I have been working for a while now with the idea that knowing what one wants from life is really important. It is also very difficult.
In a company, to some extent what one wants is dictated by the terms of the employment contract: job descriptions and personal KPIs specify what an employee should want: contribute to the performance of the company, delight customers, create value for the shareholders, etc. In many companies nowadays, management has chosen a set of corporate values that are supposed to be applied by all employees when dealing with one another, with suppliers and with customers. Usually a lot has been written to explain what we are supposed to want.
An equal amount of literature has been written to describe what, as a human being, we need or want. An example of this is the pyramid of needs proposed by Abraham Maslow . As a result, management also spends a large amount of resources to design systems to motivate us to perform according to these behavioural models.
On the home front, the same thing happens. First our parents, then our partner and finally our children more or less explicitly set the expectations of what we should be wanting as a good son or daughter, as a good husband or wife, as a good father or mother.
With our friends, the same tends to happen. If, like me you are quite ambivalent about football or any other sport but your friends aren't, you must have felt the pressure to show some enthusiasm about the latest games. Keeping up with the Joneses is also a powerful force that shapes what we are supposed to want.
None of these suggestions is wrong, of course. It is perfectly acceptable to want to contribute to shareholder performance, to want power, to want a Porsche or a huge ruby/diamond ring. This, of course, as long as it is what we really want.
The problem with all this, however, is that with everybody telling us what we want, we forget to listen to our own self. And after a while, we just don't know how anymore. And we just cannot have meaningful relationships if we don't truly understand what we want from life and what kind of relationships we want.
We will talk about this a lot but for the time being, I would like to leave you with this poem by Juan Ramon Jimenez (1881 - 1958), "I am not I". I encourage you to find a quiet place to sit and relax, with a notebook and a pen. Read this poem as many times as you feel it's right and just listen to the "one walking beside you". Listen and write down what his or her silent voice is telling you.
I am not I.
I am this one
walking beside me whom I do not see,
whom at times I manage to visit,
and whom at other times I forget;
the one who remains silent while I talk,
the one who forgives, sweet, when I hate,
the one who takes a walk when I am indoors,
the one who will remain standing when I die.
Read by Otto Sharmer in his introductory course to Theory U at the Presencing Institute
Let me know what you find.