YEP, I SPECIFICALLY SAID IDENTIFY…
Not figure out what you want. Why?
Because your wants are already there, you don’t have to invent them. Some have been there since childhood, some only turned up last week, but they’re most definitely there! Your primary job is to uncover them, to define them and to clarify them.
You have to put those wants into words so they don’t continue to float around like butterflies. Sure, butterflies are pretty and all (it’s nice to have dreams) but are they actually DOING anything? What is their purpose?
The goal is to capture and identify every butterfly (want, dream or desire) in your head. So you can actively decide what to focus on next. When you identify the nature of each and every butterfly you have flitting around your head, you give them form and bring them into being.
Once they’ve been pulled from the deep, dark crevices of your sub-conscious into your conscious mind, you can no longer ignore them, you can see them for what they are and begin the work of formulating a plan – a road map of how to get from where you are – to where you want to be.
Since childhood I’ve dreamt of being an artist & designer, however on closer inspection of my actual career path, you’ll see no mention of creative jobs. I mostly worked in admin/clerical roles and as a PA, that is, until around 2 years ago, when I decided enough was enough and finally set up my illustration & design portfolio website and this blog. Soon after, I began work on my very first creative project – illustrating a growth mindset colouring book – Conscious Colouring.
There were quite a few reasons for my delay into the creative world, from not believing I was good enough, to being actively discouraged by the people closest to me from pursuing art as a career. However, I’ll take responsibility and admit that hands down THE BIGGEST REASON I didn’t pursue art as a career for almost 16 years of my adult life is this:
I didn’t know WHAT TYPE of creative I really wanted to be. The options were infinite, overwhelming. It was like having a head full of butterflies, knowing one of them was about pursuing art, but not examining that butterfly closely enough to fully identify what type of “Art” butterfly it was.
Was it a children’s book illustrator? A fine artist? A graphic designer? Was it as a freelancer making illustrations for magazines? So that unnamed butterfly continued to flit and float around my head for YEARS. #frustratingmuch!?
It brought about a very destructive kind of mental restlessness, to know I had a “Creative Calling” but not be able to clearly define exactly what that calling was so that I could execute an action plan, move towards my desires intentionally and actually SEE RESULTS.
Fast forward to today and I can finally say – I know what I want. That certainly didn’t just happen by itself however. Extensive journalling and list making has helped me pinpoint with razor sharp precision the things I feel would be most fulfilling. Writing it down is one of the major ways I work through anything.
Although I’ve worked on, and continue to work on a wide variety of design briefs and projects, I’ve now narrowed down my niche to creating products & teaching based on art for wellbeing and themes from the natural world. I love creating floral and botanical patterns as well as mandalas- using colour palettes inspired by nature. I really want to explore this area of my creativity more and push the boundaries of what I’m able to create and share. It’s something I had great joy doing when I illustrated my first book Conscious Colouring.
Colour your way to a peaceful day!
Colouring in is so much more than just a kid’s activity, it’s accessible and scientifically proven to be beneficial to all ages!
No matter how bad your day may have been – taking some time for yourself can restore that magical mental “flow” state.
Most importantly, guiding you to remember that you’re only ever a few moments away from a calm and balanced state of mind.
So, Identifying exactly what it is you want is paramount. It’s the step that will propel your dreams —> into goals, your goals —> into actions and your actions —> into RESULTS.
WHY IT’S SO IMPORTANT THAT YOU’RE CRYSTAL CLEAR ABOUT WHAT YOU WANT
Personal side note over – here’s a list of why it matters that you really know what you want.
1. If you don’t have anything to aim for – you’ll never hit the target. If you don’t know what you want, you can’t actively & consciously work towards it. Without goals and therefore growth, your life is likely not going to be particularly fulfilling. I believe the best life is one that is carefully carved out and created – with intention!
* We humans LOVE working towards something – it’s in our DNA to make stuff, to invent, to bring into being things or a life that wasn’t there before.
