Knowing What You Want

Greetings and Happy New Year.

Think for a moment about the following exchanges.

“Where do you want to go for lunch?” “I don’t care, as long it is not Italian, as I had that last night.”

Or …

“Where do you want to go on vacation?” “Anywhere, as long as it is not too hot.”

Or, finally …

“What do you want to do after college?” “Almost anything – except for moving back home.”

There is a very common thread among all of these. Have you noticed, both in these examples and in general, how frequently people respond to a question about what they want, with an answer of what they do not want. And of course, the other very frequent answer to the “what do you want” question is the shoulder-shrugging “I don’t know,” or “I don’t care.” The truth is, it is just easier to identify things you do not want, or to let someone else make the decision for you.

However, growth or improvement in some fashion, most often results from some kind of dedicated commitment. It takes effort to get better and part of that effort is deciding in what ways you want to be better.

We are at the time of year when people will be making their annual self-improvement declarations, the so-called New Year’s resolutions. Once again, listen closely and you will likely hear many don’t want or non-commitment statements, such as:

“I don’t want to eat, (drink, smoke or procrastinate) as much this year as last.”

“I am hoping not to stay working at my dead end job.”

“I don’t have any resolutions yet, so I’ll let you know in a month or so, after I see how everything is unfolding.”

What do you think the chances of lasting change are for any of these?

By definition, a resolution is something you are resolved (or devoted) to achieving, It is a change that you are going to make happen. And that resolution begins with great clarity about what you want, not what you do not want. This may seem like a rather irrelevant detail, but it can produce dramatically different results. Being outcome focused, or goal driven, greatly increases your chance of success. For one thing, knowing what you want helps you become more clearly aware of what can derail you from achieving it. As an example, knowing you want to go to the beach in the summer, helps you more confidently turn down the trip to the mountains in the springtime, even if it includes a fabulous chalet to stay in. Allowing what you don’t want to rule your thinking, may be like the time wasting and frustrating activity of continuously cycling through the menu screens on your TV in hopes of discovering a good program. You could end up watching the “menu channel” for an extended period, which was most likely not why you turned on the TV in the first place.

So, as you begin the New Year, I encourage you to get clear on what you truly want to achieve and be courageous enough to commit to it. Yes, your shortfalls will be more apparent and harder to dismiss. However, you will find it easier to recover and move forward, as you will know the road you are on is the right one for getting you to your desired destination. Be affirmative and direct about your goals, and stick with them.

And just so you know, you can still let other people make the decision for where to go for lunch. Just know that you forfeit the right to complain if you end up at a place which was not your first pick.

Best wishes for a rewarding and prosperous 2016.

Steve Coats

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