You’ve made all the right choices – gone to the right school, got the fancy job, dated great people. So then why does it feel like something is wrong? Why does it not feel like your dream life?
We’re told almost from birth what we’re supposed to want and who we’re supposed to be. The voices sound like our parents, our friends, the media, our classmates, and later our colleagues.
But they’re coming from the culture at large, which has a narrow set of ideas about who is and is not valuable.
If you feel like you’re on the wrong path despite doing everything “right,” chances are you’ve internalized these cultural messages without questioning whether they actually work for you.
Ask Yourself the Most Important Question of Your Life
It’s not too late to live the life you secretly dream of. It all starts with one deceptively simple question. But, it will likely be the most important question of your life.
“What do I need right now?”
Asking yourself what you need in any given moment may not seem like a path toward your dream life. (Especially if the answer is something simple like “a glass of water” or “to stretch my legs for 30 seconds.”)
But in fact, this question is vital to getting you where you’re meant to be. But, you have to actively listen to your answer.
Don’t Ignore Your Different Types of Needs
In this culture, it’s all too easy for us to ignore our needs. In fact, women in particular are frequently encouraged to ignore our different types of needs or to see others’ needs as more important than our own.
Eventually, we stop listening to our own needs altogether. We even stop recognizing that we have them. And we disconnect from ourselves.
That’s when we set out on paths that others have chosen for us – careers that don’t feel quite right, marriages to the “good on paper” person our parents love, or friendships that feel empty.
It’s not too late to live the life you secretly dream of.
So if getting on the wrong path came from tuning out our different types of needs, then getting back on the right path is about reconnecting to those needs that we’ve learned to ignore.
After all, if you’ve grown accustomed to listening to your needs around small matters, then you’re much more likely to listen when the big decisions come up.
So ask yourself: What do you need right now? Not “in general” right now, not today or this afternoon or soon, but right now.
At this very moment, do you need a snack? Do you need some sunlight? Do you need to talk with a trusted friend?
It really is the most important question of your life.
There Are the 4 Main Types of Needs We Have:
Needs come in many different forms. But I like to break them up into four main categories: physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual.
Check in with yourself around physical and emotional needs throughout the day. Mental and spiritual needs usually aren’t quite as immediate.
Physical needs are, of course, our needs around our physical body: our need for movement or rest, for good food, for sleep, for water, and more.
So often we try to tell our bodies what they need by going to the gym when we’re sore and tired, choking down foods we hate because they’re “good” for us, or getting up early despite feeling exhausted because “the early bird gets the worm.”
Instead, try listening to what your body is saying to you. Right now in this very moment, does your body want movement or does it want stillness? Are you hungry? And if so, for what? Let your guard down and just listen.
Emotional needs revolve around working through feelings about the past, present, and future rather than trying to ignore feelings that come up or just pushing through them.
If you’re experiencing negative emotions, maybe your need in this moment is to journal, to just sit with the feelings until they subside, or to see a friend who will listen without judgment. Maybe you need to put down your work for a few minutes to go outside and reset.
Mental needs are all about craving intellectual stimulation. If you’re feeling vague discontent or unrest, you may be ignoring your mental needs.
Ask yourself if you need to learn something new, watch a documentary, visit a museum, take a class, do some work that lights you up, dust off your old textbook from your favorite class in high school, or engage in any other activity that contributes to your own growth . . . even if it seems illogical.
In our purpose-driven society, learning for the sake of learning is not encouraged. If you’re drawn to something, do it anyway.
Spiritual needs aren’t just about religion. They’re about connecting to the world around us and recognizing that we’re a part of something bigger than ourselves.
This can be accomplished through volunteering, meditating, praying, walking in nature, or a variety of other activities. Like with mental needs, spiritual needs sometimes appear as discontent. And like with emotional needs, they can appear as frustration or irritation.
These feelings are often a sign that you’re too zoomed in on your life and need to step back and try to see the bigger picture.
Pay Attention to Your Different Types of Needs: Your Momentary Needs Add Up to Your Dream Life
These tiny moments, these small daily needs, are like tiles in a mosaic. Each one seems unrelated to the others and too small to make any difference.
But they’re not. Because here’s what happens: If you give yourself what you think you’re supposed to need, and not what you actually need, you’ll wind up creating someone else’s dream mosaic.
If, on the other hand, moment by moment, tile by tile, you listen to and act on your own small needs, one day you’ll step back to see that you’ve created your dream life.
So, ask yourself the most important question of your life: what do you need right now?