3 Steps to Figuring Out What You Really Want (and why that’s important!)

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Life can get REALLY complicated and frustrating if you don’t know what you want. An important key to simplifying your life is figuring out what you want. When I am clear about what I want out of life and what my goals are it is much easier to go after them and life is much more manageable. But many of us go through life with only vague ideas of what we really want. 

Do any of these sound familiar? “I want to be happy.” “I want to be healthy.”  “I want my kids to be happy & healthy.” “I want to be rich.” “I want to be successful.” 

All these are great and understandable desires to have and I want you and I to have all of that. But if you don’t get a little bit more specific about what you want then it’s going to be hard for you to achieve it.

Plus, you may spend a lot of time just being blown around by this sudden desire or that latest fad and not ever really focusing on getting what you actually want. 

It’d be nice if happiness were just dropped in our laps. But I think we’ve all reached a point in our lives where we know that if we want something we have to put a little effort into getting it. Being clear on what you want from life is the first step to getting it.  

BONUS HELP! If your life is so busy right now that you feel like you don’t even have time tof focus on what you want AT ALL, at the bottom of this post I have a FREE super practical action plan that will help with that!

Step One: List your top 10 wants  

Before you read another sentence, go ahead and get a piece of paper and a pencil and write down your top 10 wants.   I won’t call these goals at this point because people sometimes freeze up when they talk about “goals.” We’ll just focus on what you want. 

Got it done? Good.  

Now it’s time to hone that list a little bit.  

First, let’s distinguish between what you really want and what you think you should want. Cross the things off the list that are there because those nagging voices in your head (is that you mom?  jk) or society say you should want this (promotion at work, getting elected to chair a committee because it will look good on your resume, etc.).

Whatever is on there because it’s what’s expected or because it’s a “have to” needs to go. No “have-tos” on this list! This is a list of what you want. Don’t worry if it feels selfish not to be thinking about your family or others as you write out this list. Taking a little time for yourself to figure out what you want will help everyone in the family in the long run.   

Got all the “should wants” off the list? Great!  

Now take off any items that aren’t actionable.

In other words, if you want world peace, ( and believe me I’m all for that) but you don’t have any specific intention to work towards making world peace happen right now, then move that over to a list you’ll create called general wants. You’re not letting that desire go, you’re just moving it over to another spot for now.   

Lastly, look at your list and see if any of your “wants” aren’t really in your jurisdiction, so to speak.  For example, if you want your daughter to become a doctor, well that’s really not something you can control unless you are currently in the process of helping her get admitted to the right college or enrolled in the right courses so she can eventually become a doctor.

If so, then make that “want” a little more specific on your list so that it is focused on what’s actually in your control. But mostly your daughter becoming a doctor is up to her so that’s not in your jurisdiction. It’s best to focus on things that we can control in our lives.   



If we focus on things outside our control then we will likely end up with a lot of frustration.

Say you want to be 5’10” tall so you can be a Rockette and you’re 5’3″ tall. Well, that’s not really something in your control either. (Rockettes need to be between 5’6″ and 5’10 1/2″ tall not counting the high heels just in case you ever wondered.) If you would give anything to speak to your best friend who passed away, that’s also not really something you can control.

So those types of things should be moved to another list which I call my “if a genie granted me 3 wishes” list. The things on this list are still things you want, still part of what your heart feels, but not something we are going focus on for this exercise.  

Now fill in any spots that opened up because they were not really your wants, or because they moved over to the general desires list, or because they weren’t in your jurisdiction, or because they moved to the “wishes” list.    

You should have a total of 10 wants.  

Take a last quick review of your list and be sure that everything on there is something you really want, not a general desire you have no intention of working on at this time, not something out of your jurisdiction and not a “wish” that you can’t do anything about.   

All set?   

Yaayyy! Now we are getting somewhere.   

Step 2: Get specific about what you want   

Look over your list and see if any of the items are kind of vague. For example, if you have that you want to be financially secure on your list, that’s a great desire. But how will you know when you’ve achieved that? Would $250,000 in your retirement fund make you feel financially secure? Would having your house paid for make you feel financially secure? What qualifies as “financially secure” to you?

One person might feel like everything is fine if they can pay all their bills each month and have $200 left over to put into savings. Another person might have $1,000,000 in their retirement fund and still not feel financially secure. So setting down specifics can be really helpful here.

If you say you want to write a successful book, how many copies would it have to sell? How much money would you have to make from it for you to consider it successful? When you say you want to get more fit, does that mean being able to run 5 miles or 20 miles? Or maybe it means being able to swim a certain number of laps.

If you make your “wants” more specific you’ll know when you have achieved them and you’ll be better able to chart a course for getting there.    

Live Like a Queen on your 9-5 Pay! Book cover and description.


Step 3: Prioritize what you want  

I’m not going to say you can’t have everything you want. Because it might be possible to have everything you want.  I haven’t ruled that out. Especially if what you want is stuff that’s basically in your control. I think it’s just really tough to have everything you want all at the same time.

For example, I’d love to stay up really late reading this great book I’m in the middle of. But I’d also like to be able to wake up and get to work on time because I’ve got an important meeting tomorrow morning. It’s hard to have both those things at once. But I may be able to have them in sequence.

For example, tonight I’ll get to bed at a reasonable hour so I can be at my best at that meeting. But on Friday night, look out honey…I’ve got a late-night date with this book!  (Which shows you what kind of an exciting party girl I am! LOL)

Prioritizing your wants is key if two or more things seem to conflict. Here is a more serious example of what I mean. You may have a priority of staying home with your children until they are a certain age and homeschooling them. But you also may want to finish your law degree and open your own practice. You may need to put one of these “wants” off while you do the other. Or you may find a way to accomplish both at the same time.   

Number the wants on your list from 1 to 10

with 1 being the most important to you and 10 being the least important. That sounds easy, but it might take a little time and thought, so don’t rush through this. You may want to come back to your list in a couple of hours to add something or remove something. It’s O.K. if you end up with more than 10 wants or renumber things. That’s fine. 

Once you feel that you’ve got your wants prioritized, go ahead and rewrite your list so the thing you want the most is on top and the rest are listed in order of priority under that.   

Congratulations, now you know the top 10 things you want in life. (As far as things that are in your control and things you can do something about!) Your wants are also somewhat quantified. This way you will know when you’ve achieved them and you can start to figure out action steps to get there. (The really fun part! But that’s another post).  

With this list you also have some important guidance to help you as you work on simplifying your life.  If you’re cleaning out your basement or your closet, for example, consider your top 10 wants.

It’s often a lot easier to figure out what you want to keep and what you want to let go of when you have your “bigger life picture” in mind.  By keeping this list in mind you’ll be able to figure out what “the basics” in life are for you. That’s a terrific way to help you achieve your style of simplicity. 

Speaking of style and simplicity, want to learn how to simplify your wardrobe and figure out your style? Check out 4 Steps to a Simplified Wardrobe and a Closet Full of Clothes You Love!

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P.S. If you’d like to start simplifying your life so you have more time and energy to go after your dreams this FREE Seven Days of Simplicity Action Plan can help!


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