Most people are able to plainly tell me what it is that they do not want, prefer not to see, hear or feel. I often take them through an exercise, leveraging the negatives to arrive at the positives by creating clear contrasts between what is undesirable and what would be more satisfying. Follow these ideas and do it for yourself.
You cannot define what you want unless you clarify vague ideas and specify the outcomes you actually desire clearly. Furthermore, unless you also explore the reasons why you wish to have these things, the path ahead may be full of pitfalls.
Thus, if you are able to spell out what you have and why you no longer want that, but are unable to clearly articulate that which would be more fulfilling, then this exercise could be of value to you. Delving into what you define as troublesome can allow you to come to grips with what you would actually like to achieve.
Like a magnet, with a positive and negative charge, your aspirations also have their opposites. You can use the undesirables to get to a favorable vision and clearly define what you want, allowing you to no longer focus on the negatives, but put your effort and energy into realizing the positives.
Frequently the things that you want to break away from are clear to you and thus, can provide a road-map to your ambitions. The aim is to focus on the undesirable elements to set in motion a process that can help you to be free from them. This may sound like a contradiction. However, by way of comparison, polar opposites are useful: by clearly defining what you don’t want, you can see the core themes in your life and even how they are reflected in your life. Once visible, you can define what you would like to see in the place of that which no longer serve you.
The downside to only focusing on the desired or what you wish to have in order to move towards it, is that it may lead you towards a romanticized ideal that may not attainable; this exercise represents a more realistic approach.
Break the Exercise into Manageable Chunks
Should you want to make the most of this approach, I suggest that you identify those contexts where you are experiencing the most dissatisfaction. Consider the impact of increasing your satisfaction or happiness in one environment on your overall well-being. How much energy are you pouring into the thoughts and feelings that are associated with your discontent as it relates to this specific situation or context? Freeing up that energy will allow you direct your attention elsewhere, once you have implemented the necessary changes in one area.
It may also be overwhelming to address the undesirable aspects of every area of your life at the same time, which could lead to simply giving up since a sense of overwhelm frequently prevents people from taking any effective action.
As an example, should you choose to start with your career, record everything that you desire of the ideal career, as well as those things that are clearly pointing to what you do not want; frequently the undesirable factors represent that which lead you to feel frustrated, irritated, angry or even depressed or anxious.
Focus not only on the type of work you would love to do, but also on the type of environment you want to operate from and the type of people you desire to interact with. There may also be aspects such as time, money, travelling, knowledge and skills, to name but a few, that you regard as relevant and even critical.
Creating Better Choices by Quitting these Habits – Consciously
Creating conscious choice and empowering yourself requires quitting three habits:
- Imposing limitations by focusing on what is impossible or scary – rather use your imagination to paint the picture of the ideal circumstance that you think will fulfill you
- Abandoning a desired outcome in the face of the first obstacle that comes to mind and
- Seeing yourself as powerless (or harboring other self-limiting thoughts)
Imposing limitations or thinking in terms of obstacles, more often than not, lead to mediocrity, while a sense that you lack control over your destiny results in paralysis.
Thus, whenever you catch yourself thinking these type of thoughts, you need to consciously take control of your own mind.
Simply record what you think, dream, see or feel as essential in the relevant context, and to return to consider how you can achieve those things at the planning stage, rather than placing limits on yourself when you are only at the outset of your journey.
Converting Negatives to Positives
Should you only be able produce a list troublesome factors – no matter, record them. Next you can consider how you can convert these into new and more attractive statements.
As an example, consider a healthier lifestyle. If you desire to be healthier or fitter, you may be formulating this as a limiting thought, such as: “I don’t want to be overweight.” You are now focusing all your attention on the weight issue, rather than the desire which could be “I would like to reach and maintain my ideal weight that supports my health and makes me feel attractive”.
You may want to repeat this exercise for other areas of your life, now or in the future. Remember, not every aspect of your life will get the same focus or be geared towards the same outcome. Relationships in a business context will be defined quite differently from the ideal intimate relationship.
Define the Reason for your Desire
Once you have formulated the desire in a manner that appears fitting, be sure to consider for what reason you seek the defined outcomes – ensuring that you drill down to the essence of what is important for you. If you only concentrate on the superficial attractions what may seem meaningful now, may be less attractive in the long term.
Consider the weight example again: If you are someone who uses food to manage emotions, perhaps your goal is not really to lose weight, but to change the limiting beliefs you have about yourself or to learn new thought patterns that would be beneficial to you emotional experience. Achieving this would also be a constructive change in other areas of your life, while the weight loss becomes a secondary win.
Be sure to think about less other secondary consequences, perhaps less beneficial. Will it increase your well-being in other areas of your life or will it complicate your life? And are you willing to pay the price for what you will gain?
Life Stage Changes
This exercise may be valuable at different life stages as well. As you realize that you have outgrown a specific role or activity, you may be asking – “So what now?” Know that this is the start of a process or a new part of your journey – once you know what you want, you need to formulate the actions that you need to take to realize what is essentially still only desires.
By knowing what you truly aspire to have or achieve, you can then consider the actions you would need to take to get there. Planning is thus the next stage in this process, since success is dependent on having purpose, a plan and taking action to achieve results within a specific time frame.