Are you being specific about what you want?

by Paul Goodchild on July 11, 2010

Desires In Focus

I follow a few people on twitter, but actually, I don’t open it that often to read since I don’t really have the online time to follow them.  But today I logged in and one just jumped off the page:

What do you want now?  Be specific.


I know this game.  And you probably know it.  We all know it already!  But I don’t think we are specific half as often as we need to be.  Well I know I’m not, and I trick myself into thinking I am most of the time – believing that I’m on top of it all, that I’ve got it covered; I know where I’m going; I know what I’m doing.

Do you know where you’re going?  Do you know what you want?

Those aren’t the same questions as “Do you know how to get there?”, but very simply, on real basic terms, have you defined very precisely what you want right now.

Word count: ~1700. Approx. reading time: 10~15 minutes. (picture credit)

What do you want now?

A good way to nail this question is to take 5 minutes out of your busy day time schedule when you’re wide awake, your mind is focused from your latest caffeine hit, and you’re ready to get things done.  You’re not hungry, you’re not thirsty, and you don’t need to go to the toilet.

Stop what you’re doing, take a moment and just relax.  You can’t?  You’re busy?  5 minutes is all I’m asking…

Try to stop the background chatter in your head about what you have to pickup on your way home, who you’re meeting tonight, the bills you have to pay, and just imagine you are free.  Free from all your bills, your mortgage, your car repayments, your children, your lover/partner, your illness(es), your hunger, your money problems, your debts, your credit cards, your job, your friends, your duties and responsibilities, your values, your everything! Absolutely everything. All that limits you now is your brain.  If you think perhaps there are some things you’re not permitted to do no matter what, and there’s no escaping them, remind yourself that you’re permitted to think absolutely anything you like.  Who’s gonna know?   This is just a thought experiment after all and there’s no wrong answer.  It’ll be our little secret.

With no restrictions on what your brain is allowed to suggest at this point, ask yourself the simple question … what do you want now?  Allow for more than one answer, and allow for any answer.  Perhaps it’s a good idea to jot them down on a piece of paper so you don’t forget.  If one idea leads to another, then write them both down.  Just keep writing.  If nothing comes to mind, remember that there are no financial limits on you and you are free of responsibilities of any sort – you don’t have to work out how you’ll get what you want, all you need to do is work out what you want.

What do I want now?

So I did this.  And more than anything, the first benefit I received practically immediately was relief.  Writing these down effectively purged my brain of all the little and large things that are spinning around in my head and generally making me not very productive whatsoever.  I filled 3/4 of an A4 page with my scribbles.  Here’s what I wrote in order (only very slightly edited ;)).  Note that this is my list and it makes sense to me.  It probably wont all make sense to you and you wont understand what precisely I mean by some points, but I’m giving it to you exactly as I wrote it down:

  1. I want to be completely healed
  2. I want to have more energy
  3. I want further clarity with my options on my computer project
  4. I want to be fit
  5. I want to be able to speak Thai and Karen languages
  6. I want fruit smoothies everyday
  7. I want a good schedule for travel
  8. I want proper daily meals
  9. I want my friends/family closer
  10. I want clarity in my volunteer projects
  11. I want to do an online business for ethnic groups to sell their wares
  12. I want more clarity in I.T. teaching
  13. I don’t want to teach English
  14. I want to teach English
  15. I want to meet new people and make new friends
  16. I want a passive income
  17. I want a volunteer-NGO online portal
  18. I want to blog/write more and receive more feedback.

That’s quite a list.  Some of them I was aware of, but performing this exercise has really brought to the forefront of my mind things that are bothering me a little by not having them.  I can fix some of this quite quickly, and already I’m working on some of them before I did this thought experiment.

For me, there are no massive game-changing desires because I’ve recently made a significant transition where I quit my job in Tokyo and went travelling.  That was a huge life-changing event/process that brought me closer to the lifestyle I want to be living so nothing as substantial as that is on this particular list.

I began this article yesterday afternoon, and since then I’ve made efforts on numbers 5 and 15 by going to a networking event last night and signing myself up for Thai language lessons (that started this morning). I also asked one of the people I met there last night, who is working for an NGO here in Mae Sot in education, whether he could source some IT training/teaching materials that I could potentially use in classes here – thereby addressing #12.

Also, since I had clarified some of my desires it made my mind more receptive to ideas and last night, while at the networking event, there were a few items on sale made locally by some of the Burmese.  So I picked up an informational leaflet on the organisation with a view to address #11.


