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  • Amina Aitsi-Selmi

Why you don’t know what you want sometimes [Wise Wednesdays]

I’ve had a few coaching conversations recently about what to do when you have a great job and life but want more and can’t put your finger on what it is you want.

This situation (The Success Trap) can bring guilt, fear, and confusion, especially if you’ve always had clear goals.

But what brought your current success is not the way to your future success.

You see, if you’re a high achiever, you’ll tend to rely a little too much on your gifts to face uncertainty. This includes using your intellect and problem-solving abilities (been there, done that, and wrote a book about the Success Trap to save you the trouble).

To know what you want, you have to tune into something very basic but often overlooked: your desire-impulses.

Once the societal script and cultural expectations no longer appeal to you, you have to go within to find out what it is that you truly want.

This is where a little exercise I’ve put together might help to reveal your deepest desires for the next stage of your life.

[Read on or watch the ~7min video]


If you feel that you don’t know what you want, notice how many of your desire-impulses are actually caught up in short-term, routine desires. These include basic things like food and sleep but also dopamine-related tasks like checking your phone, social media, emails, etc., and all the little tasks related to these.

To reveal your long-term desires, you have to cut back on your short-term, habitual desires. This will free up energy and mental space for your deeper, long-term desires to surface. Unfortunately, the latter are weaker and quieter, which is why you need to slow down your pace and declutter your mind to hear them.

Imagine your desires are like an ocean that you’re surfing. You watch the waves come, but you don’t follow all of them. The more silent you are, the more you can sense the deeper currents and your next big wave.

Here is a 5-step exercise you can use over a week or more to reveal your deeper desires effectively and reliably:

[Step 1] Reconnect with daily desire-impulses: Observe your daily desires (all day long, you have desire impulses) like checking your phone, replying to emails, eating, social media, etc.

[Step 2] Declutter: Identify 20-30% of these desires to let go of, like reducing phone use, unnecessary messaging, meetings, and conversations.

[Step 3] Neutralise: Use breathing, stretching, or walking to ease discomfort when you choose not to act on those desires (you will be left with a tension that needs to be metabolised).

[Step 4] Capture: Notice your newfound energy redirect naturally to deeper desires, such as travelling, career change, or new projects (bonus: take an immediate step and schedule time to take more action on these new impulses).

[Step 5] Repeat: Continue this process to reveal your deeper, long-term desires and get out of the comfort zones/success trap holding you back. Desire energy must evolve and flow for life to be fulfilling!

As a Transformational Coach, sometimes my job is to help someone identify what they want, and sometimes it’s to help them be OK with not knowing. Much of coaching is transforming your relationship to uncertainty in a liberating way that ripples across your life, bringing new possibilities you couldn’t see before.

Desire Surfing is applied transformation. Your desire impulses are always there. They’re just tied up in habits and routines that are no longer right for you. Free them up and notice the new, deeper desire impulses that will guide you to a new future, one deeper, long-term desire at a time (It’s also why meditation, retreats, nature, and travel are so effective at refreshing your inspiration).

The conventional coaching expression is ‘stepping out of your comfort zone’. Another metaphor is reconnecting with the flow of life. You tune into the current of intelligent desire that lives in you, and honour it by taking action on it even when it feels scary to do so.

Have you experienced the power of desire surfing?

Have a great week,


P.S. There’s still time to join us on Thursday for Thinking Clearly Amid Complexity - our next RSA Transformational Conversation. Over 100 people have signed up so far, and we’re excited to facilitate this group experience for you. The world needs us to embrace complexity and shift paradigms! For more information and free registration, click here >>  

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