When you're an adult, having a birthday can suck.
I have no problem with getting older. In fact, the older I get, the happier I am.
I don’t like them because I can’t honestly answer the question, “What do you want for your birthday?”
The socially appropriate answer for my age is some version of “I don’t need anything, but thank you for the sentiment!” Had you asked me that when I was a kid, I wouldn’t have hesitated to describe the top 3 things I wanted with enough detail to make you regret asking in the first place. So what changed?
Am I more mature? Yes.
Am I less frivolous? Sure.
Am I less deserving? No!
As we get older, a few things happen:
- We’re conditioned to believe that wanting is selfish.
- We experience not getting what we want and decide that it’s safer not to want things in the first place.
- We focus on giving to others at the expense of receiving.
Put this all together and it’s no wonder that we don’t even know what we want in the first place. Sure, the socially acceptable dreams of starting a family and having a great career are considered fine. But what about the dreams that don’t fit into the norm? To accommodate them, we made sure whatever dreams we had were small and/or secret. That way, we wouldn’t offend anyone. And if they didn’t come to pass, we could deny (to ourselves and others) wanting them in the first place.
But all this is contrary to our purpose. We were designed to dream big, not to play small.
So how do you figure out your wants and deeper desires?
By getting curious:
Start by jotting down any dream, wish, or passing fancy that comes to mind. Don’t over think it. It can be material, about people, or about you. Then ask yourself:
- How hard was it to identify those 5 wants?
- Did you feel embarrassment or any other emotions as you acknowledged them?
- Are there any patterns? (Are they all about relationships? Career?) Describe any patterns in detail.
- For each want, identify the primary reason you have not actualized this dream.
- Is there a pattern to your reasons? Describe in detail.
Get curious about your motivations and the roadblocks that hold you back. From there you’ll be equipped with everything you need to identify your dreams and step into your potential.
So next year, when someone asks me what I want for my birthday, I vow to stop stumbling through the “I don’t want anything” response and confidently state, “Fancy juicer, please!”