What Do You Want To Do Now?
The most important question that most of us never ask.
What do you want to do now?
Think about that question for a second. What’s the first thing that pops into your head? If the answer is; read this article, I’d be very surprised, yet that’s what you’re doing. I’m willing to bet this isn’t the first time that the thing you want to do and the thing you’re doing don’t align. Our lives are almost entirely filled with things we don’t particularly want to be doing, and part of the reason is that we fail to ask this simple question.
Of course, I’m not suggesting that you never read anything. Or even that you never do anything which isn’t top of the list of things you’d like to be doing at that moment. If none of us ever did anything that wasn’t in our top three choices, the only things we’d ever do would be; have sex, eat icecream, and jump into a swimming pool full of money a la Scrooge McDuck. Life is filled with things we don’t really want to do, and sadly, they need to get done.
Still, this doesn’t and shouldn’t mean that there’s no point in asking the question. In fact, sometimes asking the question enables you to do something that you don’t really want to do. For instance, maybe there’s a book that you really don’t want to read. Maybe it’s long and difficult and boring, but maybe it’s important research for an essay you really do want to write.
But let’s not just focus on the external benefits of asking this question. Yes, asking yourself what you want to do will lead to you doing things you want to do more often. It will likely lead to you wasting less of your time. It will help you to motivate yourself through crappy tasks that lead to good outcomes. But these are all cherries on the cake.
The real internal value lies in the practice of asking yourself “What do I want to do now?” Many of us have never seriously asked ourselves this question. Those of us who have do it rarely enough that we’ll find that it difficult to answer because we’re not used to genuinely paying attention to what we want. We just kind of…do the things we usually do.
But why do we put up with this? After all, happiness is the one thing we can all agree that we want. But there’s a price to be paid for happiness. And that price is being present. We need to be present to figure out what we want. And the mind doesn’t like being present. Being present takes more energy than sleepwalking through life, and so we convince ourselves that happiness is whatever we’re doing at that moment. Happiness is our comfort zone. Happiness is indulging habits. Happiness is avoiding the risks inherent in going after the things we really want.
But look a little deeper. How often is the thing you most want to do really watching TV? Or scrolling through social media? What do those things get you? The real value in asking yourself this question is precisely because it forces you to be in the moment. The clue is right there in the question; what do I want to do now?
Your mind won’t make this easy for you. It will try to convince you that it knows how to make you happy. But how has it been doing at that so far? This part of you, that asks you to stay on autopilot, it is not your friend.
Luckily, a wiser, smarter part of yourself knows this is true. It’s the part that feels restless, like there’s something more you could be doing. It’s the part that tells you that you’re not living up to your potential. And if you only listen to it for long enough, it would tell you how to do so. So listen. Tune out the noise. Put down the distractions, and ask it; “what do you want to do now?”
Then do it.