Would you get in a car if you didn’t have any idea where it was going? That’s what you’re doing when you don’t know your what or why.
* When you don’t take the time to identify what it is you really want. You feel wishy-washy, your brain feels wishy-washy and your life, of course, ends up being well…wishy-washy! With so many fluttering butterflies going around – how can you see clearly at all? A wishy-washy life is a natural consequence of not giving a damn and not setting any goals or caring about fulfilling your true desires.
2. Anxiety and depression can take hold
* Do you enjoy watching a movie or reading a book where the plot is weak and the characters aren’t believable? That book / film will end up in “Top 10 worst” lists, because people can’t grasp the storyline clearly.
* Having no direction and living a life with a wishy-washy storyline only serves to confuse you and those around you. You begin feeling that you’re living a life with a 1 star rating – and that’s where depressive thoughts can start seeping into your bones and ruin what could otherwise have been a joyous living experience.
3. Because the world needs the gift that only you have to give.
* I’m a firm believer that being authentic is the solution to many of humankind’s problems. If everyone was their true self and didn’t feel the need to put masks on or follow what the herd was doing, we would advance our existence tenfold.
* If Einstein hadn’t shared his findings with the world, science and maths would not have evolved to the point it has. If the Wright brothers hadn’t the confidence to dream bigger, (and look absolutely crazy whilst doing it!) we wouldn’t be able to travel the way we do today.
* And it’s the same with you! What skills & gifts do you have that if shared – would make the world a better place? It doesn’t have to be anything ground-breaking like inventing electricity, even things like intentional kindness or being a good listener can make a world of a difference to someone. Even if you help JUST ONE PERSON – that is one more than before. An impact has been made no matter the size and you never know how far that could go, or how many people’s lives it could touch.
..BUT DEE! IDENTIFYING WHAT I REALLY WANT IS EASIER SAID THAN DONE!
I get it. It’s not easy to do what I’m proposing. I’ve spent the vast majority of my life totally confused about what I really wanted (no thanks to ADHD with added layers of childhood trauma!) so I personally know the struggle you face when it comes to getting crystal clear about what you want.
That’s why I decided to write this post, to give you some solid steps you can take to identify those wants, to dig deep and uncover them so that you too, can start working towards them.
Answer the following questions as honestly as possible. This is by no means an exhaustive list, but these are the questions that have personally helped me most in my quest for clarity.
QUESTIONS TO ASK:
1. What activity / process did I do as a child that I enjoyed the most? That I got absolutely lost in? Going back to your childhood joys will most certainly help you uncover some of your deepest desires in life.
2. As a child – when asked what I wanted to be when I grew up, what profession/ job did I reply with? Not what your granny wanted you to be, or what everyone else in your class wanted to do. What did YOU want? Also – if you were the type of kid that said random things like: “I want to be a bus driver and take people to McDonalds!” (this was my daughter’s reply to that question from the ages of 4 – 8!) try to boil down that idea to pinpoint it’s underlying “desire”.
As she loved McDonalds so much and thought everyone else did too – her underlying desire was to serve others. She now answers that question with ‘Nursery Teacher’ – again, it makes sense as this is a nurturing, caring occupation.
3. What are my values – Do I have any that I live by? How can I use these as clues in helping me uncover my strongest wants and desires? Eg: Do you value being of service to others? What types of goals could benefit from this value? And by that token – What values do you have that would make it easy to achieve your goals?
4. FAST FORWARD – Imagine it’s your funeral. What would you like your closest friends to say about you? What accomplishments or effects on them would you like them to list? What type of person would you want them to say you were? Try your best not to judge the thoughts that come from answering this question. Judging them as selfish or egotistical won’t help you move towards your desires. Just capture all these ideas as accurately as possible so you can inspect and review them for clues.
5. How would I choose to spend my money or time if these were unlimited? Often we close ourselves to options because they require time or money – but what if those variables were removed from the equation? What would you be left with?
