What If You Don’t Know What You Want?

By Jane Mountain | February 11, 2015

Last week, I wrote about The 3 Steps To Turn “I Want” Into “I Will”. That’s all very well if you have a particular goal in mind, but what if you don’t know what the heck you want? What if, when you close your eyes to dream about the future, you just see a big blank void?

Trust me, I know how you feel.

Trying to decide, when you're 19, or 25 (or even 45 for Pete's sake) what you want to do with the rest of your life seems crazy. No one is the same in their 5th decade as they are in their 2nd, and no one can predict what they're going to want 10 years from now.   It's hard to spread your wings and fly if you can't see anything in the distance to fly towards.

Focus On What You Don’t Want

Even people who don’t really know what they want can usually figure out what they don’t want . So make a list. Don’t think too hard, just scribble it down.

It might look something like this:

I don’t want to:

  • spend 40 hours each week under fluorescent office lights
  • use up the best years of my life making money for someone else
  • spend every weekend hanging out in dive bars with my friends
  • be weighed down by my possessions
  • grow old gracefully

OK, now it’s your turn. Grab a pen and some paper and take 30 seconds to write.

Don’t Work For Your Don’t Wants

Now that you have your list, take a good hard look at your life.

Are you expending energy, time, and money accomplishing the things you don’t want?

  • Are you working your way up some career ladder that will only lead to being trapped in a bigger office with more windows (and more stress)?
  • Are you planning bar nights with your friends this weekend, even though you secretly hate it?
  • Are you going shopping, just because?

Most people spend at least some time absentmindedly working towards things they don’t even want. How ludicrous is that?

What Are You Gonna Do About It?

You don’t have to crash impressively out of your life in a blaze of glory, dropping everything at once in spectacular mid-life-crisis fashion. That’s a pretty scary way to go about changing things.

(Although it can be fun, too).

Instead, choose a single thing from your list. Yup, just one thing, maybe one of the less significant ones for now, and JUST STOP DOING IT.

Right now. Just stop it.

(I’m going to write about How To Quit Your Job very soon, so you might want to wait a little while before putting your job on the chopping block. Then again, if it’s really unbearable, don’t let me stop you!)

If you’re anything like me, getting rid of the crap in your life will feel so good, you just won’t be able to stop.

Every time you eliminate another unwanted thing, you’ll have a little more room and a little more time to see the things you do want.

And one day, when you close your eyes to dream about the future, there it will be, glimmering off in the distance, something amazing to fly towards.  

What If You Don't Know What You Want?

If this post got you thinking, please share it.


  1. Comment by Ariel

    Ariel February 12, 2015 at 12:34 pm

    Very much looking forward to “How to Quit Your Job.”

    • Comment by Jane

      Jane February 17, 2015 at 6:16 pm

      Working on it now!

  2. Comment by Kimberly

    Kimberly February 12, 2015 at 4:43 am

    Thank YOU Jane for this (great series by the way since I seem to be at the career vs passion vs household income junction in my 10th decade). I spend my days under office lights and it’s killing my health and breaking my spirit. So many friends, and my partner too, tell me to take the leap and do indie consulting/food system work along with expanding our cottage soap making business. It would be a huge leap for me for so many reasons, most of which are entrenched in the safety that a traditional “job” brings to financial predictability. I think I know what I really want to do, but am paralyzed at putting it into motion. I look forward to your next posts!

    • Comment by Jane

      Jane February 12, 2015 at 9:19 am

      I’m so glad you’re liking this, Kimberley. I was in your shoes for so many years, and I completely understand. Being in the indie business infancy stage right now is scary, thrilling, and hard work. I am filled with self-doubt on a daily basis, and still trying to work out exactly what it is I should do – but at least I am doing things the way I want for a change. I hope I can continue to be of help…

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