How To Get On the Right Track - What Do You Really Want? (Part 2)
By Ethan Ferris
Today, I want to give you some tools to discover what you are truly pursuing when you do the things you think you don’t want to do. You will also find some tools to help discover your positive goals as well, so you can not only avoid that which you want to avoid, but also pursue that which you want to pursue.
In short, this article’s purpose is to help you get the on the right track.
When we left off in part 1, I had seemingly gotten everything I wanted. I became content . . . and inactive.
I started to get restless.
I continued my habit of watching, and noticed that I wanted something, and I didn’t know what. But it was different now — my actions weren’t turning destructive, nor did they point towards escapism. It was a restless energy, almost like the all to familiar guilt of past years, but it seemed to go in all directions at once rather than crushing me downwards. I started jumping at every opportunity to take on a new challenge, and then swiftly losing interest and moving on to the next thing (much to the detriment of my burgeoning professional reputation).
I wanted more, but even that deepest part of me didn’t know what it wanted. It was looking for something, like an animal hunting through the grass — bending down to sniff at each oddity, then quickly losing interest upon realizing it’s just another rock.
Through some process that was half conscious decision and half fate (or dumb luck, whichever you prefer), I found a goal that I liked, and elevated it above all others. A while later, I found another, and placed it beside the first. Then another, and another, until I had a sizable shrine within myself of all the things I wanted to accomplish.
Again, I watched. What did all of these things point to? What united all these goals that I was so drawn to? What was the higher order truth of my being that they all hinted at?
“Who am I?”
This time, the investigation held no anxiety. There was no horror upon a new discovery, and no pain in realizing that I was working against myself. I was, and still am, excited each time I visit the shrine and remember the goals that I have placed myself in voluntary service to. In fact, much to my joy, I am adhering to one of those gold-plated goals right now — to share what I have learned with you.
So let’s help you figure out what you want.
We all do things that we feel guilty about, or think that we shouldn’t do, or that we know aren’t aligned with our stated goals. Here is a quick activity you can do in 5 minutes that will help you uncover the reason behind one of those activities.
First, think of something you did yesterday that you feel guilty about, or something you think you shouldn’t have done. For example, I’m occasionally guilty of getting sucked into the black hole of YouTube. I always come out the other side deflated, lethargic, and guilty.
Now it’s time to figure out what it looks like you want. Try to step back and look at yourself as a stranger would. Forget the excuses and details that make this choice seem fine to you, and see how it looks from the outside. What did it look like you wanted when you did this thing?
A great way to figure this out is also to ask “what am I getting out of doing this?”
For me with YouTube, I get distraction and escape from it. From the outside, it looks like I just want to be brainlessly distracted and sucked into another world. Or, to frame it another way, it looks like I just really don’t want to do whatever I’m ‘trying’ to do.
Now it’s time to specify. Imagine that you want what it looks like you want. Think of other ways you could get it, then ask “why aren’t I doing these other things? Why am I doing this specific thing?”
For me, I could get escapism from, say, a video game, but I don’t. Why? Well, an actual video game feels like a commitment — like genuinely giving up on whatever I am escaping. Whereas YouTube videos are so short and easy to slip into (and theoretically out of) that I can trick myself into thinking that returning to reality is just “one video away”. This turns out to be a very important part of the habit.
The next step is to figure out why you might want that specific thing. What is driving you to do what you don’t seem to want to do?
For me, my yearning for escape is driven by my occasional dislike for the work that I have to do. When I don’t like a particular task on my list for the day, I always find myself very easily distracted by things like YouTube.
Now the last and most important step. What are other ways you could get what you got out of this action? Then, once you have a list of options, find the one that doesn’t feel shameful or like it goes against your desires.
For me, that option is to remind myself of why I have to do this thing that I so desperately don’t want to do. This way, one of two things happens. Either I realize how important it is and feel motivated to get it done, or I discover it isn’t actually important and I don’t have to do it. So, instead of letting myself get lost to goofy videos, I return to my goals and see how I need to serve them, and poof, no more black hole.
This short activity can be repeated for any troublesome habit or choice that you find yourself making. Don’t be intimidated though — you don’t have to do it repeatedly right now for every habit you don’t like. Figuring out what you want is a process to be undertaken over time, in part because there are always deeper layers of yourself to explore.
When you understand what you want though, in the most true sense possible, it opens up possibilities that you never thought possible. You will unlock motivation, energy, and excitement that you didn’t think you had. You will find yourself greeting the world with joy and wonder. To reiterate, it isn’t an instant process. It takes time, but it can be worked at in small chunks. It mostly just boils down to asking yourself one question. Often, the deepest part of you will gladly reveal its secrets if you give it an opportunity.
So, what do you want?
For your profit and fulfillment,
- Ethan Ferris -