Can You Answer This Question?

RE: Self Autonomy Skills

Building a life filled with joy and great personal meaning can only happen when I answer this question honestly: “What Do I Want?”

Asking and answering the question has reshaped my life in big and little ways. It remains one of the all time favorite questions I use to pull myself out of a fog of indecision.

Often when I’m chatting with someone about the question, they say ‘It’s not that simple’ and I get it. Answering the question can be excruciating.

When I first started to ask the question in earnest about a decade ago, the answers frightened me. What I wanted and what I thought I could have were far apart in my mind. I worried about what other people would think. I was tangled up in competing interests. In all the years before I’d found my value in fitting into other people’s lives by being of service – which isn’t all bad – and isn’t all good.

When I thought what I wanted wouldn’t meet with approval, when I imagined feeling the weight of that disapproval coming down on me… suddenly I questioned what I wanted. My self protective ego stepped in to obfuscate, making it all fuzzy so that I would shrug and think ‘Well, I’m not sure what I want right now so I’ll just stick with the status quo.’

It was easier to let other people choose. It was more comfortable to make decisions that other people approved of. It felt temporarily validating to be agreed with – emphasis on temporary.

Looking back I was asking and answering a complicated version of the same question.

“What do I want that I think I can make work and get approval for and not be made fun ofor disrespected for and at the same time not risk the precious few important relationships and existing feelings of validation I have in my life?”

Believe it or not, that zentangle of a question worked for me in some weird ways.  It created SOME of what I wanted for myself and others. It met needs in SOME ways. It built SOME of the life I wanted.

I won’t feel bad or even criticize that version of myself for finding a way to make things work.  Considering my upbringing and the damage of my childhood, it’s a wonder I created anything at all of value in this world.

Knowing what I wanted and being willing to take bolder steps towards it, took internal work. I had to own my autonomy and this was deeply uncomfortable in the beginning. Heck, if I’m honest, it still is.

As Maya Angelou said, ‘When you know better, you do better.”

I know better today what I want. I’m better at answering the question for myself. I’m less wound up in the need for approval or validation and more willing to experience discomfort and criticism.

I create MORE of what I want for myself and others. I have built MORE of the life I want.

And I’ll keep leaning into the question 🥰

For More Inspiration:

Rita Wilson gave a want-provoking TedX talk about answering the question for herself.


Autonomy Skills

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  1. What do I want? I ask this all the time, I try to take the steps but others stop me in my tracks. No literally! I am not putting blame on others, It's when I try to connect with others- I tried so many different ways over the years but no one responds back, I have taken jobs and worked my butt off trying to help others, etc…but the connections were lost of never happened! When I was in the military, and I came home wanted to surprise my parents but others ruined my surprise when they called ahead and told my parents I was coming home- my superiors ruined my surprise! All I wanted was to surprise my parents for the holidays! I keep trying this blogging thing, my photography, my dog training, teaching, etc. but have no real support, no one suggests anything for me. No matter what I chose for myself no one thinks I have the ability to do what I want! I want to connect with others to get to the next point in life, but others don't connect back. I go up put my hand out and I get their back,,, What do I want, now? I want to work to be able to buy enough real estate right here to start my in-person animal rescue but not to rescue for the regular reasons! I want to rescue animals to create jobs for others and myself And help fellow veterans and seniors and those animals work together to be service teams, emotional support teams, and/or therapy animal teams. I want to be able to help my best friend and his daughter (my best friend from the Army)have a life of wanting nothing and being able to do whatever they want because of me- and of course my own Mom!

    Rita Wilson was inspiring- thank you for sharing that Ted Talk!…

    I want to do a TedTalk too!

  2. What an awesome post! And an equally awesome question. You described the conflict so well and boy, does it resonate with me. In fact, I still have that internal conflict and will be grappling with it as I contemplate what I want.

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