Interesting are numbers 13 and 14.  At first glance we would think this is a contradiction, but I’m not so sure.  I’m obviously gaining something from the experience I’m having right now where I’m teaching for a few hours everyday, or I wouldn’t want to keep doing it.  I know that I am, since I leave typically on a slight high (and usually fairly exhausted!).  But, honestly, I don’t look forward to the next lesson to come.  It’s still framed in my brain as something negative and not an event to look forward to.  Why?  I think in-part I’m still working through the fears that set me right on edge back when I was due to start this project for the first time several weeks ago.  I’ve only been teaching English for a couple of weeks and I’m still novice at it.  My lessons are often jittery and I don’t feel that the students always pick up on the principles I’m trying to relay.  Not all students, granted, and not every lesson, but with no modesty whatsoever in this statement, I’m a complete novice.  I’ve got fantastic English skills – I’m native! –  but relaying what I know I think is boring and not a whole lot of fun for the kids.  I’ll improve, no doubt, but could I be bothered?

Several weeks ago taking an English teaching class was an unknown experience for me really.  I had dabbled in it about a decade ago for about 1 week, but that was terrible and is probably what set me against the prospect of English teaching until now.  Now I enjoy it.  It’s weird.  The place where I’m living in Mae Sot has around 10 Burmese/Karen migrants living there, nearly all of them with terrible, or at least dormant, basic, “embarrassed” English skills.  We barely communicate with each other on a daily basis save for a few smiles and glances.  But this week I’ve been teaching computing to them (which went right over their heads) and some casual English lessons.  It’s amazing the difference… while we can’t communicate really, we now say “Good morning!”, “How are you?”, “Where are you going?” etc. etc.  Teaching English to these guys has greased the social engine in the house for me and I think perhaps that’s why I want to teach more English – it’s allowing me to connect with the natives.  And isn’t that why I’m travelling after all?!

Clarity, focus, and other big keywords

Running through the exercise above to determine and define my desires in this moment, writing them down, and then sharing them in this article has really helped to focus me this weekend.  I’m determined to push through my mid-day fatigue (#2) and try and get more things done to check off this list.  In part I’ve been lazy the last couple of weeks and just done the minimum to get by.  Granted, I had a little accident and was in bed for a week with an infection, it isn’t an excuse for the times that I’ve been fit and well.

So if you’re into big words like ‘clarity’, ‘focus’, ‘productivity’, ‘going forward’, etc., then you’ll love this exercise since it really does help to provide progress in those areas.  Ask yourself what you’ve got to lose doing this?  Nothing.  You can spend a mere 5~10 minutes of your day on it and come away with nothing.  If that’s the case you can delete my website from your Bookmarks (what do you mean you haven’t bookmarked this website?!) and call me a time waster.  Fair enough.  But I don’t think that will happen.

Once you made the list, the next steps involve prioritising and then letting your brain work out how you can achieve them.  Perhaps I’ll discuss that in a later article, but do this first and you’ll find your brain working away in the background to achieve them anyways.  Without articulating them in the first place, you wont have anything to figure out.  So go get specific!

Have you ever done something, like painted a picture, made a speech, written an article and sought feedback on it?  Of course.  It’s how we improve ourselves and while we all want positive feedback, we really only grow when we get both.  So please feel free to provide some feedback below in the comments section about this article specifically, or about anything else.  I welcome it and I will respond.  I hope you enjoyed this article/site and if so, please feel free to share it with your friends either in email, or using the Facebook button below.  Thank you! 🙂

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Anna Gibb July 15, 2010 at 04:09

Hi Paul,

Neil is always telling me about your blogs, but i never get round to reading them myself. I found it interesting what you wrote. Almost like meditation to clear your mind before focusing on what is inportant to you. Now once you have cleared your mind, do you then start to think about what it is YOU want or do you let the SUBCONSCIOUS guide your thoughts?

The reason I’m asking is as a christian it is something i would like to be better at, that is clearing all my thought, meditation on God and allowing God to speak to me. Its kind of similar to what you were writing about, and maybe in some kind of way God is guiding your thought????

The only problem i have with doing what you write about, i would like to think the thoughts I had would be from God, and not from myself…….if you get what i mean.

Hope you are keeping well and I’d love to read more of your blog!
Anna x


Paul Goodchild July 15, 2010 at 14:26

Hey Anna,

Glad that you’ve got a chance to take a look at the blog. Hope you like 🙂

As far as this goes in regards to meditation, yes, you’re right. You’re effectively meditating/contemplating on the topic of desire.

To me, meditation isn’t much different from prayer, the result is ultimately the same under this context. How you frame and define it is all that may differ from me. I don’t look at it as divine inspiration or guidance, rather as a way to focus and channel your conscious and subconscious desires.

So you doing what I’m describing, under the belief that you are quietening yourself to allow for God’s message to be heard more clearly is basically how you could/would approach it – it’s just that my definition is different.

I’ve had this discussion with my dad a lot, and he has read books on it from the Christian perspective. One such book is Dark night of the soul and I think another one he read was The cloud of unknowing.

To me, this is spiritually, not religion and there are great overlaps in this area. Contemporary religion however doesn’t really address this aspect enough, in my humble opinion.

Thanks for your comment and feedback. I hope my answer is a fair response 🙂


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