Thursday, January 01, 2009

New Year, New Focus

One of the features I promised to deliver this year is a return of the Local Website Feature, 1 each night all year long. 365 total. Not just Blogs, but other sites with a Fort Wayne, Indiana connection.

However, right now, let's focus on resolutions. In 2009, each of us would be better if we can identify our needs vs. our wants. This is from the DLM Blog.

How To Separate 'Real' Wants From 'Should' Wants

Posted: 22 Dec 2008 10:12 AM PST

Many of us have taken up the habit of writing down our long-term goals, hoping we'll direct our unconscious minds to accomplish them and they'll manifest in the world. Unfortunately, as with New Year's resolutions, this technique often doesn't work as well as we'd like. Many of us are disappointed at the end of each year by the number of goals we didn't get around to checking off our list.

I've come to believe one of the reasons for this is that we often base our lists of goals on what we're convinced that we "should" want, rather than what we actually want. In other words, we're setting our goals based on what our parents, culture and other influences expect us to want, as opposed to our genuine desires.

For example, although you might really want to be a sculptor, you may have been taught that you "should" want a stable, respectable career in accounting. Although you may actually prefer being single, you may have been pressured by your family, friends and others into believing you "should" get married. These "shoulds," as they're sometimes called, don't really inspire us—we're only pursuing them to get others' approval and thus we don't find ourselves strongly motivated to achieve them.

One tricky aspect of our "shoulds" is that they're often difficult to tell apart from our authentic wants. We often learn what others expect us to want very early on, and those ideas become so deeply ingrained in us that we actually convince ourselves, on a conscious level, that we want them. For instance, I worked with one woman who, as a child, aspired to be a painter, but her parents told her she lacked artistic talent. For years, she felt unsafe telling people what she really wanted, or even acknowledging it to herself.

Our unconscious minds seem to know the difference between our real wants and "should wants," and can block our efforts to reach a goal we're not actually passionate about. But how can we become aware, on a conscious level, of what we deeply, truly desire? In coaching people on finding direction in their careers, I've found three approaches helpful, and I'll share them here.
  • Notice How Your Goals Make You Feel
    One way to get a sense of what actually inspires us is to check in with how our bodies feel. If we're paying attention, we'll know which goals we're really interested in from the sensations that arise when we think about them. For example, when we hit upon something we genuinely desire, perhaps we'll feel a surge of strength in our arms, a spacious feeling in our heart, or something else. By contrast, if we're thinking about a goal that doesn't actually inspire us, perhaps we'll feel a numbness, a tension in our muscles somewhere, and so on.

    To do this exercise, take a few moments to think about the goals you'd like to achieve in your life, and write them down. (If you read a lot of personal development literature, you've probably done this before.) Now, go back to the top of the list and slowly scan your eyes down the page, reading each goal. As you do this, take deep breaths, and hold your awareness on the sensations coming up in your body. Notice how reading each goal feels inside. Ask yourself honestly: do you really feel inspired and empowered?

    Once you understand the sensations a goal brings up in you, write down what you experienced next to that goal. For instance, if you felt chills down your spine when you thought about your idea of writing a book, describe that feeling. After you've finished running down your list, create another list of the goals that actually felt exciting to contemplate. When you're working toward these goals, you're likely to be at your most passionate and productive.

    It's important, as you're doing this exercise, to keep your attention solely on the physical sensations you're experiencing. You may find your mind chiming in with reasons why you should or shouldn't be interested in a goal you've written—making rational arguments like "doing this would be financially sound," "people would call you irresponsible if you did that," and so on. When this happens, thank your mind for sharing, and gently return your awareness to your body. This isn't an intellectual exercise—it's a process of connecting with your wants on a "gut level."

  • Observe How You Talk About Your Wants
    In my experience, the true test of how strongly we believe in our goals is how we find ourselves describing them to others. The words we use, our voice tonality, how we hold our bodies, and so on are clues to how we really feel about the objectives we say we're interested in.

    To do this exercise, find a person you trust to listen to what you want without judging or criticizing you—maybe a coach or therapist, a family member or a close friend. Bring your list of goals with you, and simply read the list out loud to them. Pay close attention to the words you use and how you move your body as you run down the list. If a goal you're describing is a "should want" rather than an authentic desire, you may find yourself doing one or more of the following:

    • Talking in a monotone. If your voice becomes emotionless or robotic as you're telling someone about your goal, it might not be genuinely inspiring to you. I have a friend, for example, who used to tell me, in a flat tone of voice, "all I want is a steady job and a girlfriend." When I finally pointed out how uninspired he sounded, he admitted that wasn't truly all he wanted.

    • Justifying or rationalizing. If you find yourself defending your goal as you describe it—perhaps insisting that what you're proposing is realistic, anticipating criticisms from the other person, and so on—you may have some doubts about whether the goal actually appeals to you.

    • Apologizing. If you find yourself giving disclaimers after you describe your goal, like "it's not a very big deal to me," or "for what it's worth," the goal might not be as interesting to you as it may have looked on paper.

    • Making yourself small. Perhaps you find yourself hunching or slouching as you talk about what you want, or having a strong desire to bolt out of the room. The anxiety you're feeling may stem from an awareness that you aren't expressing a deep-seated desire.

    • Speaking very quickly. If you describe your goal really quickly, to get the discomfort of talking about it over with as soon as possible, the goal might not be in keeping with your authentic wants.

    To be sure, there may be other reasons why you tend to do these behaviors. Your reluctance to talk about your goals might simply stem from shame about asking for what you want, a feeling that you're bragging by reciting your goals, or something else. But if you find yourself doing these things, at least take an honest look at whether the goal you're talking about genuinely inspires you.

  • Notice How Others React To Your Goals
    Just as checking in with your body when you consider your goals is a useful indicator of how appealing those goals are to you, noticing how others feel and respond when you say what you want is also an effective way of measuring your passion. To do this exercise, read your list of goals to someone you feel safe with, but this time ask them what sensations came up in their bodies as you said what you wanted.

    When you have this conversation, make sure you ask the other person to simply and honestly describe the feelings they're noticing in the moment. For example, they might say "I noticed my jaw tensing as you told me you want to start a consulting firm," "my attention drifted off when you described the island paradise you want," and so on. Ask that they refrain, for the moment, from giving you a rational analysis of your goals—for instance, talking about the possible cost of what you're proposing, whether you have the skills to achieve your objective, and so forth.

    Human beings are empathic creatures—much more so than we usually give each other credit for. If we pay close attention, when another person expresses a heartfelt desire, we can feel the strength of their desire in our own bodies. When they say something that isn't true for them, by contrast, our bodies tighten up, instinctively rejecting their words. If you have trouble determining which of your goals truly express your desires, another person's reactions may be a helpful guide.

Written on 12/22/2008 by Chris Edgar. Chris is an author and success coach who helps people transition to careers aligned with their true callings, and find more fulfillment and productivity in their work. You can read more from Chris at Purpose Power Coaching.

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