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You can’t really know what you want until you know you don’t know what you want

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I hope your biggest revelation this year is that you don’t really know what you want.

We grow up thinking we know what we want, but we’re wrong. We all start with the wrong idea about it. Your whole life, society has told you what you want. Others know what they want you to want. Your family, your religious institutions, your politicians and your retailers know exactly what they want you to want. You’ll get everyone’s idea but your own, but these foreign ideas will accumulate, and in the absence of your own they get you chasing things.

And you’re not born knowing what you want, either. People assume they ought to know automatically what they want, which tends to be whatever the convention it is in your culture. For some that means marrying off to “a good provider”, for others it means achieving a senior managment position, for others it means a Personal Relationship With Jesus.

Then we become adults and, if we’re lucky, slowly learn that nobody can teach you what you want. You stumble upon it. But only if you do a lot of stumbling. Your parents didn’t know what you want, they figured it’s the same as what they wanted. The only ideas they can give you of what you ought to want are the wants they can identify with. Advertisers don’t know what you want, they fish for it. The only idea they can give you is what they hope you want, which is to buy something from them.

Your own idea appears only when you have the actual experience of what you want. You can’t know until you taste it. We all start with a false idea of what we want in life, inherited from others during childhood, before we gain any perspective about life. The false idea has to be given up and the real desires have to be discovered. They may make others uncomfortable. They may make you uncomfortable at first, because in inherited your comfort zone from others.

You will either recognize this and overcome it, or you will always pursue what other people want you to want, convinced it’s what you want. 

I am convinced that how happy a person becomes in life depends on how much time they spend learning what they want. Just to know what makes you glow inside is the work of a lifetime. Your real, heartfelt wants accumulate over the years, as you stumble into new experiences that electrify you.

How quickly that happens depends on how often you do what you’re not used to doing. That means travel hastens it, and habits stifle it. Doing scary and unfamiliar things hastens it, doing comfortable things stifles it. You can’t know what you want until you taste it. Do more tasting.

Don’t make the mistake of thinking what you want is just one thing. Each of our personalities is so intricate that we will resonate with thousands of categories of experiences, from the kind of clothes you feel best in, to the city you want to live in, to the person you want to grow old with, to the way you take your coffee. You may not know these preferences of yours yet, even if you assume you’ve known for thirty years. 

Your wants are always going to be more articulate than the ones you inherit from society. They are more specific. They make something tingle in your consciousness in a way that nobody else will understand. That’s why you can’t listen to anyone else when it comes to what you want in life.

I’m slowly learning what I want, and I only began to learn, really learn, once I discovered that I don’t already know what I want — that the things I’ve been chasing all this time have been other people’s wants.

A few things I know I want, even if nobody else wants me to want them:

I want more driving with the windows down and the radio off

I want fewer things from the dollar store in my house

I want more one-on-one coffees and lunches with friends

I want more walking

I want more savoring and less chugging

I want more metal possessions and fewer plastic ones

I want more plants

I want to wear clothes that make me want to stand up straighter

I want more time with a book in my hand and less time with a mouse in my hand

I want more talking and less thinking

I want less drink-nursing and more dancing

I want more greens and fewer starches

I want people to collect things I create

I want color co-ordination

I want things well-oiled and tuned up

I want baths with ambient music playing in the next room

I want to meet people with unconventional attitudes towards sex

I want to be a regular, with a usual, somewhere

I want to mingle with strangers, everywhere

I want to surprise people who know me

I want to change plans without fretting about it

I want to read one book at a time, instead of eight like I do now

I want to change the way you think about the important things


What do you want? Tell me, but don’t answer too quickly.


 Photo by onesevenone

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Bryce S. May 8, 2012 at 5:03 pm

I commented last time, and I forget where I was exactly but I believe I was debating about going to Washington to go to school and now I am in Paris in an apartment, studying abroad (part of that school in Washington) and feeling conflicted about what I think I am “supposed” to feel in this city and what I really feel in the moments that make up my time in this city.

