Do You Know What You Want for Yourself?
When I was a child, I never wondered what was the right or the
wrong thing to do. I just knew. Something within me told me. It
seems that most people can relate to a similar experience at some
time in their lives. As children, we know deep within ourselves
how we should act in certain situations. We don’t always act that
way, but we know. The most common name we give that gentle
voice within us is conscience.
There is a lot to be said for a clear conscience. The idea doesn’t
get much airtime these days, but there is a tremendous tranquillity
born from knowing that you are doing the right thing for the right
As we grow older, we seem to lose this gift of knowing which is
the better way to act. Somewhere along the way, most of us seem to
be conditioned to distrust ourselves. We stop listening to the voice
of conscience and begin to seek out the opinions of the many other
voices that distract us from the voice within. As a result, one of the
real dilemmas that people face every day is the inability to look at a
given situation and decide which is the best way to act.
When most people are faced with a financial decision, they
consult a parent, friend, colleague, book, financial adviser, or combination
of these. Most people, when faced with a personal or
moral decision, consult their spouse, pastor, priest, minister,
friends, or the scriptures. In all of these, however, there is no constant.
Different opinions and different interpretations leave many
people more bewildered than they were to begin with. But each of
us, finally, after gathering as much information as is available, or as
much as we choose to accept, is forced to make a decision and to
act—understanding that even to make no decision is to act.
Between the gathering of information, the seeking of opinions,
and the actions of our lives, another process takes place: decision
making. Decisions cannot be made in a vacuum; they are made in
space and time. To make an effective decision, we must have some
goal toward which we are moving. If not, we find ourselves deciding
because “Uncle Frank said it was the right thing to do” or
“Reverend George told me it was best this way.”
In some cases these advisers may very well be right, but in others
they may not be. The point is, rather, that we should not make
ourselves beholden to experts in our lives. We must seek to understand
not only what is right, wrong, good, or best—but also why
certain things are right or wrong. This does not mean that we do
not seek the input from advisers and experts. It does mean that we
assess what they say against the backdrop of our essential purpose
and in light of the goal we are moving toward. It is also critical that
we understand the effects and consequences of our actions.
These abilities are not easy to acquire. How is the ordinary person
to know? Upon what criteria are we to base the decisions and
actions of our lives?
Before we make a decision, particularly a large one (or before
we give advice to assist someone else in making a decision), it is
wise for each of us to take time in the classroom of silence to listen
to the gentle voice within. Silence and solitude give a perspective
to the situations of our lives that could not be gained by a thousand
hours of conversation or a thousand pages of books.
Yet this thoughtful reflection also cannot take place in a vacuum.
It must take place in relation to the space and time of our
everyday lives by considering the matter at hand in light of our
hopes and dreams, and with our essential purpose ever before us.
If you do not know where you are going, you will never get
Our ability to discern any question or opportunity in our lives
depends primarily on our understanding of where we are and
where we wish to go and, more important, our understanding of
who we are and who we wish to become.
Most people don’t know what they want. Most people don’t
know who they are. Most people don’t know who they are capable
These are three very large statements. Are they true? You decide.
In any depth, beyond a little more money, a new car, and the
vacation of a lifetime, do you know a lot of people who really know
what they want from life? Do you know a lot of people who
know what they want for themselves? How many people do you
know who are intimately aware of and in tune with their legitimate
needs? Do you know many people who are connected to the
deeper desires of their hearts? Would you say most people know
what their genius is and are using it as a guiding principle in their
lives? Finally, do you think many people have a clear vision of what
the-best-version-of-themselves looks like?
These are tremendous disabilities. When we don’t know who
we are, what we want, or where we are going and why, we are very
susceptible to becoming pawns in other people’s schemes.
Knowing who we are (strengths, weaknesses, needs, talents,
and desires) and what we are here for (to become the-best-version-of-
ourselves) is the knowledge that liberates us from the modern
enslavement of a life of meaninglessness and gives our lives back to
us once more.
Millions of people have lost their lives, and they don’t even
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