6. What am I willing to make sacrifices in my life for? What am I happily willing to spend blood, sweat and tears on, without one ounce of certainty, and absolutely no proof that it will ever work? What project, goal or dream would I enjoy the process of working towards, even if I was never able to achieve it?
And the last question – and this one’s a real kicker…
7. What DON’T I want? What kind of life would be a disappointment to me, would I hate to live? Knowing what you don’t want is an important way of finding what you do want. It teaches you what to stay away from and opens up a you a path you may not have otherwise seen.
There’s an old adage that describes this idea perfectly – when asked how he manages to carve an elephant out of wood, the sculptor answers: “It’s simple – you just chip away at anything that doesn’t look like elephant!”
THINGS TO KEEP IN MIND AS YOU ANSWER THESE QUESTIONS:
* Make sure your wants are truly YOURS
Not what you think someone wants you to want, or what you feel you should want. Go through your list and make sure there isn’t ONE thing on there that is to please another without it pleasing you first. Once you’ve spotted any pesky alien wants on your list – delete delete delete! If you spend time on these you’re wasting your efforts. They will never truly fulfil you. Any joy you have from them will be fleeting and ultimately empty so don’t make that mistake.
* Simplify your goals or wants into a concise sentence ie – use the fewest words possible whilst still keeping the essence of the idea.
“I want to write and illustrate a children’s book” – is a much clearer idea than writing “I want to improve my skills to the point that I will get an agent and they will send me books to illustrate or maybe even allow me to write and illustrate my own that they will publish.” Whew! Your poor brain will lose track and give up listening to you. Make it short and sweet!
Now that you have all your dreams / goals / wants on paper:
* Step 1 is to list them in order of priority – from what you want most as in “If I suddenly found myself on my death bed, I would regret not having done _______ (list regrets). These will be at the top of the list. Continue on until you get to wants that feel more like: “I’d like to do this but I wouldn’t get to the end of my life regretting it if I didn’t”
* Step 2 – Divide your goals (in order of priority) over a 5 year list that looks something like this:
You may have 3 things on your list for 2020 and only 1 for 2021 the point is that they build on each other.
2020: ____________ e.g -Write & illustrate a children’s book
2021: ____________ e.g – Visit Japan etc
2022: ____________ e.g – Get a dog
2023: ____________ etc
2024: ____________ etc
Spread your goals out starting with A: what’s most important to you and B) On a scale from what seems MOST doable right now – to the BIG BOLD goals that scare you a little (or a lot!) closer to the fifth year.
This one is a bit of a balancing act because sometimes the thing that you MOST want to do will feel SO HUGE that it will have to go at the end of the 5 year goal list rather than at the beginning – but you have to be able to work up to things. Someone with the dream of becoming an astronaut can’t expect to do so in a year if they’ve never even been to a space centre.
Consider how you can properly order your wants from most meaningful and most doable – to least meaningful and most doable.
NOW THAT YOU KNOW HOW TO IDENTIFY WHAT YOU WANT
…and why it’s so important that you do, I’d like to leave you with a final thought.
You may not be able to complete all the goals you set out with – BUT you could get close! And if you don’t have any to start with, you most certainly won’t get anywhere near. As famous hockey player Wayne Gretzky put it – you miss 100% of the shots you don’t take!
As a bonus – for those of you who prefer not to write each question out – I’ve gone ahead and created a worksheet which includes the questions from today’s post, as well as a section on defining your values and setting out your 5 year plan. All this in one neat and tidy printable download. I hope it helps!
I don’t post as often as once a week because I spend a lot of time brewing these ideas, researching, writing, editing and formatting. It’s also important to me that these articles provide REAL VALUE to you, and that means a lot of time and effort on my part.
So if this post resonated with you, or if the worksheet helped you in any way, I would love to hear from you. Pop a comment down below, get in touch via the contact form, or share this article with someone who might need it most.
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