When I was around 12 years old, my dad came home from work and announced over dinner that he wanted the whole family to take some time over the course of the following week to make a Want List. My siblings and I were pretty used to laughing at my dad, so this announcement roused a series of giggles. But we could tell by his response he was serious. Really serious.
"I want you to write down anything you want to have or do in your life. It could be something you want right now, it could be something you might want a long way in the future." He gave the example that my older sister could begin to think about and write down what colleges she might want to go to. This prompted me to ask, "do I have to do this too?"
"Yes" was the reply. I remember feeling like it was a really important assignment. He talked about it a lot over the next week, reminding us to write down anything, big or small, that WE wanted. Adding excitement to the fact that I was included in this grown-up feeling assignment was the concept that we were not going to show our Want Lists to anyone unless we chose to. How freeing that was!
I tentatively began my list.
1. Long hair
I glanced around my rainbow bedroom, got up and shut the door, then came back and wrote in very light pencil:
2. A boyfriend
I'm happy to tell you that the list ended up also including slightly more sophisticated line items, such as:
7. Go to Australia and Costa Rica
12. Go to college and help people
15. Get married
Over the years, I've thought about my original Want List and marveled at the prescience of my 12-year-old self. So many of the wants became reality. What was so special about writing them down that made them come true?
When we ask ourselves, privately and frankly, what do you really want? we are peeling back to the core of what drives us. I've updated my Want List about three times since age 12, usually when the road ahead was murky and I desired direction. Each time, writing down my wants has helped me focus my efforts and achieve goals. From a list in my late twenties:
4. Go to Graduate School
8. Have children
and then in my mid 30's:
2. Try not to mess up the kids
3. Sleep through the night
I have heard of people whose own answers actually came as a surprise when someone asked them, what do you really want? In fact, this happened to me. One day when my kids were 1 and 3, I was sitting with a group of other moms of young children. The theme of our chatter was the age old dilemma of how difficult it is to balance working and parenting. As part of the discourse, one of the women asked "what would your dream job be?"
I answered, "I'm realizing I actually really enjoy being alone sometimes. I'd like to have a little quiet desk near a window and write books for children, maybe some books that could help with specific speech therapy goals."
I had never expressed that idea so specifically before. And I came home and wrote it down. Now, 7 years later, I'm writing those kind of stories, among others, from that very "quiet desk" I had pictured so clearly. It may not happen overnight, but anything is possible, once you know what you want!
Good luck to you as you explore your goals, dreams, and desires. Think about what you really want, take out a pen, and WRITE IT DOWN. Oh, and thanks, Dad.
What would your dream job be? Are you living it?