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What Do You Really Want? The Inspiring Story of How One Woman Discovered Her True Desires and How You Can Too

We humans think we’re so darned smart. Fortunately, life has a way of reminding us that most of time we have no idea what we’re talking about. Let me tell you want I mean…

Think back over your life to all the times you “thought” you knew exactly what you wanted… the job you were just sure was perfect for you, the coveted promotion to senior whatever, the guy or girl back in junior high school that you just had to be with. At the time, you had total confidence in the trueness of your desires and were probably devastated when things didn’t go the way you wanted.

How do you feel about these unfulfilled desires today? I don’t know about you, but I’m relieved that I’m not spending my life with my first crush!

Fortunately life has way of whispering in our ear, “Hey, you’re going the wrong way” and suddenly you realize that, in fact, who or what you thought you wanted isn’t what you wanted at all… That is, if you’re willing to listen.

A recent email served as a vivid – and inspiring reminder – of what can happen when we carefully explore what we think we want, and are willing to shift gears at the arrival of new information. The email was from a vivacious woman named Peg who attended the recent Making Dreams Happen workshop out in Boulder, Colorado.

In a few minutes, I’d like to tell you more about how you too can enjoy Making Dreams Happen. For now I want you to hear in Peg’s own words how she came to discover her true desire… and the inspiring story of what she’s doing to make her dreams happen. Peg writes:

“I’ve loved reading about archaeology ever since I was about 10. I majored in anthro in college and always dreamed of going on a dig. I’d just always imagined that ‘sometime’ I’d find six months to spend on a dig in some marvelously exotic corner of the world – and of course that time never arrived. After the Boulder workshop, I figured, well, going on a dig is one dream that I can make happen now!

I had only a week of vacation left for the year, but I looked in the Earthwatch catalogue ( and to my surprise discovered a one-week dig session was available this fall. Even better, it was in New Mexico – one of my favorite places in the world and a spot I’d been yearning to go back and visit ever since spending time there in the 70s. So I called Earthwatch, learned there were still a couple of openings, and signed up. I leave Saturday morning!

The dig itself involves excavating Anasazi and Mimbres ruins in a river valley in southwestern New Mexico. I’ll be one of 12 volunteers on the crew, under the direction of two archaeologists who’ve been working in the valley for several years. We’ll excavate in the mornings, do lab work in the afternoons, hear talks and lectures in the evenings, sleep in tents, and eat meals in an adobe ranch house.

I’m so excited about it all! I’ve even loved doing the recommended reading this past month – I’ve been staying up too late reading books on Pueblo prehistory because I can’t put them down!

Anyway, this is not at all what I thought I’d get out of Boulder, but it’s certainly making life more interesting and fun! (And I’m happier at work, too.)

…I’ve been meaning to let you and the Barbaras know what a big (and
unexpected) impact the Boulder workshop had on me.

I went to Boulder feeling sure that I was ready for a big career change, but to my profound surprise, what I discovered was that, although I might be weary of some aspects of the corporate world, I was already doing work I loved – editing books for kids, with plenty of writing thrown in. When I really thought about it, I realized I had a more than [what Barbara Sher calls the] “good enough job,’ and that was a wonderfully liberating realization.

Then Barbara Sher asked me a question that proved to be key for me. She said, “Well, pretend you have five quintuplet sisters in your head. While you’re being an editor and a writer, what would they be doing?” Answers flew off my tongue – going on a dig, making furniture, weaving, etc., etc.

In the weeks after Boulder, I gradually arrived at a surprisingly clear sense that I really didn’t need or want to spend my energy thinking about changing careers or jobs, nor was I very interested in trying my hand at freelance writing/editing – I was doing enough writing and editing at work.

What I REALLY needed to do was make sure that I left my job at quitting time and started paying more attention to all those neglected sisters in my head!

So in addition to signing up for the dig (which feels so deeply right I can’t even tell you!), I took a knitting class for the sister that wants to create with her hands (and because I always wanted to learn to knit). I’m working on sweater #2 now, and I have yarn for the next one in my closet.

And I’m keeping my eyes and ears open for anything else that make me think, ‘That sounds like fun!’ or “I’ve always wanted to do that!” – that reaction has become my litmus test, my gold standard now. (Maybe the next thing on my list will be community theater. Just last week a coworker was telling me that she’s the stage manager and needs crew members…and ‘I’ve always wanted to do that!’)”

Peg’s email is such a wonderful illustration of why we need to tune into our true desires. It’s also an important reminder that our dreams are far to precious to ignore. And, as we in the northern hemisphere move into our winter darkness – and therefore for many, prime couch potato time – it’s also a wake up call to use our time on the planet in the service of our dreams.

But how do you know what it is you really want? If you’re like me, there’s a part of you that knows exactly what you want. You just need practice listening. Here’s a simple exercise to help you get into the habit of tuning into your true desires.

The exercise works best when you’re having trouble deciding between two choices. It could be deciding between two jobs, whether or not to relocate, or where to vacation. Got something in mind? Good, now flip a coin.

Don’t panic. I’m not suggesting you leave major life decisions to chance. The point of the exercise is to pay attention to how you “feel” about the outcome of the coin flip. If “heads” means move to Paris and “tails” means don’t go and the sight of tails makes your heart sink, start brushing up on your French. Because, deep down inside, you wanted to go to Paris all along. It was that the “rational” (“It’s crazy) or irrational (“It’s too scary”) part of you that was muddying the mental waters.

The point is this… When it comes to something as important as changing course, take the time to ask yourself what you really, truly want. Then tune into the messages life sends your way that confirm or clarify your desire. And if you discover that what you thought you wanted isn’t what you want after all, take a page from Peg’s book and be willing let go of the old goal and enthusiastically embrace the new.

Oh, and for all of you archeology buffs out there, here’s Peg’s update on the New Mexico dig:

“The dig was just great. We worked hard, but I really got to see what working on a dig involved. The team leaders took very good care of us and made sure the week was educational, enriching, and well-paced – and their passion for their work was inspiring. The other volunteers were enthusiastic and fun, and we worked every day in an incredibly beautiful spot. At night, we ate dinner by candlelight on the verandah of the ranch house and watched the stars come out and the Milky Way spill across the sky. All in all, it really was a dream come true. I’d love to do it again!”


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About the Author

“Profiting From Your Passions®” expert Valerie Young abandoned her corporate cubicle to become the Dreamer in Residence at offering resources to help you discover your life mission and live it. Her career change tips have been cited in Kiplinger’s, The Wall Street Journal, USA Today Weekend, Woman’s Day, and elsewhere and on-line at MSN, CareerBuilder, and An expert on the Impostor Syndrome, Valerie has spoken on the topic of How to Feel as Bright and Capable as Everyone Seems to Think You Are to such diverse organizations as Daimler Chrysler, Bristol-Meyers Squibb, Harvard, and American Women in Radio and Television.

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