What Do You Want?

One of the first questions I ask new and prospective clients is “what do you want?” More often than not, the answer is: “I don’t know,” or “I’m not sure.” The first phase of coaching then focuses on clarifying what the client wants so that he or she can begin to move forward with change. If you, too, are dissatisfied and having a hard time figuring out what you want, here are some coach’s tips to help you answer your big question.

1. Listen to yourself. Separating what you want from what you think you should want or what others want for you involves consulting your own internal compass and connecting to your own values. From our earliest days, people have been telling us what we would be good at, or what we should want, and many of us are out of touch with our own needs and wants. Get curious about your own desires and motivations.  Allow space and time to ask and answer some questions, like: What would you do if you were unconcerned about what others thought about you? What would you do if money were no object? What kind of impact do you want to have on your world?

2. Think positive. Sometimes we are so caught up in what we want to escape that we have a hard time naming what we want. What are the qualities of your dream job or of your ideal life balance? Creativity? financial reward? Strong, supportive relationships? Identifying what you are aiming toward rather than what you are seeking to escape will help you define your goal and will also help you describe what you are looking for to potential employers. If you have trouble getting out of the negative mindset, try beginning with the opposite what you have now. Feeling anxious and bored? You want to feel secure, confident, engaged, and learning …. ok, there’s a start.

3. Get out of your head. Thinking and talking (even to a coach!) will only get you so far. Take your ideas and insights for a test-drive so you can get some direct experience. Considering an MBA? Get the syllabus from some foundational classes see if the reading intrigues you. Always thought you might want to be a teacher? Volunteer in a local school or with an organization that serves youth to see if you enjoy working with kids. Thinking about running your own business? Talk to friends or neighbors who have started businesses — does it sound satisfying and fun? Experimentation is essential to clarifying what you want.

4. Aim high. Where did we all learn to shrink our dreams? I frequently hear clients begin to compromise before they have even explored what is possible. When you start developing your vision, don’t be realistic.  Most of us in our adult life know that life involves a series of trade-offs and compromises, but don’t shrink your vision by assuming compromises at the outset. On a scale of 1-10, aim for a 10 and see what happens. What do you suppose happens if you start out aiming for a 6? Set your sights high even if you think you won’t be able to get there. And if you have listened to your values, when the time comes you will know what trade-offs best satisfy your goals.

A great resource for getting in touch with what you want is Barbara Sher’sI Could Do Anything If Only I Knew What It Was.”