What Do You Want
The Only Question You Need to Answer
So far in my journey of self-development, I’ve realized that everything ultimately boils down to one question: What do you want? 🪄
This question is harder to answer than it sounds. For life is an original pursuit. It doesn’t have a playbook 📖; it doesn’t have one right answer; instead, “the” right answer is the extent to which you can craft your life, originally. And this is hard, because, to craft your life, you have to be ridiculously self-aware and brutally honest with yourself 😇.
Say you can answer this big question of ‘what do you want’. Yet, chances are your answer is either 90% honest or 100% layered. Let’s unpack this.
You may say you want X for reason Y, but what you may really want is to use X as a method to optimize for Z. Consider money 💴. Say, you’ve optimized for money all your life. But soon, you realize that beyond a point, you don’t really do things for money. Instead, you use money for optimizing your social status 👑.
This becomes problematic for reasons we’ll discover below.
The core issue is this: Suddenly, after many years, now that you’ve accomplished what you wanted (eg money), your ‘value pyramid’ has changed. ‘Money’ at the top is now replaced with ‘status’. And the problem begins when this change in the value pyramid happens. We trigger the Hedonic Treadmill, as we continue to run aimlessly 🏃♀️, constantly shifting our self-narrative of what we truly want. Aristotle put it eloquently when he talked about the ‘final cause’ of things ie “the end, that for the sake of which a thing is done”.
Frankly, I’ve tried answering this question. It’s hard, not because I don’t know what I want, but because it’s difficult to develop a strong conviction about the one thing I definitely want. This is not to say you can’t change your mind; of course, you can. This is to say, how do you convincingly begin to set sail to the West ⛵️(like the Vikings did), not knowing whether you’ll discover land 🏔?
So, it’s not as much as question of what you want, but a question of conviction in what you want. Which is why, the one trait that distinguishes massive value-creators (eg entrepreneurs, inventors, heads of state) from the rest is their degree of conviction. (I posted a thread on borrowed convictions a few weeks ago.)
Yes, you still need to have ‘strong convictions weakly held’ so you can be nimble-footed. But having strong convictions is difficult, because they strictly define conditions for failure 📉, give clarity on metrics, and are efficient forcing-functions for taking action.
So, the next time you read an insightful blog post or hear a podcast or read a book on sorting out life, I suggest begin answering this simple question first and doing some inner work. The originality and authenticity of this exercise will be more fruitful than the borrowed convictions of others.
Until next time,
📚 Our Commonplace Book
This week, I’m sharing with you my notes from a book I recently read: Tempo by Venkatesh Rao. See my notes here.