Struggling To Figure Out What You Want? Use These Four Steps.

You probably know, that in order to create a successful life, clarity is essential. If you don’t know what you want then how can you even figure out what it is you need to do? As important as that is, for many visualising the future they want to create isn’t easy.

I’ve been there too when I didn’t have a clear picture of what I wanted. No matter how many times I closed my eyes, it didn’t materialise. It was so much easier to describe the things I didn’t want, the things I wanted to get away from, the things I wanted to eliminate from my life.

Back then I used to think that perhaps I just wasn’t wired that way, maybe I was just one of those people with no vision. So I focused instead on the here and now, making the best decisions I could and hoping that somehow they would lead to the right destination. Talk about a wish and a prayer right?

Until I came across a book about Neuro-Linguistic Programming. NLP, as it is called, describes the fundamental interactions between the mind, its language and how the two affect our behaviour. It promotes the idea that not only do thoughts vary from person to person but the way our brain processes those thoughts is different too.

These mental programs, as they are referred to, act as filters over our experiences, directing our thoughts and actions. I learned that a number of mental programs exist, influencing our lives every day.

‘What does NLP have to do with finding clarity,’ I hear you ask.

Well, it was after learning about one of these mental programs and using that knowledge that my life began to change. I went from feeling like I was stumbling around in the dark to being able to articulate what I wanted. I finally had a compelling, exciting vision of the future pulling me forward.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. Getting there took time and practice but it all started with understanding my motivation.

What motivates you?

NLP describes a core mental program that helps you to understand what motivates you and how you can leverage that knowledge to get what you want. In simple terms, it identifies your source of motivation. Are you primarily motivated by goals you want to achieve or by problems you want to solve or avoid?

Toward thinking

A person with toward thinking is goal-focused and motivated by achievement, she is good at clarifying and visualising what she wants.

Imagine Charlotte, a young woman with a goal of being slim. She uses a picture of what she wants to look like, to drive her on.

Away-from thinking

An away-from thinker’s motivation comes from having a problem or issue to solve or in some cases avoid.

Carol in contrast to Charlotte is determined not to be fat. In her mind she carries an image of the overweight person she doesn’t want to be.

Whether you’re a toward thinker like Charlotte or an away-from thinker like Carol the desired outcome is the same, as is the result; you lose weight. Carol and Charlotte both achieve what they want although the mental process engaged in getting there was different.

The penny dropped for me. I realised that in a lot of areas in my life I was an away-from thinker. I would often focus on the things that needed to be fixed, solved or avoided first. Did that mean I was just a negative person and needed to fix myself? The other revelation was that one way wasn’t better than the other, it was just how thoughts were processed. The important thing was using what worked to get the desired results.

That eye-opener came many years ago and I continue to use it today. Once I understood how my mind worked in certain scenarios I was able to harness that knowledge to bring clarity.

I was able to use what I didn’t want in my life to figure out what I did.

If you struggle to see a picture of your future maybe it’s an approach that can work for you too. It takes 4 simple steps.

  1. Choose an area of your life you want to improve and identify the things you hate and want to eliminate, the problems you want to solve, the things you want to move away from.
  2. Now ask yourself why. Why do you want to get rid of them, solve them or distance yourself from them?
  3. What do you want to replace them with, what different experience do you want to have? Ask yourself:
    • If I remove this from my life what do I want coming in instead?
    • If I stop doing this one thing, what do I want to do in place of it?
    • If I fix this one issue in my life how do I see it working going forward?
  4. Use the answers to begin creating a picture. As you explore the answers more deeply you will be able to add more detail. Little by little, a clearer vision of the future you want emerges.

There is more than one path to clarity

As the saying goes:‘There’s more than one way to skin a cat.’ and I’ve found that to be true in many areas of my life. If you’re struggling to create a vision and find it impossible to articulate what you want, don’t let that hold you back. Start instead with what you don’t want and let it guide you to the answers you seek. Follow these four steps and watch how the vision of your future that seemed so elusive before slowly come into focus.


Now over to you.

Have you struggled to figure out what you want?

Could you use what you don’t want as a starting point?

Let me know in the comments

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