Three Wishes. Granted by a Genie…
What do I want?
It seems like a straightforward question that should yield a straightforward answer. However, I have found that this is often not the case.
In all aspects of life including a healing or coaching context, it is a vital question, perhaps the most important question. Indeed when one is living life as an adventure it can be useful to have a sense of direction, even if the detail is not perfectly clear.
Take, for example, the intrepid fictional adventurer Indiana Jones where we have stories such as Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade or Indiana Jones and The Kingdom of The Crystal Skull. Indy may not have known where things would take him or what he would do when he got there, but he did know what he wanted.
A title such as Indiana Jones and I’m Not Happy With Things As They Are But I Am Not Sure How I Want Things To Be, just wouldn’t capture the imagination in the same way. Getting what you want and knowing you have got it is a tall order if you don’t know what it is!
As a child, I remember playing a game with my friends where we would imagine a genie granting us three wishes and exploring all the things we would wish for. To add to that, the smart move was to use the third wish to get another three wishes and so on and so on. We didn’t seem to get stuck for things to wish for because we certainly had many ideas about what we wanted.
I have also had periods in my life where things were far away from how I wanted them to be, yet I still struggled to answer the question ‘what do I want?’–to actually be clear about how I would like things to be. It’s a question I ask myself a lot and one I use to focus and refocus what I do. It’s striking how many people struggle to answer this seemingly straightforward question.
I believe the principles of Huna provide some insight into why many struggle with answering this fundamental question. Here are some reflections using the Huna principles to examine some of the symptoms and causes of ‘what do I want to block’ and some ideas of how to get through it.
The problem: a Narrow focus of awareness.
A solution: Expand your awareness.
If the world is what you think it is and you have a very limited awareness of what’s out there, then you are likely to have fewer things to choose to aim toward. As a result, you may not develop compelling ideas about what you want. Developing awareness of options to choose from that stimulate a positive emotional charge is helpful in this respect. Taking time to explore with research and daydreaming are a couple of ways to explore more options.
The problem: Limited thinking.
A solution: When you think “What if I can’t?” give equal time to “What if I can!”
Many people limit their lives considerably by their thinking. Rather than using their thoughts to expand and enrich their universe of possibilities, people can stop themselves dead in their tracks by giving up with thoughts such as ‘it’s just not possible’ or ‘how could I ever achieve that?’ This mindset limits one’s potential and rather than enabling a focus on big dreams it causes one to settle for less.
On the other hand, some people are reluctant to make choices about what they want as they believe it will result in closing down other imagined, or unimagined, possibilities and that making a choice brings with it a sense of permanence and commitment. Of course, it is useful to focus on and be committed to, what you want. However, there is no reason why you cannot change what you want as you and your circumstances change.
Change and growth are constant so the flexibility to adapt and realign where required is important. There is, however, a marked difference between not knowing what you want at all and changing what you want as life’s merry dance unfolds.
Our inner critic and ‘reality’ checker can pose a problem too, by kicking in too early while we could be exploring possibilities. It’s not uncommon for people to limit themselves with thoughts such as ‘if I go for X then I can’t go for Y’. There can sometimes be an assumption of mutual exclusivity which one should take the time to challenge to see if it really holds true. Would it actually be possible to have both ‘X and Y’? Moving from ‘either /or’ thinking’ to ‘and/and’ thinking can open up a world of possibilities and loosen ‘what do I want to block’.
The problem: Direction of Focus.
A solution: Redirection of Focus.
People who don’t know what they want tend to be extremely effective at knowing what they don’t want. As a result of focusing on the very things they don’t want, they tend to get a lot of what they don’t want in life. Choosing something that you want, anything, small or large, provides something to focus on moving towards and helps to avoid directing energy to the things you don’t want.
The act of choosing for some people is frightening because it automatically triggers a focus on what could go wrong, which is a step backward to focussing on what they don’t want. Shifting one’s focus toward the benefits of getting what one wants and keeping the focus on that is a way to get out from under the fear.
The Problem: Feeling controlled by the past or future.
A solution: Being more present more often.
A challenge to answering the question ‘what do I want?’ comes when one is not thinking with presence, i.e. from where they are right now. People may dwell on past experiences (memories) and believe that they can only achieve something to the extent to which they have done so in the past.
