What Do You Want?

It's a simple question really.  Or is it?

Psychologist Abraham Maslow tell us, "It isn't normal to know what we want. It is a rare and difficult psychological achievement (The Temple Experience, Wendy Ulrich, p.169)."

So, what do you want?

Do you even know?

Our family frequently shops at thrift stores.  However, I have one daughter who currently refuses to do so.  She wants "nice" things, she says.  Though she wants to be thrifty (and have money for other pursuits), she also has a desire to have new and nice things.  So, I am trying to teach her that it is OKAY to want "nice things" and that choosing such will limit her options in the future.  Neither is wrong.  She works hard to make money, she saves money, how she spends it is really up to her and what she truly wants.

Sometimes in our culture we are afraid to ask for what we want.  We may feel that doing so is selfish or silly.  Like my daughter who feels "bad" that she wants nice things, we question our desires and think maybe we are bad for wanting what we want.  Sometimes, therefore, we shove down those wants, hiding them away and feeling ashamed they even exist.

Likewise, there may be some negative connotation with wanting things because of the teaching that we must give up our will for the Lord's will.  Now, before I go further, it is true that we need to submit our will to God, understanding that ultimately He knows what is best for us, but I think we sometimes look at these wills as though they are always in conflict with one another.

Doesn't the Lord tell us, "Ask and ye shall receive?"  Similarly he asks, "Or what man is there of you, who, if his son ask bread, will give him a stone?"  I truly believe the Lord wants to give us what we want.  I have come to understand that it is we who do not know what we want, therefore we don't really know what to ask for!

I think it is human to want a lot of things.  I want to travel.  I want to watch movies all day sometimes. I want to read books all day sometimes.  I want junk food.  I want lots and lots of money (so I can travel).  I want nice clothes.  I want my children to be healthy and to not fight with each other. I want people to like me and to like all people all of the time.

And then there's the fact that many of our desires actually contradict one another.  I want to sleep in and I also I want a quiet morning before the kids wake up.  I want my husband to work less but I want him to work so we can have money (to travel, haha).  I want to serve my neighbors and I also want to have time for myself. I want to be a mother and I want to have some sort of career.

All of these conflicting desires actually then make it very difficult for us to know what we really want, deep down inside.  And yet, the conflict also gives us the opportunity to "educate our desires," as Elder Maxwell would say.   It's this educating of our desires, this fine-tuning, I think that brings us closer to the will of God.  He has blessed us already with certain gifts and personality traits that lead us to want certain things - - good things.  Also coming with us from heaven are weaknesses and traits that may lead us to want not so good things.  If we are truly seeking to righteously follow God, we will move more toward the good, thus following His plan for us anyway.  Right?

I have recently been on my own search for what I truly want.  Heavenly Father has given me time (too much, in my opinion) to kind of "go it alone," to seek out what I truly want. I have had some conflicting thoughts and ideas of what to choose and where to go in my life.  I've also been asking what His will would be for me.  His answer has pretty much been, "It's your choice." (Sometimes I dislike agency!) Though painful, hard and a little lonely at times, this experience has made me more confident in what I've always wanted, yet forgotten.

We need to remember that Satan is the one who wants us to be miserable.  Heavenly Father wants us to have joy.  Seeking what we want, in accordance with what God has already given and desires further for us, brings us closer to that joy.  When we keep this open conflict with God - - my will vs. Thy will - - then there is misery, we are left to "kick against the pricks."  Though we ultimately will submit our will to the Father's, I don't believe we'll find our righteous desires much different than His in the end.

 - - - - - - 

"Glory...turns out to satisfy my original desire 
and indeed to reveal an element in that desire which I had not noticed.  
By ceasing for a  moment to consider my own wants 
I have begun to learn better what I really wanted." 
C.S. Lewis, Weight of Glory p. 39


  1. My first comment didn't post, so instead of retyping it all, I just want you to know I loved this post. It touched my heart. Thank you!

    1. Thank you, Shannon! Now I wish I'd read your whole first post (but I understand). I'm still working it out in my mind, so not sure I said it as eloquently as I'm thinking in my head. ;-) Thank you for your sweet sentiments!

  2. Beautiful article Julia, I've often wondered about this same question. Elder Holland discusses it a talk entitled "Come Unto Me".

    "When Andrew and Philip first heard Christ speak, they were so moved, so spellbound that they followed him as he left the crowd. Sensing that he was being pursued, Christ turned and asked the two men, “What seek ye?” (John 1:38). Other translations render that simply “What do you want?”

    They answered, “Where dwellest thou?” or “Where do you live?”

    And Christ said, “Come and see.” Just a short time later he formally called Peter and others of the new apostles with the same spirit of invitation, “Come, follow me” (see Matthew 4:19).

    It seems to me that the essence of our lives is distilled down to these two brief elements in these opening scenes of the Savior’s mortal ministry. One element is the question, to every one of us, “What seek ye? What do you want?” The second is his answer as to how to get that. Whoever we are, and whatever our problems, his response is always the same, forever: “Come unto me.'"

    In my work, I coach people on how to accomplish their dreams and almost always it comes back to living principles of the gospel. It's funny because I am noticing that as people pursue their dreams (their wants) they are becoming more like their Heavenly Father.

    1. Oh, this is so beautiful! Thank you! It reminds me...in The Temple Experience (a book I referenced in the post), Wendy Ulrich proposes that when we meet the Savior he may not ask us what we've accomplished or who we have served, but rather "What do you want?" I find that so intriguing! And you're right...as we pursue our God-given desires we things just start to fall into place, bringing us closer to Christ. If you coach others, you would love Ulrich's book. I'm sure I've read that Holland talk before, but I'm going to find and read it again! Thank you so much for your thoughts! ;-)

  3. So . . . what do you want? That's what I am curious about.


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