What Do You Want…To Do?
Sometimes it’s about imagination or inspiration. Other times it’s a challenge to your decisiveness. We're often called upon to tell others what we want to do. Often, the worst answer is “I don’t know"
The movie version came out the year I was born, in the dark ages of 1955. But many remember and mock the famous dialogue from Paddy Chayefsky’s “Marty.”
“What do you want to do?”
“I don’t know, Marty. What do you want to do?”
Yet few dialogues evince the human condition more accurately. We are constantly being asked, or asking ourselves, what we want to do. Families may erupt into loud yelling at each other when trying to determine what they’d like to do for dinner. I know mine often did.
When we’re exiting adolescence, we’re besieged with the question, “What do you want to do for a living?” as a lead-up to “where do you want to go to college?” Most of us are hardly prepared to answer that question at that age, yet it’s a constant.
We’re asked the same question a few years later when we’ve graduated and find ourselves looking out over the abyss. Often, we’re too busy figuring out what we can do to make a living to even consider what we want to do.
Thou Shalt Not “Should” Thyself
The Albert Ellis Institute in New York proudly displays a framed print of the phrase “Thou shalt not should thyself” which was among Ellis’ more prophetic quotes. Many people spend far more time trying to figure out what they “should” do, completely abandoning what they might want to do. In this way, we cede a little control over our lives to others, or at least to what we think others want from us.
Ellis maintained that there’s seldom a real “should” and counselled patients to leave “should” out of their self-talk.
My interpretation of that is that what you should do is whatever you feel is appropriate at any given moment based on consideration of your action’s impact upon those around you. More often than not, if you trust and respect yourself, you should do what you want to do.
Two Roads Diverged in a Yellow Wood
And I took the one less traveled by. Robert Frost was addressing the perennial challenge of making decisions. Stephen Covey, the brilliant author of “Seven Habits of Highly Effective People” and other great works often pointed out, “I am a product of my decisions, not my circumstances.”
This reminds us that we can have incredible control over our lives and what happens in our lives if we will but take it. Make the decisions. Don’t leave them to others. It’s unlikely that anyone will ever have your interests at heart more than you do. Part of every decision to do something involves the likely impact of that action on others, how important that action will be “in the grand scheme of things.” That presumes there is a grand scheme.
Many have agreed with Covey over the years, encouraging others that they do have influence, some measure of control over what their circumstances can become if they will only do what they feel is right. In fact, the only one who can convince you that you are a victim of your circumstances is you.
What do you want to do? Lift yourself up out of your current circumstances, or just sit there and wallow in your self-pity. That’s an easy one.
The Thought and the Action Are One
Personally, the one thing I’m most afraid of doing is nothing. I’d rather fail to an act of commission than one of omission. I’d rather go down swinging. I’m just not good at passive.
Someone once described to me what they felt was their ideal state of being. That was to function in a lifestyle where the thought and the action were one. No procrastination. No excessive thinking things to death. No paralysis due to analysis. It’s amazing how many cliches this concept has spawned.
Often, making a decision quickly is as important as making the right decision. When you ask yourself what you want to do, it’s very possible that the first answer that enters your mind is the right one.
Do or Do Not. There is no “Try”
With all the wise ones I’ve quoted in this article, I would be remiss if I left out Master Yoda.
When someone tells me they’re going to try to do something I’ve asked of them, I will often throw my pen down on the table and say, “Try to pick up that pen.”
Instinctively, they will pick the pen up off the table and smile.
“That’s not what I asked you to do,” I reply. “I asked you to try to pick up the pen, and you have picked up the pen.”
Some will ask to try again.
This time they will grasp the pen firmly and not move it off the table. Again, they smile.
“Nope,” I reply. “You failed to pick up the pen. You didn’t try to pick it up.”
By now they’re completely flustered and I explain, “You can pick up the pen, or you can fail to pick up the pen. But there’s no “try”. There’s no way you can do a try. There’s no such thing.
Decisiveness and persistence. Firmly decide what you want to do, then do it and keep doing it until you achieve the results you want. It’s simple, but its seldom easy.
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