Saying I want

The nature of what you experience is largely a product of what you think. What you expect. What you give your attention to. I found that my attention went, time and again, to a new post for my blog centered on one central idea: learning to say “I want.” That may be an unusual topic for a blog on spirituality, but I am staking a claim on this one. Learning to say “I want” — and mean it — is the singled biggest action you could take to draw you closer to your own soul.

These ideas felt incongruent to me. At first. I had these crazy ideas that a spiritual person hid her own wants, repressed her own wants, and went about life by doing things that she did not want to do. I even took a certain amount of pride in doing really hard things that I did not enjoy and celebrated myself for denying all my true wants, and still showing up for life. It was an attitude I learned early, as I was coached to select the path of life that was most likely to lead to external success. A job that would pay the bills. A relationship that would be steady and strong. A life that stayed in the lines. Not bad ideas, but not ideas that lead you to a good relationship with your own true essence.

The nature of what you experience is largely a product of what you think.

I call this essence my soul and I now see that connection with my own true essence seems to be the key to life that I had been missing. I shunned my soul as holy roller, do-gooder who was likely boring and judgmental. It was not something I consciously practiced, but it was an idea that lurked in the background as I began to explore who I was, in truth.

I suppose we all get to these questions eventually: who am I? And is there something more than just me? I came to these questions mid-life, and found that I had a knack for collecting tidbits of advice, that sounded both in spirituality and self help, and then using them in practical ways to make my life better. It led me to wonder: if spirituality has so much to offer us on a daily basis, why do so many of us run from it in our early years? Why are those who are deeply spiritual not touting all these benefits, which really are a great advertisement for the spiritual life? Why aren’t there more of us saying, try out spirituality; even if you don’t believe, you will benefit.

This is what I realized. Most of us have screwy, limiting beliefs around what it means to be spiritual. Most of life is spent running from these ideas, because we have been taught that spirituality is about rules, limitations, and self denigration. Those are old beliefs that I no longer carry, but I see them played out all the time. So much so, that it motivated me to write. To help dispel all the limiting and mistaken ideas about spirituality that had plagued me when I started on this path.

Which led to my focus on my wants. I had to unlearn the idea that wants are bad, so that I could re-learn the idea that wants are the whispers of my soul calling me forward. I had to consciously decide to let go of my ideas that said, wants are your downfall, so that I could create a new idea that said, wants are what keep you alive. I had to let go of the mistaken idea that only certain wants are permissible, so that I could open myself to the wants that my soul was guiding into my life. I had to let go, so that I could grow.

I now see wants as some of the purest forms of joy I can experience. I now see wants as a key component of a spiritual life. I now see wants as part of the asset side of the ledger that is the balance sheet of my life. And you can too.

Saying “I want” is a skill that will serve you in all aspects of your life. Even if you are a non-believer, you would benefit from checking in with yourself and then clearly and simply stating what you want, in any given scenario. Even if you were an atheist, you could improve your life by saying “I want” more often than talking about what you don’t want.

Before I became aware, I was someone who gave a lot of air time to things I did not want. I thought my highest and best use was as a problem solver, and as a solver, I needed to find more problems to feel good about myself. No more. I have cured myself of this propensity. Now, I spend more time looking for solutions than bemoaning my problems. And that shift began when I decided to make it a practice to say “I want.”

Saying “I want” is not a negation of life, and how it unfolds. Saying “I want” is a skill that allows you to better see how life is giving you what you want most of the time. The trick is to practice the skill until you become adept at saying what you truly want. And then you will begin to notice more of what you want in life.

Most of us have practiced the opposite skill. We practice saying what we think others want us to say. We practice saying what we think we are supposed to want. We practice saying, or talking about, what we don’t want. So my call to action is to begin a practice of saying I want.

This one action helped me better understand myself, better know myself, and better see where I was already achieving most of my life goals. It also helped me to better see myself through the lens of my wants, which helped me to see my unique gift to the world. We know ourselves by owning our wants.

What you could do, as soon as today, is start to practice saying what you want, even if you think what you want is impossible to achieve. What you could do, as soon as right now, is make a list of things you want and do your best not to negate them with ideas that crush your spirit. What you could do, as a new daily ritual, is to say what you want at every single meal even if your actual order is something different: I want a hamburger, but I am choosing the salad instead.

This sort of work is what I call Setting the Table. You are taking actions that, over time, allow you to express more authentically as the spirit you are. Most of us keep our spirit under wraps, and only let her out when we think it is safe to do so. Learning to say “I want” is an easy, and essential, first step to better understand and trust the spirit within, who speaks to you in terms of wants.


Your wants are the whispers of your soul; listen to them.

What you want holds great power; pay attention to them.

Your wants are all evidence of what makes you you; embrace them.

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