Tonia Allen May 14, 2012 at 4:40 am

Gee, I wish I have more drive and determination to lose weight.

divya gaikwad August 2, 2012 at 4:40 am

I want to:
– be able to go horse back riding every morning like I used to…
– love unconditionally
– travel more
– be ‘more’ productive than I already am
– write with as much connect as you do

hanim October 29, 2012 at 5:57 am

i want to qualified to olympics game …
i want to find a job in journalism field ….

shangtai November 23, 2012 at 12:09 pm

I want my husband to love me as before
I want him to feel truely happy and relaxed when he is with me
I want to be able to forgive him and let go all of unhappiness
but how can I ask for wanting someone to do something?
love does not come out because someone else asks for it, right?!
I can only focus on myself and explore what I want within me….
however, at this moment, I only want him, nothing else….so sad…

Steve March 25, 2013 at 9:46 am

I want what I have.

Rohit Arora April 2, 2013 at 6:17 am

I want to leave everything behind and run away as far as i can…

franklin April 6, 2013 at 2:47 pm

what I want…
the job I like to have…
my favorite major, music, color, food, car and …
changes every 7 or 8 month. believe me when I tell you that…
what the HELL should I do?
I am the type of person who when he realizes he likes a music, he listens to it so many times until he is tired of it and starts finding a new good music…….

Sarah April 15, 2013 at 8:04 pm

I want to stop wanting and be joyful to just be.
Until then………..
I want to feel light on my feet.
I want to smile and laugh with ease.
I want to feel consistently content, through the peaks and troughs of life.
I want to live by the sea with a dog, some chooks and a man who is my best friend.
I want to plant a healthy vege and herb garden.
I want to be able to surf and go for a surf everyday on my local beach.
I want to be a regular at a coffee shop and the local surf club.
I want more time to read books, one at a time.
I want to play guitar with confidence.
I want to meet and hang around people who are kind, interesting, into music, surfing, earthy, funny and inspirational.
I want to inspire people and make them feel better after being around me.
I want to have more patience with my parents and my brother.
I want to be able to remember jokes and make people laugh.
I want to have intimate sex.
I want to feel confident to be myself, so I want to know myself more.
I want to travel more, forever.
I want to sleep peacefully every night.
I want to dance like no one is watching.
I want to feel comfortable with my own sexuality and desires.
I want to feel comfortable with the power that I know that I have.
I want to have conversations that open up the constraints of dialogue.
I want to hold a strangers gaze for longer than 3 seconds.
I want to wear thongs to work.
I want love not to pass me by.

justine tragico May 30, 2013 at 10:55 am

I also want the things that you want Except for the reading part, I also want to learn how to drive I want to have things that many people can’t afford but still I thing even if get all those stuff I would be happy for a short time only and back to my misery. I am a very jolly person I fill very happy with the smallest thing but I still don’t know why am sad and angry.

Jonathan June 15, 2013 at 7:56 am

I want to let go of the hold I have in my mind

Karina June 18, 2013 at 1:54 am

Way cool! Some extremely valid points! I appreciate you writing
this write-up and also the rest of the site is also really good.

Nick Cortese July 8, 2013 at 8:25 pm

I wanna keep this going because its an amazing page of real people coming into reality of what it is their deepest inner man desires.
I wanna Learn to love myself
I wanna be able to love others more and help them get through things I have experienced.
I want to be able to let go of the past and and cling to the present and all forgiveness to flow from a heart filled of love for people.
I want to live a life Im proud to live, not letting my Ego get in the way of my inner being.
I want to explore my sexuality without the fear of self condemnation and
I want to immerse myself in situation that are uncomfortable and breathe my way through them with humility and confidence.
I want to develop lifelong relationships with people I fell I can be totally open with and not feel judged.
I want to rid myself of all preconceived notions that people are bad or out
to get me.
I want to live life being able to express my emotions more wisely to be more Healthy.

Nick December 20, 2013 at 7:25 am

There are people out to get you; they’re called psychopaths. 1 in 25 people are one. Look it up. Your instincts and anxieties serve a purpose: to keep you alive. But if you want to let your guard down that’s your decision dude.
Humility and confidence don’t go together. Choose one already.
After reading your post I would’ve thought you were a girl.

