The "I Want" List

I was talking to a dear friend last week and she told me how someone recommended to her that she make a list of what she wants. My friend suggested that I also make this list and I'm finding that it's turning into an impossible task for me.

I know how to make lists of things to do. Some days, like today, the list of things I needed to do seemed endless. I crossed off the mundane things like "go to grocery store" and "renew library books". Yet for every item I crossed off, something else seemed to be added. And I kept wondering if everything I was crossing off had anything to do with what I really want.

So, I pulled out my journal and wrote at the top of a page, "What I Want". At first I wrote things like, "A pair of stilettos with metal heels," and "A personal trainer." But after I got past those sorts of surface level wants, the crickets started chirping.

I've come to the conclusion that I don't know how to make lists of things I want.

Naturally, after my massive list failure, I spent some time today psychoanalyzing myself reflecting on the process. One huge problem with making this list is that I know there's a part of me that truly believes what I want most I cannot have. And so I wonder, what's the point of making this list?

Even with small things, I think about how what I want is irrelevant or not going to happen. For example, I may want my husband to put his dirty dishes in the sink. It would be very nice to not see a knife covered with peanut butter and jelly on the kitchen counter after he makes himself a sandwich because it pisses me off like you wouldn't believe. But if he doesn't want that too, well, seriously, what's the point or my wanting that? Should I then change what I want to, "I want to not be so angry about a dirty knife on the counter?"

It also feels so selfish to make a list of what I want. When my friend first suggested that I make this "I want" list, the very first thing I told her was that I knew it would be hard for me since, "Who cares what I want? Life isn't about me."

Technically, that is true. In the grand scheme of things, my individual desires and wants are not the end all be all of planet Earth. We've already got too many people sitting around only thinking about their own individual desires. On the other hand, when I think about it, my saying that explains so much about me and the way I've lived my life that it's a bit horrifying.

I'm going to take another crack at this list tomorrow because I'm not a quitter, even when something is difficult. But what about you? Have you ever made an "I Want" list?


So I guess you are not a fan of THE SECRET? I'm kidding.

I say write down what you really want. What if you said the end to the war in Iraq? That's not selfish. And I don't think it's selfish to want someone to put their dirty dishes in the sink and not leave it them on the counter. :)

Balance is the key. I think either extreme (only caring about yourself or always putting other first is unhealthy).
Anonymous said…
I've never been able to make grand plans/wish lists, let alone achieve them. I've always just let things happen, and I must say that's worked out pretty well. If you want things that're totally unlikely, what's the point? Only if you're passionate enough about something to move heaven and earth to get it, will it actually come about. And how many of us have that kind of passion?

But I do admire people who've had some grand plan from an early age and managed to bring it to fruition. That single-mindedness and determination is amazing.
Unknown said…
I have not made an I want list. I probably want too many useless things or like you, too many things that are beyond my control.

Now you will have me thinking all day....LOL
Anonymous said…
I don't make an "I want list." I don't see the point. I do list goals I want to achieve and then come up with a plan on how to achieve those goals. People in He** "want" water but it's not going to happen unless they come up with some plan to overthrow the devil!!!!Wanting is a waste of time without a plan!!!
Lisa Blah Blah said…
I did something similar years ago, but haven't updated it since. If you really want to do this, it might be helpful to break your list down into short-term and long-term goals and limit it to some random, manageable number for the moment - say, 5 of each. Pick 5 different areas that you want to work on, for example: health, work, family, love, faith. For health in the short-term, you could say "I want a strong, toned body" or be more specific like "I want to drink more water" or "I want to learn to swim." :-) Long-term you could say, "I want to run a marathon when I turn 40," or whatever it is you want to do.

Whatever you decide, don't make yourself crazy with it. But do know that even making the list, even if you don't refer to it on any regular basis, shows you what your priorities are. I found that looking back over the list, I'd achieved a lot of my wants over the years without actively going back and looking at it.
Jen said…
I loved what NYC had to say on this... I think that would probably sum up how I feel, too.

Having said that, my DH and I try to make an "I want" list each year on our anniversary. It doesn't tend to be about things (although "a new mattress" has been on the list FOR YEARS - we have a real problem figuring out what the right one would be), but more about things we want out of life - places to see, activities we want to do (maybe as simple as geocaching or flying a kite) and then some of those things from each other - like the knife thing (UGH, my DH does that, too, and worse yet, he hangs it over the sink, so I either bump into it when I'm washing up and get pb&j on my sleeve, or it drops in the sink and breaks/spatters something). Anyway, it's been an exercise we enjoy. And we don't cross things off. We just make the list, so we know what we might want from ourselves as a couple.
Nerd Girl said…
I've never done one. I guess I feel lilke you - in the grand scheme of things, it doesn't really matter what I want - what will be, will be. But maybe that's a lot of my problem - I've lived a que sera sera life, when perhaps I should've been living a seize the day, go get 'em life. Hmmmm.
Anonymous said…
Have you ever heard of Dax Moy? He's a trainer in the UK (moobzy's trainer at that He has a goal achievement program that's based around some interesting ideas.

1. Make a list of what you want (grand list). He encourages you to just suspend disbelief. You don't have to believe you will get your goal - just stop not believing.
2. Pick 3 most important steps you can take to accomplish those goals.
3. Check in at least once a week with your goals - do they still fit? Do you really want the stilettos or to look sexy?

Personally, I think #3 is the key. Checking in is the most important step.

