By Jalene Case

Doing what we want to do brings fulfillment and joy. On the other hand, doing what we think we should do can bring discomfort and confusion. The tricky thing is deciding for ourselves what we truly want and will commit to doing.

I’ve been working with two executives who are grappling with the decision of whether or not they want to advance in their organizations. I hear things like, “I should want to be the top leader. I should want to make more money.”

I’ve experienced this myself when my husband and I made the decision in our 50s to quit our good jobs so we could take two years to ride our motorcycles to the southern tip of South America. A big obstacle for us was thinking that we should be making more money to save more for retirement.

You may be thinking, “Yes! You should want to be the top leader and make more money!” You are not wrong. That’s why discerning what you want versus what you think you should want is complex.

The two executives have done lots of should do’s in their lives. Perhaps that’s why they’re beyond ready to focus more on what they truly want to do. The question is, “What will you commit to doing?”

That’s a big question! To help answer it, you can differentiate between the should do’s and the truly want to do’s by using skills in self-awareness and decision-making.

The first step is noticing when there’s a discrepancy between a should and a want. Here’s a tip. Pay attention to when your internal voice says something like this: I want to__________but I should_________ . When you notice some version of this, put on your sleuth hat and start investigating.

For example, I want to eat the whole cake but I should only eat a slice. I want to accept the job I’m excited about but I should take the one that pays more. Noticing and questioning is the first step, which involves the cornerstone skill of emotional intelligence: self-awareness.

Connecting with Your True Wants Using Self-Awareness

  1. Give yourself space. A client has been giving herself space to do things she likes and to do nothing at all. There’s a saying that goes something like this: the best solutions come when you’re not thinking about the problem. That’s what she’s experiencing. She’s learning more about what she wants and doesn’t want without directly thinking about it. Plus, she’s having fun!
  2. 5 Years/5 Scenarios. What might your life look like in the next five years? Create five different scenarios and then choose the one you want. Think about your work, personal life, body, learning, spirituality, and more.
  3. Write, draw, paint or create a Vision Board. Express what you want your life to look and feel like. Dare to dream. Imagine what you want in one, five, and 10 years. Lately I’ve needed to remind myself that it’s okay to want. Allow yourself to be wholeheartedly you.
  4. Combine data with self-knowledge. Learning about yourself using data may sound counter-intuitive but it’s surprisingly comforting and turbo charges self-awareness.

    When you answer questions about yourself and then read a report based on those answers, you see yourself from a new vantage point. The report won’t get you 100% right. It can’t. But it can give you language about yourself, words that you may not have used to describe yourself but that you know are spot-on.

    The magic happens when you choose what fits and what doesn’t. The key is for the data to be based on science which is why I recommend TTI Success Insights. I use several of their assessment tools with clients. To learn more, reach out to me on or visit
  5. Go down the rabbit hole. What have you been curious about doing? What is your internal voice whispering? Perhaps … learn to sail or change jobs or go back to school or start a business. Follow that voice by giving yourself full permission to simply research the topic. Go down any rabbit hole you choose. Google it. Read about it. Reach out to learn more from teachers, authors, businesses, whoever might shed light on what you want to explore.

The more self-awareness you develop, the easier it will be to decide between what you want to do versus what you think you should do. Ask yourself right now, “What do I want to do next?” I’d love to hear what you learn in that internal conversation. Send me an email to