How to Find Out What You Really Want

When my stepson was a young boy just learning to read, he was riding in the car with his mom one day. As they passed a big box toy store, he jumped up in his seat and read out loud the words of the store’s big bright banner: “The new Lion King toys are here!”  

After he settled back into his seat and thought for a minute, he said to his mom, “That sign made me want those toys.” A very astute, self-aware observation!

Can you tell the difference between what you really want as opposed to what advertising (or your parents or others) want you to want? 

My stepson’s experience driving by the toy store predated the internet and social media which have now supercharged the power and influence of advertising. These days we aren’t always sure what we want. And in this new era of alternative facts, we aren’t sure who to believe as we try to evaluate what to want.

If we want to be aware of what we really want, as opposed to falling under various trances vying for our attention and dollars, first we need to disengage from the pull  of advertising, propaganda, and our childhood programming. 

How do we do this, when that pull is so strong?

If you sit silently with yourself for even five minutes on a daily basis, you will gradually regain the ability to sense your true desires arising on the inside.

After you simply sit in silence and settle a bit, you can ask “Who am I?” and ”What do I really want?” Then you can have a great time analyzing the roots of the answers you get. Are they coming from programming you’ve been exposed to all your life –– from parents, schools, movies, TV and social media? Or are those answers arising from your unique organic being, your authentic self?

This is a crucial daily practice for knowing what you really want. 

How you think about this practice will determine your experience with it. If you frame it as a “have to” or “should do” exercise, you probably won’t get very far. “Have to’s” and  “should do’s” are programs borrowed from others –– their motivations and desires, not yours! 

But what if you recognized that making the effort to become aware of what you really want is not “selfish” but self-honoring and self-encouraging? In that context you’ll probably feel motivated to continue to cultivate a growing clarity and sensitivity to your true interests. How else can you live your authentic life?

What do you do once you’ve accomplished the first step of becoming aware of what is true for you? The next step is to develop the courage to accept that truth when it seems to conflict with the old programming: “What will they think of me?”

Ironically, perhaps the biggest obstacle to self knowledge in this information age is that wisdom has become so memed and familiar that we think merely knowing about it is enough by itself. “I know I should sit with myself and connect inside, but…(excuse goes here).”

Note the “should”!

Nike and Yoda are right, “Just do it!” There is no try. Just start looking inside. Become more and more aware of your true desires and feelings. And then courageously declare them.

And here’s a valuable secret –– the more you do it, the better you feel! Good luck! 


When you accept your authentic self, you easily recognize what you genuinely like and dislike.

––Jack Elias & Ceci Miller

The Outrageous Guide to Being Fully Alive

Coming soon! Available April 2021