Two-bit Guru | Not Knowing What You Want | Photo of a Visioning Board

As often happens when I innocently write a post on any old subject, such as wanting, the idea gets a hold of me and, like a sand bur on flannel pajamas, it won’t let go. The ramifications of which have led me to this question: How do we know what we want in the first place? It’s likely that we don’t get what we “want” because in our heart of hearts we don’t really want the coveted doodad anyway. The universe kindly denies our spurious desire, saving room for what we do want, when we figure out what it is.

When I was a college student, for the first of four times, I lay awake in bed one night pondering what kind of life would I want? My possibilities circled around what major would I want, probably a limiting mistake. I considered becoming a mathematician (fairly skilled at math in my early years), or perhaps an artist, or perhaps major in English and become a novelist. Try as I might, I couldn’t come up with any palatable path, so I quit school. Quitting was wise. Going back the next three times wasn’t so wise, but then all our thoughts and choices conspire to bring us to exactly where we are in this moment, and the next moment and the next and the next. I wouldn’t be here now, typing (some may generously refer to this as writing) had I not made the decisions I made along the way.

Most of the time I haven’t known what I wanted. I’ve just poked at things and sampled them and either got hooked for a short or very long time, or moved on. I advise folks to not go at career planning with as feeble a scheme as I have done, basically waiting for the universe to whack me on the side of the head to get me on track.

It could be that everyone else has always known, and does always know, what they want, but I doubt it. I think most people want one, or two, or all of these three things:

  • What their neighbor has (sometimes including the neighbor’s spouse).
  • What their friends and relatives tell them they should have.
  • What the TV tells them they want to have, including headaches, a new car at tremendous savings, and a cure for restless leg syndrome.

Once you recognize this flaw in human wanting we might as well not want anything at all, and just live our lives until we get that thwack on our heads from the universe.