Knowing What You Want


dq I get a craving for Dairy Queen at least once a day. If and when I finally walk into one, I could have a tough decision to make. After all, they have a lot of options: 22 variations of blizzards, 11 sundae options, Royal Treats, Arctic Rushes, shakes, Moolattes, smoothies--and did you know they have salads?

So many options.

And yet, it takes me all of two seconds to order at Dairy Queen, every time, without fail. Wanna know why?

Because I know what I want.

No, I don't care about that Butterfinger Blizzard or the Marshmallow Sundae. I want a Large Twist Cone.

That's it. Every time. Always. I have laser focus when it comes to ice cream.

Why am I telling you this story?

I've been discovering how important it is to know what you want in life and begin to align your decisions with that. I've been hearing more and more stories of friends with headaches and heartbreaks that stem from decisions that were made that are contrary to what they truly desire in their lives.

One of the most obvious areas where this applies is dating. It's sometimes bizarre to talk to someone and hear what they want in a guy or girl, and a week later, they're dating the tooliest of tools.

Some of our actions reflect that what we really want is to just be with someone and/or get married. And if that's what you really want, then it makes sense to go out with the first person that comes along or anyone that's cute enough. But if you want more than that (and most friends I talk to do), that strategy doesn't make sense. Sometimes we act contrary to what we really want. That's why we date people that aren't the best for us. That's why we agree to go out with that girl or that guy even though we know they don't share some crucial values or treat us the way someone should.

When you know that you want a guy or a girl who treats you a certain way, who has goals in life, who's going the same direction as you, you don't get distracted by all of the flashy items on the menu when they wink at you or flirt with you at the bar. You're looking for that twist cone, and they're not it.

Too many of my friends have had their hearts broken by or gave the best of themselves to someone who wasn't what they wanted in the first place. Or have found themselves in complicated scenarios that are eating up their time and energy. Don't we have enough to worry about as is? Who has time for unnecessary relationship drama?

Knowing what you want and matching your decisions to that applies to way more than dating. Here are some of the things I want, and what that does for me:

I want to be about hope, not cynicism and negativity. Cynicism sucks. Really, it does. It drains you and the people around you. I'd rather have hope and spread hope. Because of that, when I'm tempted to write a super sarcastic post or tweet that rips into a politician, or religious leader, or another blogger, I stop. On a bad day, I hit "send" and after a jittery few minutes of biting my nails, I delete it. I don't like the feeling I have when I post something negative about someone, I don't like the culture it creates, and I don't want to be known for that. That's fine for someone else to do, but I know what I want, and what I want is to stay out of venomous interactions. I've realized that I'm at my best when I talk about hope and lift people up. So I'm doing that.

I want to be the same person on Monday through Saturday that you would see on a Sunday morning. Within reason--I shift my personality slightly depending on which friends I'm with, but my values remain the same. You're not going to hear me talk about respecting and honoring women on a Sunday morning and then find me at a strip club on Friday night. Because of my jobs at the school and the church, it's hard for me to go anywhere without running into people who know me. I find that helpful more than a nuisance. I know every single time I'm at a restaurant, there's a chance the server knows me or knows someone who knows me. I don't have the luxury to skimp on someone's tip and assume that I'm just an anonymous face. (I can't tell you how much that actually happens in restaurants.) There's freedom in not having secrets, in living your life in the most authentic way possible as much as possible.

I want my life to reflect that people matter most. When school is in full swing, I'm teaching full-time to 7th and 8th graders, taking two grad classes, and making stuff happen for church every week. I could easily disappear from everyone's lives, and I'm sure most of my friends would understand. There's danger in that, though--it sets a precedent that grades and career goals and work have a higher value than the people in my life. If what you want is to be at the pinnacle of your profession, then yeah--you're probably going to have to sacrifice people on the way. That's not what I want. I want the people in my life to know that they matter to me, and maybe I see them less than I normally would, but I see them. I'm intentional about it. Sometimes it means I lose some sleep, but I'd hate to get done with grad school in a year or so and realize that I've missed out on my friends' lives.

All that being said, knowing what you want isn't a magic formula to get what you want. For example, you can't make someone fall in love with you. You can't create a job opening at your dream company. You can't do anything about it if Dairy Queen doesn't have twist ice cream (which happened a couple of weeks ago, and I may or may not have berated the pie-faced teenager at the counter).

But when you know what you want in life, you make infinitely better decisions and many less stupid ones.

And you make it far more likely to reach your goals and have what you truly desire than if you keep settling for less because of fear, lack of discipline, or lack of a plan.

I'm not perfect, not even close, and I make mistakes every single day. But because I know what I want, I'm making less of the same mistakes. I'm making more decisions that I'm proud of. I'm closer and closer to living the life I truly want to live.

So what do you say? Let's go get that twist cone.