In order to do what you want, you must know what you want and, ideally, why you want it.
The most common reason why we want something is because others want it (this is called the mimetic theory of desire). We want a high-quality partner, successful children, a nice home, an expensive car, a purpose in life, financial freedom, and so forth—because that’s what everybody else wants. Our desires are imitations of the desires of others.
Differences in desires between people typically stem from the differences in the models they mimic: some people want a fit body because that’s what other people in their social group or their role models on social media desire; other people seek spiritual enlightenment because that’s the in-thing among their peers or because they follow some guru, imitating the common desire of his followers.
The other reason why we want something is because we think that it is good for us. Although this should, to the extent that our thinking is knowing, lead to more rational grounds for our conscious desires, it can be much harder to find out what is truly good, compared to simply imitating a role model or letting society determine our desires. Especially major life decisions such as “Do I want to have children?” can be very difficult to answer rationally, but they become easy when we mimic the desires of those around us.
Here are my personal guidelines for navigating these issues:
- Be aware of why you want what you want; otherwise, you might make bad decisions.
- Try to figure out what is good for you so that your will becomes less determined by what other people want.
- If you cannot figure out what is good for you, make sure you select wisely the models you imitate and the social environments you put yourself in, as they will then condition your desires and determine your will.