Are you doing what you want

“The hardest thing is not doing what you want – it’s knowing what you want”…I am currently reading ‘The Almanack of Naval Ravikant’ and it is filled with many such pearls of wisdom. This particular idea jumped off the page and has stayed with me. It is not easy to know myself. To know what I want is about clarity of purpose. Doing what I want is about having the courage to act on that knowledge. It is not just the big “Why am I here?” that needs answering. Without a doubt, that is a central question, but many small everyday matters also ask of me… “Do you know what you want Nikhil?” For instance – Do I want to wear a mask?

I started wearing one like everybody else, out of fear. For survival, to protect me and my family. Today there seems to be no clear view of what the right thing to do is when it comes to masking up. Depending on who I chose to listen to, I can build a strong case for the masked and the unmasked. In that sense, it comes down to what I want to tell myself.

We are meaning machines. What meanings I chose to give events and incidents are up to me. I can choose the mean path or the meaningful path. I get to give everything that happens to me a story – maybe I decide it’s going to be a mean one or maybe I make it a meaningful one. I got Covid for the second time. Lots of people laughed at me and said “what’s the point of you wearing a mask all the time? … For someone who wears a mask all the time, you sure get a lot of Covid…. See we told you it’s not worth it to wear a mask, there is no escaping the virus…” Storyline #1: Masks are useless. “I took so much care and it made no difference… What did I do wrong to deserve this? It’s so unfair…”

Storyline #2: Masks are wonderful. “I am so glad I wore my mask in the office every day. I hopefully did not infect anybody. Masks are uncomfortable but wearing one is such a small price to pay for keeping my colleagues safe….who knows if it works but I need to do my bit…” Once I decide which meaning to attribute to this episode, I then know what I want to do. Keep wearing one all the time, stop wearing it all together, wear it in crowded places or wear it only when I feel I may be a risk to others.

Onto bigger stories now. “What is the meaning of my life?” This is the epic struggle, to find meaning and answer the question “why am I here?” The epic of my life is a story I tell myself. Once I have found the story, the chapters somehow write themselves.

Knowing what I want gives me superpowers. What is my life purpose? The heart knows what the heart wants. The head has an important role to play too. If you are lucky, you get to look deep within and find answers by listening to both head and heart. To look at me with honesty and compassion. And find the answer to “who am I?” “What makes me happy?” “What is my life purpose?” And then dance to that tune. Not coloured or conditioned by others, just by listening to oneself. This allows each of us to shine in our unique way. Getting these answers comes from asking the right questions. “Know thyself…” and many versions of this have been passed down as wisdom from those who have walked these roads before us. Doing what you want begins with knowing what you want. 

For big questions or small questions, the same rule applies. The stories we tell ourselves, define what we do. Do I want to wear a mask? Is it the right thing to do? Will doing what I want, hurt others? Do I want to WFH or go to an office every day? Do I want to eat what makes me happy or what makes me healthy? Are they not both the same? What do I want? Do I know what I want from life? Do you? What is your story? The doing follows…

The views and opinions published here belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of the publisher.

Nikhil Dey
Nikhil Dey is Executive Director, Adfactors PR.

A trusted coaching and communications professional, Nikhil Dey is a certified life and leadership coach (International Coach Federation - ICF). Nurturing talent and helping clients achieve their goals is what makes him happy. He loves learning from students of communication, teaching courses and guest lecturing at various educational institutions. When he is not working you will find him on the tennis court or out for long walks with his family and four legged friends.

Previously he has held senior leadership positions at Weber Shandwick and Genesis BCW.

He can be reached on twitter @deydreaming

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