How to Recognize Your Deep Wants

4 min
Article preview picture

What is it that you want today? Maybe you are craving a big juicy pizza for dinner. Maybe you want a car with nicer interiors. Maybe you’re yearning for a partner and a family. Maybe you’re dreaming of being a famous rock star. We all want different things in life, and we have many different wants throughout the days, months and years. Some of the things we want, we get – but some things just seem elusive. Some things are easier to ask for, and some can be too embarrassing to admit to anyone. But what if the things we think we want aren’t what we are truly yearning for? What if getting them won’t truly satisfy us because they aren’t what we actually want at a deep level. Here’s how to see your desires as clues to figure out what you really, really want.

1. What do you feel is missing in your life?

First, make a list of the things you would change about your life. What do you want that you don’t have right now? Write everything down – see this as your ultimate wish list and put the biggest things and the smallest things. Include the things you are afraid to admit you want. These wants might be to do with your career, family, money, health, friends, home, hobbies, faith, location, or other areas of your life.

2. How would it feel to have what you want?

Now go through your list. Next to each of the things you want, write down how it would feel to have it. For example, if one of your wants is to have more money, imagine yourself with more money. Does it make you feel free? Important? Secure? Or if you want to get a promotion, how do you expect this new role to make you feel? More valued? More inspired? More powerful? Do this exercise for each thing on your list. Use your imagination and have fun with it! If some of your wants make you feel emotional, see if you can get to the truth of that emotion – perhaps it’s the pain of loneliness or feeling unseen that is driving you towards that want, to fulfill that need or desire.

3. Recognize your needs

Psychologists agree that there are a number of core emotional needs that humans require to be met in order to thrive. It’s likely that your list of wants – however superficial some of them might seem – are actually a desire for your deeper emotional needs to be met. Through this lens, you can begin to understand your motivations with more clarity, and maybe even recognize that your behaviors are an attempt to get these emotional needs met. This includes behaviors you might not like about yourself, such as manipulation or addictive habits. You might also begin to recognize them in others as well.

4. Empower yourself to get your deep wants

Compare this list of some core emotional needs with reasons you wrote down for your wants – the feelings you hope to achieve by getting these things. By reframing your wants, you might be able to get creative about meeting your own emotional needs – and getting exactly what you want.

Security

Often, a desire for a certain level of wealth is driven by a need for security. But if you feel insecure in yourself, no amount of money will help you trust that you are safe. Building self-esteem is the best way to feel secure that whatever happens in life, you will be ok. Even if you lost everything, you have the self-belief that you could rebuild.

Connection

Sometimes a desire for fame, or a yearning for romance, is symptomatic of a need for human connection and intimacy. We all need to feel connected, which is why interpersonal relationships in all their forms are important. You might find that helping others feel connected to you by showing them more vulnerability, or seeking out like-minded communities, brings more feelings of connection and belonging.

Autonomy

A desire for hyper-independence or power might stem from circumstances that make us feel powerless. We all need to feel like we have control over the direction of our lives, so it’s important to examine who or what situations are making us feel lacking in this area. Perhaps building up personal boundaries or breaking out of codependent dynamics might help meet this need.

Feeling seen

When children play up to get attention, this is a sign that their emotional need of feeling seen, heard and valued is not being met – and we do it as adults too. Seeking attention, approval, or adoration – perhaps wanting to win an award or be recognized for our talents – can be driven by a need to feel understood or simply acknowledged. Taking time to listen to ourselves – through journaling, intuitive practices, or simple stillness – and honoring what we need, whether that’s rest or adventure, can begin to heal this wound.

-----------------------------------------

All of the content on our website is thoroughly researched to ensure that the information shared is evidence-based. For more information, please visit the academic journals that influenced this article: Journal Writing As A Teaching Technique To Promote Reflection; Online Positive Affect Journaling In The Improvement Of Mental Distress And Well-Being In General Medical Patients With Elevated Anxiety Symptoms: A Preliminary Randomized Controlled Trial; The Psychology Of The To-Do List – Why Your Brain Loves Ordered Tasks; The Importance Of Maintaining Wish Lists; You Don't Know What You Want; Feeling Seen: A Pathway to Transformation.

Share this story
Read more
  • Article preview
    25 Aug 2022

    The Best Personality Tests

    6 min

    Personality is the individual differences in thinking, feeling, and behaving. It influences how you interpret an event, why you act in certain ways, and what makes you you. Knowing the ins and outs of your personality can not only help you to choose a career field that matches your natural strengths, it can also offer you various benefits from helping you to strengthen your existing relationships to enabling you to understand how you approach difficulties, and providing a way for you to learn more about yourself. 

    Read full article
  • Article preview
    17 Mar 2022

    How Language Influences Our Emotions

    4 min

    Psychologist Robert Plutchik identified eight primary emotions: anger, fear, sadness, disgust, surprise, anticipation, trust, and joy. These are the foundation of the “feelings wheel” (also known as an “emotion wheel”) that’s commonly used by therapists to build emotional intelligence, and many of us have a solid understanding of what these emotions are. We know them because we feel them as physical sensations in our bodies, usually as a result of something we are experiencing. What differentiates an emotion from a “mood” or a “feeling” is, according to the American Psychological Association, this “overt or implicit engagement with the world”. They define emotion as “a complex reaction pattern, involving experiential, behavioral, and physiological elements.” Emotions come about as a reaction to something一but research into emotion has found that the very act of identifying and defining specific emotions has its own impact on our emotional landscape. 

    Read full article
  • Article preview
    5 Apr 2022

    What Is the Emotion Wheel, And How Can It Improve Your Life?

    3 min

    Emotions are an important part of life. Sometimes they can be difficult to experience, let alone understand, but the capacity to feel the full spectrum of emotions – from anger to joy and everything in between – is a huge part of what makes us human. It’s also an important instinct for our survival: when we’re babies, expressing emotion is our only method of communication when something isn’t right. As infants, we scream with rage or cry with grief when our needs aren’t being met. As adults, the same notion is true一except the conditioning that comes with language and cognition can leave us quite disconnected from our feelings, and unable to recognize what our emotional responses are trying to tell us. Thankfully, there are some methods we can use to try and figure it all out, such as Plutchik’s Emotion Wheel. Named after Robert Plutchik, the psychologist who came up with the concept, it’s a tool for improving emotional literacy, so that we can learn to become more in tune with our feelings.

    Read full article
  • Article preview
    15 Apr 2022

    What Is A Gratitude Journal And How Can It Help You?

    4 min

    What are you grateful for? It’s a big question that's anything but easy to answer without giving it serious thought. But think about how much clarity you could gain about the many things there are in this world to be thankful for if you started writing it down.

    Read full article
  • Article preview
    14 Apr 2022

    What Is Compassion Fatigue?

    3 min

    Our capacity to feel empathy for the suffering of another person is a beautiful thing. It’s one of the ways we connect as humans, helping each other feel seen and lifting each other up when life gets rough. But sometimes, it can become overwhelming to bear witness to so much of other people’s pain. 

    Read full article