All of that said - we have yearly goals (3 for our arrow ceremony). At the first of the month (literally 1st night), my husband and I sit down and make goals for the month. We first evaluate how the last month went (#3) then make goals for the month. We started this when I was working 100 hours a week - it helps us stay connected in the middle of the chaos. I then make a card which each of us carry that has our goal on it. Mine is taped next to the computer.

I also have done a "mind dump" which might actually be a first step for you. Email me and I'll send you the link to the youtube vid on how to do that. I'll go look for it now in case you email.

My list of return library books, goes on a weekly list - not on my master plan!

That's what we do. It works for us - really well! :)
Jameil said…
can you explain the goal of this list please? b/c i don't get it. i sure can make one but i need to know the point of it like you asked. why'd your friend say you should make the list and what sorts of things are supposed to be on it? b/c i think "A pair of stilettos with metal heels" is FABULOUS!
Liz Dwyer said…
You know, that Secret book sort of annoys me, even if I think the premise is probably true. No doubt though, if I'd written it, I'd be paid! LOL! And yes, the dirty dishes, I really lost it over them last night. Sigh. Balance is the key and I like the idea of writing down some of the more altruistic, bigger picture things that I want. I can impact those things on the micro level in my own life, even if it seems like I can't on a macro level.

I've gone to extremes where I've been very go-with-the-flow or where I'm so about some goal I want to achieve that I single-mindedly focus on that, perhaps to the detriment of other areas of my life. I'm not so good at balancing things in that respect.

I feel like I want a lot of things that are beyond my control or really pie in the sky. Having read through all the comments just now, I suppose I could take the word "want" and substitute "goal" but for whatever reason, that's not quite the same to me.

Yes, there's the goal and then the strategic plan to achieve the goal. I set goals like: Do Jillian Michaels DVD every day for next 30 days -- even if it's not something I really want to do all that much. Actually, I find I have to do lots of things I don't really want to do in order to achieve my goals.

I like that technique of breaking things down into five different areas. I tend to make goals for the month, the year, and for five year increments, but I don't necessarily look at them in categories. I can see how doing so could ensure that I'm maintaining more balance in my life. Oh and one of my goals is to catch up on my emails. I still have to write you back! :)

Nerd Girl,
Yeah, I can want a house in Villefranche-sur-Mer, France all I want, but is that really going to happen? Maybe it will if I decide I really want it and then set goals to get that. Otherwise, it's simply a pipe dream. Hmm...I hope folks don't get the impression from this post that I'm some totally non-goal oriented person, because I'm not. I really do think "want" and "goal" are not necessarily the same things.

I haven't heard of him but I like the idea of suspending disbelief because for some of the things, I really do need to suspend disbelief. I do think reflecting on where you are, what you want/don't want anymore is so key too because otherwise, how will you know when you've either outgrown your goals. I do think I need to do the mind dump. I'm sure clearing my mind of all the clutter could really help me focus.
Toni Campbell said…
I read a book called Write It Down, Make It Happen. It was about using the written word (lists, journaling, etc.) to draw what you want to you. There were stories about people who made a list of things they wanted to accomplish, then they put the list somewhere and forgot about it, found the lists years later and discovered that they had done everything on it. It can't hurt.
Liz Dwyer said…
Oops, I didn't see your comment! A pair of metal heeled stilettos IS awesome! Probably uncomfortable, but awesome nonetheless! I regret not buying the super cute ones I saw in Nordstrom last fall. Anyway, I believe the point of the exercise is to help you figure out what's most important in your life so that you can really go for what you want. I'm going to give it another try. I just need to keep in mind that I can still put things down that aren't in my control.

I believe that because I think the process of writing things down ingrains them in into your psyche. Plus, in high school I wrote down that I wanted to walk on the Great Wall of China. Totally pie in the sky at the time since I'd never even been on a plane at the time -- and it came true.
Ian Lidster said…
I'm looking foward to your completed list, Liz. My wants are few, untold wealth and eternal love. Not so much, right. Seriously, though I, like you, would have a difficult time making up such a list.
Liz Dwyer said…
Claudia just emailed me some tools that I think are going to help me out a whole lot with the list. I'm going to set aside some time this weekend to make it so let's see what happens!
No, for the same reasons you're having trouble with it. I've tried, but I end up feeling embarrassed in my own eyes for wanting things on a personal level.

I am trying to change this, to give myself the same consideration, love and respect I offer to others. It will require a lot of undoing of early conditioning to really believe that I am worthy of wanting things.

Good luck with your list.
Liz Dwyer said…
It is a matter of feeling like you're worthy, isn't it? Why does that seem to come so easy for some folks?
Lydia said…
Hey Liz,

Yes I made an I want list. The most recent was one toni, from Sew Transformed made me do when we were New York.

This was in the midst of my "Break-Up " from hell and I made a "What kind of Man I want" list.

Toni and Joy gave me tons of criteria with which to consider and it was actually fun. Especially since I have spent to much time realizing what I "don't want".

I feel you on the "does anyone really care what I want?" When you're a mom in particular, what "I want" is not the first priority.

However, I think that I have realized that the more I consider what I want, I am a much happier person when I am making sure everybody else has what they want.

By the way - you have inspired me to be non-anonymous. :) No longer posting as my alter ego - Janie.
Liz Dwyer said…
Sorry it took me a moment to reply! Yeah for being non-anonymous! :) It sounds amazing to be able to make a list like that with the help of two good friends who can serve as thought partners for you. And, I think a "what kind of man I want" list is something more women should make for sure. :)

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