By Christine Worrell, MA, LPCC
The Good Ole’ Confusing Question: What Do You Want?!?! “What do you want?” When you hear that question, what do you imagine? Do you envision an annoyed parent responding to their pestering child? Do you see a man and his partner quarreling over who is going to plan the next date night? Or perhaps an angry boss yelling over their computer to a nervous employee anxiously waiting at their open door?
How about a therapist talking to their perfectionistic, overachieving and people-pleasing client, challenging them to finally look at their own desires and needs? This is something that us therapists commonly encounter in session. There are very few times in our lives that we stop and ask ourselves what we actually want. Maybe we get a solid answer when we are ordering what we want to eat. But, how many of us are on automatic pilot in our lives striving to achieve the goals and fulfill the desires of other people …perhaps to make a parent / spouse / boss happy? When the therapist asked the client that short and simple question “What do you want” it is as if the blinders came off their eyes and they wake up for the first time. The individual had never really taken the time to look at their own desires and listen deeply to their authentic self.
It’s time to wake up!!! What do YOU want??
That is the question which I will help you explore.
This question when pointedly looked at can create a variety of emotions- from panic, to excitement, to regret and uncertainty. All feelings are completely valid because they are YOUR feelings. It can be hard to sort out how you feel sometimes – take the time to visualize a change in your life you’ve been contemplating. Sit with the feelings that come up for a minute – notice what is happening in your mind and body as you repeat this question to yourself. Do you regret past decisions you made based on someone else’s agenda? Does the thought of meeting your own needs first create feelings of panic and guilt? Does your heart begin to race with anticipation of exploring options which had never been taken seriously before? Asking yourself what you want is possibly one of the most important questions to really contemplate where you are at today and where you would like to be in the future. Other questions which will help the process along – Am I happy? Am I healthy? Do I have loving relationships in my life? Am I at peace? If not, what am I willing to do about it?
“And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.” – Anais Nin, American-Cuban-French essayist
During this process of exploration, it is important to stay grounded, to stay connected to the moment at hand. How do you do this? It was just asked of you to stir up all these feelings which had never been contemplated before! First step, breathe. And not just the kind of casual breath you utilize when you’re reading this article for example. Deep, belly breaths which take at least 5 seconds to fill up your lungs and belly. That’s right, you are filling up your belly while letting it get big with air. Then pause for 1-2 seconds before you let it out for another 5 seconds. Then you let all of the air out allowing your belly to return to usual stance. And do this 10 times as you focus solely on the inhale and exhale process. This is going to relax you and your fight / flight responses which may be pumping adrenaline into your system.
Another grounding technique – use your senses to notice your surroundings. Count 5 different things you are seeing with your eyes. Notice 5 different sounds you are hearing in your environment. Touch 5 different objects and note how different they feel. While you do this your brain focuses and relaxes on the task at hand – clearing the way for creative thought to begin.
If unwanted thoughts perseverate in your mind as you’re trying to focus, welcome to the club. This happens when you start to learn to connect to the present moment. Our brain does not like to be in the present moment. Try not to judge the thoughts, be kind to yourself and not angry at the words, just notice them. This is what the brain is designed to do – to problem solve! To think and to fix and to keep busy, that is what they brain likes to be best. Annoying huh? The brain just needs a chance to take a break and relax and this is what you are now training it to do. Be patient – if you’ve been on autopilot for a long time the brain has served you well and it may not be so eager to give up it’s old job.
As you watch the thoughts easily come, let them go just as easily, then get back to the task at hand. Take a breath anytime you need to. Be patient – it is a marathon and not a sprint.
To wake up we need to get quiet. You need to get still. Put your phone down. Close your laptop. Tell your family you are simply unavailable for the next 20 minutes. Start to think about areas of your life you would like to feel better about. Start with small goals that mean the most to YOU – no one else needs to chime in. If you cry, let it out, if you get sad, feel sad, if it brings a smile to your face, smile. Feelings are part of the process.
Fill out the following questions:
- What am I currently doing in my life which brings me joy?
- What am I no longer doing in my life which used to bring me joy?
- What do I think is missing in my life?
- What do I do to enhance my physical health?
- What do I do that is a detriment to my physical health?
- What did I used to daydream about my life?
- What are internal voices telling me I should do?
- Are those voices helpful or hurtful in my efforts to pursue my dreams?
- What is one thing I can start doing tomorrow to support my goals and desires?
When contemplating the question at hand, people will say “Well I want to be rich and quit my job and travel the world!”. Of course that sounds amazing but might not be too realistic to start tomorrow. But the emotions that may be created by doing so, such as excitement, adventure, alertness, joy and peace, are possible to achieve right away. You just need to get creative!
Think of some things you can do right away to generate the same emotions. Is it going for a hike in on a new trail? Doing a vision board to plan for all of those big dreams? Exploring exotic tastes at an foreign restaurant? Starting a daily meditation practice to begin to connect more with your true self and the present moment? All of these activities are fairly available to most people day one. If you need some motivation, head on over to our Pinterest page for inspiration. Or just get out of the house and do the thing that is calling to you for self-care.
Your needs and interests being met will make you a happier, healthier person and everyone in your life and community will benefit as well. It is never too late to start to make changes, whether you just finished school, started a family, switched careers or are in your golden years of retirement. Each day is a new opportunity for you to bring joy to yourself. This is not selfish; this is your innate rights as a human being. Don’t wait for some external event to happen which you feel will bring happiness to your life. You have all the answers you are searching for within your true self.
“When you become aware of the present moment, you gain access to resources you may not have realized were with you all along—A stillness at your core. An awareness of what you need and don’t need in your life that’s with you all the time. You may not be able to change your situation through mindfulness, but you can change your response to your situation.” From Mindfulness.org, June 12, 2019 – Mindfulness and Meditation for Anxiety.
Remember – happy days will build a happy life!
If you are interested in learning more about how to incorporate these changes in your life, feel free to call to schedule an individual appointment with me at In Focus Counseling or consider joining my “Get Out of the Grind” group starting Tuesday October 29th at Noon. Click on the link here to see more details! (https://www.infocuscounselingdenver.com/lakewood-therapy-fees/group-therapy/).
Contact Christine for Group information +1 (720) 295-9522