Why it’s OK to say ‘I don’t know what I want’
“I just don’t know what I want” is something many of my clients say when they first come to see me.
But then, quite quickly, it becomes clear that they DO have some idea what they want – even if that’s sometimes framed in terms of knowing what they don’t want!
What often turns out to be hiding underneath that phrase is actually a fear of making a choice.
I don’t want to make the wrong choice
In particular the fear that many people have around making choices tends to be about making the ‘wrong’ choice.
Sometimes it can feel confusing to have choices.
But having choice helps us feel safe (imagine discovering the door to the room you’re in right now was locked, and you could no longer choose to leave). It also ensures the decisions we make can be fully consenting (how many times have you had no choice in being hugged?)
So how do you avoid making the ‘wrong’ choice?
Here’s the first of my tips to remember when you find yourself in a situation thinking ‘I don’t know what I want’:
Once you make a choice, even if you then decide it’s not working out for you, you can make another choice.
What’s important is that you make your choice based on something you truly want for yourself (or something you’re genuinely willing to do for someone else).
Getting what you want
Why so much focus on getting what you want?
Getting what you want is important for wellbeing. According to William Glasser’s Choice Theory “getting what you want ultimately satisfies one or more of your five basic needs, which provides the motivation for all you do”.
Similarly the Wheel Of Consent – the essential life-skill which I teach – can help you in your relationships by getting clearer about what you want when you’re interacting with others.
But if it’s so important to know what you want, why on earth am I saying it’s OK if you don’t know what you want?
Well, that brings me to the second of my tips (which is actually kinda the same as the first):
You can change your mind.
Changing your mind
Ask yourself how many of the opinions you held passionately when you were a teenager would you still admit to now?
Change is a constant (indeed unchanging) part of life. We learn, we grow, new data comes along to update our views and desires. We are constantly changing our minds as we re-evaluate how things change around us.
But our culture doesn’t tend to encourage changing your mind safely out loud – from politics to passion changing your mind is often judged as showing weakness.
If you’re strong you should know exactly what you want at all times, right?
Actually yes – that’s absolutely right!
Because far from being a sign of weakness, when you change your mind what you’re communicating is that you’re figuring out – moment to moment – what’s really important to you, and you’re not afraid to do something about it.
And that makes you more trustworthy.
Trust and choice are crucial elements in helping to create the agreements that underpin healthy, consenting relationships and interactions.
Being able to change your mind, and re-negotiate those agreements is equally important.
That’s something we often forget.
Why it’s OK to say ‘I don’t know what I want’
Saying ‘I don’t know what I want’ doesn’t mean you’re weak.
And changing your mind doesn’t mean you made the ‘wrong’ choice previously.
Think about it: who would you rather be with – someone who sticks with a decision from the past even though it isn’t serving them any more, or someone who changes what’s no longer working?
When you don’t know what you want, think of it as your body’s way of helping you out…
It might be an indicator that
- You need more information before you can make your choice safely.
- You need to slow down so you can properly notice, trust, or value your impulses in order to communicate them.
So the more you can create safety by truly feeling you have choice, and the more you give yourself permission to change your mind, the more likely it is that you’ll find yourself saying ‘actually, I DO know what I want!’
One more tip about choice: When choosing something you’re unsure about try following the ‘pull toward’ something, rather than the ‘push away’ from it.
Find out more about coaching with me to help you improve your relationship with choice and change
Image by Creativeart / Freepik
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