Stephen July 18, 2013 at 12:21 pm

I want a loving wife, daughter and son, a new scenery every day, to make people laugh and cry with emotions they can’t explain, to make the world a better place, to find my spiritual centre, and to be good at something through hard work and dedication

James August 9, 2013 at 11:57 am

I want to change the title of this post to “What David wants?”…

angel September 9, 2013 at 3:06 am

i want to know what i really want. im an undergraduate student and i cant cope up with my classmates and friends. learning sure is hard but as i continue to study and learn the things in my course, the more i thought about that is i am not fitted to this course. i become more lazy to study. i want to dance, to express well myself. i picture myself working in an office not in a laboratory wearing a white lab gown. but i dont know what course should i take.

sharm October 24, 2013 at 9:09 pm

Brilliant post David. Just stumbled upon your site. Honest, thought-provoking and totally resonates with me;
I want is to be madly in love with the life I have and realize that everything 1 do counts.
I want to make the right choices that will enhance my spirit and empower myself
I want to be aware, alert and centered with my soul – in order for me to make the right decisions in my life – that will lead me to my blissful path.
I want to live everyday worry-fear-FREE, knowing and trusting all will be OK.

Gerald W Bethman Jr. December 14, 2013 at 9:14 pm

A Toy Helicopter.

Mohamed Elboraie December 15, 2013 at 3:12 am

I want to be happy
I want to live happy

Neri December 15, 2013 at 7:19 pm

I want to be financially secure and still travel the world.

It’s tricky! And requires so much patience; sometimes, I just don’t think I can hold it together.

Qing December 31, 2013 at 12:27 am

This. Is a. Great post.

Have a happy new 2014 !

Charlie January 19, 2014 at 9:39 pm

If you dont know what I dont know how do you know not to know about not knowing? –Charlie Mitchell Jr (Johnson City, TN)

Quentin January 27, 2014 at 1:52 pm

I’m desperately craving for deeper feels, stronger emotions and a real good reason to wake up in the morning.

Antoni February 2, 2014 at 3:53 am

I want to know what I want.

Ashley February 28, 2014 at 2:05 pm

Just this week I realized I don’t actually know what I want. It was a scary thought because then I wondered, what if I don’t actually want the things I already have? What an upheaval that would be! You have changed my perspective on it, though. I’m going to look at it more as a journey of discovery – it shouldn’t be scary, it can be enlightening and joyful. What could be better than experiencing the things you truly want? Not just think you want? It can only lead to a more fulfilling and satisfying life. Thank you!

Ashley February 28, 2014 at 2:07 pm

P.S. And I have usually found that doing what’s best for me ends up being what’s best for those around me.

groups March 9, 2014 at 4:24 am

Link exchange is nothing else except it is simply placing the other person’s weblog link on your page at suitable place and
other person will also do same in favor of you.

Jenny March 28, 2014 at 12:50 pm

Well – I guess I’m doing better than I thought! I’ve always been under the assumption that most people know what they want and I’m the rare one that doesn’t (HAHA). I’ve always said that I’m not the type of person who just knows what she wants and passionately pursues it – and that I wish I could work several days at one job and then move on to another because I want to experience it all – hehe :) I used to feel bad about this but now I feel good! Thx!

David Cain March 31, 2014 at 9:14 am

I have always envied people like you. I think a majority of us settle into fear-based thinking where we are afraid to move. A minority of people I know seem to be driven by desires more than fears. Best to you!

coffee table designs plans April 2, 2014 at 12:21 am

Until next time, remember the Budget Bash mantra:
make it simple, delicious, stylish, fun & economical to all.
Her smooth, elegant writing style works well alongside the generous full-color photography by Luca
Invernizzi Tettoni (Tropical Asian Style). Glass coffee tables add a modern looks to the existing décor of your home.

Jenna April 5, 2014 at 6:42 pm

I want to be able to figure out
who I am.

I want to be able to love someone
as much as I will love them.

I want to feel comfortable with

I want to be the best I can be.

I want to travel extensively as I
love to be able to visit different

I want to learn how to drive.

I want to be able to look back
at my life and know I’ve done
amazing things.

I want to no longer have anxiety or
depression issues.

I want to be able to express myself
correctly and not be afraid of what
others will say.

I want to be healthy and to make
healthy choices.

I want to understand myself.

LeYad June 6, 2014 at 7:53 am

Today is a good day. I finally discovered a blog which truly addresses all my queries and doubts as a young 18 year old going to take “major” life decisions. My family and society have always tried to put me down the path which would result in material success and good social status. But deep down I know that I don’t want take the most traveled path but instead discover what really makes me feel alive and significant.

I want to discover my innermost passion and make it my goal to pursue it.

I want to live in different places and learn as much as possible.

I want to make to a difference in the lives of people.

I want my life to have a meaning.

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