For if you know what you really want from life, it should also be clear what step you should take next. It’s as simple as that, right?
(Right, guys, I can already see the comments and emails: “Simple”? How is that supposed to be simple in any way? Knowing (or rather: NOT knowing) what I really want IS my problem! Is that supposed to be a joke?)
So we’ve obviously jumped straight to the heart of the problem here: How can you know what you really want to do in life?
I think it’s no coincidence that most people have such a hard time answering this question for themselves: This question is quite simply misleading.
To know what you want, at each time, somehow implies that you have to know your one big goal — the goal which will mold your entire life.
Looking at people who have achieved great or important things, it’s easy to see such a thread running through their lifes.
But… We can see this thread in hindsight, looking at their complete biografie. Once we start looking at certain moments or times in their lifes, there are indeed higher-ranking values, ideals or principles which these people have used as guidance. But the people who’ve known all their life that they would get the Nobel Price in Physiology or Medicine, that they’d save whales or climb Mount Everest without the help of oxygen masks (and achieve just that and nothing else!), those people are few and far between.
Most people, even the ones who achieve great things, somehow stumble along their path in life, step by step.
But nonetheless, there is usually a thread running through the lives of people who have somehow changed the world. There is something which guides their decisions, which they can use as measurement stick.
This “something” can be the interest in a specific topic. But oftentimes, it’s a set of basic principles and values (to help the poorest among the poor out of human kindness), a big vision (to rid India of the suppressive colonial leadership, or make sure every person on this planet can get an easy-to-use smartphone), or it’s an idea which will change the world.
Or putting it differently: I rather doubt that Mahatma Gandhi knew right from the start that he would one day be a national hero. He might not even have assumed he’d get THAT far with his movement at all. But he had an idea, and he had principles, and he acted on them.
What does this mean for “the rest of us”?
You don’t have to know what your ultimate goal is. Just take the the next step into the direction which fits your values and principles, and follow your vision or idea — and in the end, you’ll find yourself in just the right place.
So the question you ask yourself shouldn’t be “What do I really want?”, but “What is the proper next step for me?”
(Btw, this proper next doesn’t always have to change direction. Sometimes it’s ok to just walk straight on…)
To find out what your proper next step is, I recommend a concept which I like to call “basic values”. If you know your basic values, you can use them as basis for your decisions, even if the ultimate goal is still a bit (or a lot) hazy.
I’d reckon that one of Einstein’s basic values was “scientific curiosity” or “inquiring mind”. One of Gandhi’s basic values was “justice”. It’s easy to see how these values would run like a thread through their lives, even if they didn’t know at each point what the outcome would be, isn’t it?
But the most important question, as always, is: What are YOUR basic values? And what do these values mean for the next step YOU take in YOUR life?
PS: I’ll write a lot more about this topic in the next few weeks: What basic values are, how to find your own set of basic values which fit you, and how these values are going to help you both in everyday life and with the “big” decisions you sometimes have to make.
But in order to hit the nail right on the head, I need your help!
Can you quickly tell me what’s important to YOU with regards to this topic… if you’re just stuck with such a tough decision… or simply how I could help you? Either as comment right here (for everybody to see), or via email (which I’ll treat confidentially).
I’m looking foward to hearing YOUR story!