How to Recognize Your Deep Wants

4 min
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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.


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.


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.


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.

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