What do you want to do?
The question is so simple yet it strikes fear into the hearts of millennials everywhere. When I ask someone around my age (mid-twenties) this and they respond with, “I don’t know” or “There are just so many things I am interested in” I often want to take these people by both shoulders and say, “You know what you want to do. You can tell me. It’s OK.”
The fear of admitting your goals and dreams to others and even to yourself held me back for years. I didn’t want to admit to anyone what I secretly deep down wanted to do with my life. I held it so far down that I almost didn’t even know it was there. I kept it even from myself. And I think I am not alone. I think there are many of us out there using “I don’t know what I want to do” as an excuse because admitting what you want means you could fail. Even worse, you could fail publicly.
I guess what I never realized is that when people asked me, “What do you want to do?” They weren’t asking to judge me, they were asking because they wanted to help me achieve my goals. When I realized that, the whole world opened up.
Discover your core ideology
What I often tell friends who ask about what they should do with their lives I say, “You already know.” If you can take anything away from this post please take this: You may already know exactly what you want you just haven’t admitted it to yourself.
Ask yourself some questions to help get to the bottom of it. One way is this old trick business leaders use to get to the core ideology of their business:
Identify the things you like to do. I mean really enjoy doing. Something that you would do today and 50 years down the road and you would continue to do even if the world penalized you for doing it. I mean you LOVE doing this thing. It could be as simple as the joy you get in driving or scheduling a calendar. Then ask yourself why 5 times.
I really love to make videos.
I like creating things.
I like to watch people enjoy what I created.
Because I think it can benefit their lives in some way. To hear what I have to share.
Bingo. And that time it only took 3 whys. So at your core you are saying, “ I want to create things (in this case video) to benefit the lives of others.”
Now you can use this statement to guide you. You know you love to create video and you now you know why. When someone asks you what you want to do, you have your answer right there. And the best part is that when you can admit that to yourself and others, they can help you achieve your goals.
Tell someone. Tell 10 more people.
This step is so simple yet it is the pivotal moment. You have to actually tell someone. This is when you will break out of your head and your core ideology is given new life. It will no longer only exist in your own head where you can keep it safe.
This is the risky part. If it doesn’t feel like you are exposing a deeply personal part of yourself to the world, than you probably haven’t identified your truly core ideology. Go back to step 1 and really be honest with yourself.
It took me years to admit this even to my girlfriend. I thought she would think it’s silly that not only did I want to start my own company that worked for nonprofits. She didn’t laugh. She bought me books and connected me to her friends who work in nonprofits who I never even knew she had.
The crazy thing about admitting what you want to other people is that now all these people can help you get what you want. They join your team and you are no longer alone in your own head
Find a Dream Bully
My girlfriend calls me a Dream Bully because sometimes when I meet new people I ask about their dreams. Everytime I see them afterward I ask about their dream and what they are working on. I become a force for accountability. I really don’t even mean to.
So find yourself some Dream Bullies. You will need them when your inner doubts get the better of you. There will be times when you will think, “I’m not cut out for this. I can’t become what it is I want to become. I am going to fail and everyone is going to find out what a failure I really am! I should have never told anyone what my dream is!” This happens to everyone. Literally every successful person who you see as a role model has these thoughts on a regular basis.
If you have admitted your dream to others and they are holding you accountable, they will force you to keep moving forward.
Sometimes you need people to drag you kicking and screaming to realize your own dreams. It happens to the best of us. We are often terrified of trying to achieve our own goals.
Put your dream to work
The trick is now repeating this process. Create short term tangible goals for yourself that will help you get to your dream. I wanted to create a business that worked for environmental nonprofits. First step? I had to get connected with people in the industry and make some videos as examples of my work.
I told 10 more people about this specific goal. Now they were able to connect me to people they knew. Now 20-30 people knew about my goal and they introduced me to possible clients. And they held me accountable to make it happen. They asked about it each time they saw me. I was forced to pursue my dream. I couldn’t hide any longer.
It seems almost silly simple but if you don’t take those first steps of admitting what you want to yourself, spreading the word and finding dream bullies, than you will be forever stuck in the world of “I don’t know what I want.” If this is your go to answer than NO ONE can help you. You are pretty much saying I am going to achieve my dreams on my own (in my head) and don’t need anyone’s help. And everyone can use help reaching their dreams. I know I did.
1. Identify who you are.
2. Admit what you want to yourself.
3. Tell someone. Then tell 10 more people.
4. Find some Dream Bullies.
5. Hold yourself accountable.
Live in the grey.
I love the “why” process that helps peel away the layers of indecision. Great article Thanks!
Awesome article Ben! Your points struck a cord with me and I like that you narrowed things down with questions. It’s so simple, yet so few of us can really admit what we REALLY want to do. I’m sharing this with some friends who can become my Dream Bullies
I love this post. So inspiring yet so simple! Thank you for writing!
Great article, Ben. However, it’s not only for millennials. I’m nearly old enough to be your mom, and I still don’t know what I want to do when I grow up…this time.
Great article, I like the point about telling people. That’s when it get’s real!
Oh my this is exactly what I needed. As other commenters have mentioned, accountability is key. And being an introvert, that’s where I’ve always struggled since I tend to operate in a small circle of family and friends. But it’s true that most people need help realizing their dreams- now to find me some Dream Bullies!
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