The age-old and crippling question “What do I want?” is often met with the equally horrifying and paralyzing answer “I don’t know”. It is something that is asked by ourselves and by others consistently throughout most days. “What do I want to do as a career? What do I want for dinner? What do I want in a relationship?”. And this question only gets harder as we grow up, and grow into ourselves and our identities.

Do you remember the child-like ability that so many kids have in knowing themselves? Most 5 year olds can answer: What do you want to be when you grow up? What do you want to watch on TV? What do you want for dinner? at the drop of a hat. As an adult woman, I’ve found these exact questions to be odious and overwhelming.

It seems that somewhere along the way of becoming and being, we’ve lost the answers to this perpetual question- “What do I want?”. They seem to have slipped between our fingertips as we mulled through childhood and adolescence. Now we’re left standing, grappling to get our adult hands on anything that feels like a solid direction towards an answer.

But what if we haven’t lost the answers? What if we’ve just (mistakingly) convinced ourselves that we’ve weakened our ability to unearth them?

Hear me out: as many of us know, most adults (young, old, and somewhere in between) in this modern world have been convinced by external forces to constantly and consistently seek approval from others. By external forces I mean any and all authority figures throughout our lifetime: parents/caregivers, siblings, friends, teachers, etc. And by approval, I mean answers. When thinking back to big decisions that we make in our lives, many of us can remember the advice we sought from our people. “What subject should I study?” “How should I raise my child?” “What kind of partner should I pursue?”

Here, I am not questioning the importance of research, analysis, and reflection to big questions that are often spurred when connecting with our community.

Here, I am questioning whether much of the advice we seek from others is simply a reflection of the questions we are too scared to truly ask ourselves.

What if every single answer to every single crossroads is already outlined within us? As Glennon Doyle puts it, what if our challenge lies not in finding our path by asking other people for directions, but instead, clearing the dust off our own maps to truth? And how do we do this?

The answer: existing in stillness with yourself. And let me tell you, this is easier said than done. You see, many of us have been taught from a young age to avoid simply being. The idea of productivity is so heavily ingrained in us that even a few moments of quiet, stillness, and reflection can feel unnatural and guilt-inducing. That’s okay- and to be expected with any new practice. The goal here is to build up a tolerance for just being that will eventually turn into genuine joy for just being. This is how we create the necessary space to listen to ourselves. Here are some ideas to make some space for being:

  • Walking meditation- take a gentle stroll outside your home, and take note of the way you move as one foot steps in front of the other.
  • Shake therapy– recent studies have shown that moving the body in an energetic manner (shaking your arms and jumping) relieves stress and increases positive self image. A great way to physically burn off cluttering thoughts.
  • Mindful breathing– sitting in stillness, and allowing your sole focus to be on the inhales and exhales of your breath not only demonstrate immense health benefits, but it also allows for your nervous system to calibrate so that your own ideas can come through more clearly.

Remember that the purpose of this practice is to connect with yourself so we can seek answers that align with our own values and beliefs. This helps us break the cycle of seeking approval and answers from other people. Be kind and gentle with yourself- it takes time and many trials and errors to rebuild patterns, revolutionize thought processes, and seek answers within.

After a while, you may find that this time for stillness and being is something you look forward to each day.