Upon leaving Hawai’i in June 2011, my yoga instructor asked me to make three lists. The first list of what I want in a man; the second list of what I want out of (my) life; and the third list of what I want to learn.
As I reflected on my past and pondered about my future, I finally completed my lists and proudly emailed her my PDF document: List #1: <50 items; List #2: 20 items; List #3: 15 items. This was her response to me:
“Well, I must admit you did way better with that than anyone before. It appears that you have things well thought out. Personally I believe that all that you asked for was reasonable or shall we say fair, but since when has love and life been fair? Now print them and keep them with you… and for the sake of the process shorten your man list to 25!”
Your protest to me (besides the obvious ‘Your man list consists of 40+ items?!’):
“Lew, I don’t know about all this list-making. That may work for you, but it doesn’t work for me. I’m not a planner, never have been, never will be.” Okay, that’s fine, I get it. I understand not everyone is a super detail-oriented, planner/lister, control freak, crazy person like me.
But here’s why knowing what you want is extremely important: Having a clear vision for your life points you in the right direction.
- If you don’t know what you want, how do you know where you’re going?
- If you don’t know where you’re going, how do you know what steps to take to get to wherever it is you’re supposed to be going?
If you don’t know what you want, the result is wandering around in life aimlessly and listlessly (no pun intended, well maybe slight pun intended… LOL) and existing without purpose.
Which then warrants this…
That was my daily expression to my former students after they strolled in late or their pants sagged below their butts or they ‘forgot’ to do their homework or attempted to hook me up with their fathers, siblings, and/or cousins. (True story.)
My point: KNOWING WHAT YOU WANT PUTS YOU ON THE RIGHT TRACK TO GET WHAT YOU WANT.
Here are a few personal examples from my life (as well as some from my friends’ lives):
In high school I knew I wanted to get into the best college / program possible. Senior year, I took 6 AP classes, held leadership positions in various clubs, and worked on my art portfolio in my spare time, sacrificing my HS experience for the promise of a better future. I finished at the top of my class, and I got into UT Austin’s business school.
No surprise, I wanted more - I needed to get into the Business Honors Program. Why? Because BHP students get offered the best positions from recruiters upon graduation. (And because the Business Honors Program is ‘exclusive. And fun. And leads to a better life’.) The only problem was that transferring into the BHP was extremely difficult. In 2005, the year prior to me applying as a sophomore admit, only 1 out of every 4 to 5 students was accepted out of a very competitive applicant pool. The average admitted GPA was above a 3.9, which meant that you could only get one B your freshman year.
As the second semester of my freshman year rolled around, I knew I had already made a B in a meaningless (fake) biology class (the difference between my A and B was ONE test question!), so I couldn’t afford another B on my record. Yet I was dangerously close to getting a B in math (which I ironically taught for two years). But the questions were tricky, and I needed a perfect 100 on my final exam to get an A in the class and a 4.0 for the semester.
What did I do? I decided to somehow make the impossible possible. (If Ethan Hunt could, why couldn’t I? I should send him my contact information - maybe the IMF will recruit me.) Here’s what I did (rocket science, I know):
- I sat in the front.
- I went to every single lecture.
- I answered all the questions in class (despite my classmates’ annoyance).
- I did all the homework problems.
- I asked classmates for help (…well, the ones who didn’t hate me).
- I went to office hours to verify all the answers and made it known to the professor that I needed an A in her class to get into the Business Honors Program.
- I also told my academic adviser about my huge interest to get into the Business Honors Program. (Little did I know that he told my former BHP adviser about me.)
I remember several weekend nights, while everyone was partying, I holed myself up in the business school study rooms (like a loser) redoing every. damn. question. In the end, my determination and hard work paid off. I got exactly what I needed on the exam to get an A in the class. I got a 4.0 for the semester and finished with a magical 3.9+ for the year.
Oh, and I got into the Business Honors Program.
So what’s the point of this story? Knowing what you want directs your actions; therefore, you will take all the necessary steps to be where you want to be or go where you want to go. But the first steps are knowing what you want and knowing why what you want is important to you.
But enough about me - meet a few of my friends! (They’re real people, just like you! They’re pretty awesome-tastic, too!)
I met one of my best guy friends while we were both Resident Assistants in college. He had always wandered around with no real direction or ambition. After college, however, he finally figured out what he wanted to do with his life. He wants to hold a political office one day. Thus, he joined the military to gain invaluable experience and network with colleagues, and he’s going to use his educational award to attend law school, both of which will give him the perfect background for political office to institute change in public policy.
I have a good girl friend with whom I studied abroad and traveled around Europe with, who got promoted a year early at a big four accounting firm because, of course, she’s a baller - duh! She’s always had a passion for traveling, meeting people, and experiencing new things. By the time she’s 30, she wants to live and work in Australia for a few years. She has been offered a job in London, but she turned it down, and is waiting for an opportunity to go to Sydney. In the meantime, she’s ‘kicking ass and taking names.’ (And dreaming about a hot Australian surfer…)
One of my good guy friends is aspiring to be the best father he can be, doing all of the opposite things he saw growing up as a child. He makes all of his decisions based on his goal. If it helps him further his goal he does it, and if it doesn’t, he doesn’t do it. Because he also wants a great family, he’s also extremely selective about the girl(s) he dates. (Yes, ladies, he’s single. But I warn you, his list is almost as extensive as mine!)
Another one of my good girl friends knew that she wanted to help the less privileged ‘on the front line,’ so to speak. She spent a year doing Americorps’ Habitat For Humanity - what she would describe as ‘character building’ - and from that experience, landed her dream job at TOMS Shoes. She deals with NGOs and travels to South America, Asia, and Africa on a regular basis helping put shoes on children who would have gotten sick without them.
My cutie wanted to buy / own property sometime in his mid-20s. Growing up, his mother was never able to afford a house for him and his brother. He told me a couple of weeks ago that he bought a condo, and he’s now renovating it. (Apparently toilets are ludicrously expensive!)
My last example is of my dear high school friend. She always knew she wanted to go to medical school, but along the way, she experienced setbacks. She decided to go to grad school and work at a children’s summer program to add more experience to her resume. Even though she started a few years later than originally planned, she’s now in medical school with a scholarship. Now she can continue to help people (and hopefully deliver my baby when the time comes)!
Just about everything you do should be to accomplish some greater goal, so that you don’t drift through life existing instead of really living out your dreams.
Knowing what you want helps you focus on where to go and how to get there.
Spend some time thinking about what you really want and why it’s important because in my next post, I’ll show you how to get what you want* through effective goal-setting.
*Next up: filling that empty space with HOW to get what you want once you KNOW.