Thinking of a future outcome purely based on what happened in the past, where past experiences may be perceived as limiting or negative, is likely to produce a limiting or negative response. Similarly, focusing on the future when answering the question may bring in so many doubts or anxieties about what is possible. Taking time to think about what you want right now whilst centered and present, rather than dwelling on the what if’s of the past and future will yield benefits.
There is nothing wrong with using memories to access useful skills and strategies for getting what you want, and there is nothing wrong with making plans for the future to get what you want, but when dwelling on the past or future begins to produce negative thoughts, then you need a technique to get quickly back into the present.
A simple and very effective way to do this is to look at one small thing in your immediate environment, like a stone or a glass or a pen, touch it, and knock it against something to hear the sound. Then keep doing the same thing with different objects, until your mind is more clear and your body more relaxed.
The problem: Anger or disharmony.
A solution: Connection or harmony.
What some people want is to get rid of what they believe is in the way of what they could want, and anger is their motivational tool for doing that. Anger is based on resistance, however, and resistance in one direction leads to resistance in the other direction. Anger is the most inefficient method of getting anything done. Moving toward what one loves, and connecting with all the resources, including people, that enable that is the most efficient way to get anything done, and it feels better, too. In the same vein, helping others to get the good that they want amplifies one’s own ability to do that.
Some people may find it difficult to know what they want if there is disharmony or incongruence between aspects of themselves when contemplating the question. Have you ever experienced saying what you want but deep inside really not feeling it? Or making a decision where you heard an inner voice or felt a feeling that was telling you it was not right? Trusting our intuitions and creating harmony between the various aspects of ourselves is key to finding out what we truly want and making the necessary decisions to go after it.
The problem: Doubt or fear.
A solution: Confidence or courage.
Sometimes people find it hard to say what they really want as they are focussed on what other people want and are not truly tuned into their own desires. If you give the authority to make choices for your future to others, chances are it won’t be the future that you genuinely want. If you don’t take responsibility and make decisions about what you really want then someone else will make them for you. In cases where someone has low self-esteem, it can be a case of them focussing on what they think they deserve which may be considerably less than what they really want.
Confidence is the opposite of doubt, and there are two ways to develop it: a slow way and a fast way. The slow way is to increase skills and knowledge related to what one wants and repeatedly affirm one’s confidence in oneself for as long as it takes to achieve it. The fast way is to simply refuse to doubt. More specifically, it means that when doubt arises, which is natural enough, you choose not to keep doubting. With no doubt, the only thing left is confidence.
As for fear, that, too, is natural when we encounter danger and risk, and sometimes what we want involves both of those. If fear can be reduced to doubt through knowledge and skill, then confidence does not have to be far behind, but there are times when in order to achieve what we want, we must move forward in spite of fear. Doing that is called courage.
The problem: Inflexibility or lack of planning.
A solution: flexibility or planning.
Some people give up trying to get what they want because everything they’ve tried hasn’t worked. Actually, all that means is that everything they’ve tried hasn’t worked. Similarly, if someone has tried to achieve what they want in the past and not been able to, they may downgrade their desires due to the belief that it is unattainable.
The simple fact is that if what you want is really important to you, and if what you’ve tried hasn’t worked, the only sensible thing to do is to try something you’ve never tried before. That might mean making some significant changes in your thinking, your behavior, your relationships and/or your environment. Only you can decide if what you want is worth it, though. If we hold the belief that there is always a way to achieve something, it means that we will not give up on our dreams.
Sometimes people consider the question ‘what do I want?’ through the lens of another question such as ‘how will I get what I want?’ or ‘what do I need to do to get what I want?’ Where someone does not know the details of how to get what they want they can avoid answering the question. Or in some cases, they focus on the issue of how they will get there and if that is not clear at the time they can reduce what they want to fit with what they think they can achieve at that point.
Not knowing how you might achieve something does not necessarily mean you won’t achieve it. That’s what planning is for. And remember that only plans fail, not people. People can only give up or make a new plan.
The answer to the question ‘what do I want?’ is your personal gift to be treasured and one that is a key to living an adventurer’s life. Accordingly, if you have not done so already, it might be worth taking the time to get a few answers to the question prepared before someone asks ‘what do you want?’ You never know that someone might just be your own genie offering you three wishes.
This article first appeared on Huna.org.