“Sometimes, it’s a good idea to figure out what you don’t want and work back from there.”

Clarity is often a hard thing to find. We know we want a great life but what, exactly, does that mean? We know we want to be successful but we don’t always know what that success might look like. Specifically. Of course, we all want an awesome career; we’re just not sure what that awesome career might be. And we know we want to live our purpose but sometimes we’re not really sure what it is. Or where it is.

In the pursuit of success (whatever that means to us as individuals), being driven is not enough. Neither is being hopeful. A motivated and hopeful person without clarity of purpose and direction will be a frustrated and de-motivated person soon enough. It’s hard to get excited about something that we can’t define. Impossible, perhaps.


When we get clear about what we want, we tend to get excited. And when we get excited, we create mental, emotional, creative and physical momentum. And when we ride that wave of momentum, we begin to think, do and create in new and powerful ways. With positive transformation often being the result.

So, that’s all good in theory (I hear you say), but where do we start with the ‘finding clarity’ process?

Ironically, sometimes the place we’re most likely to find clarity is the last place we might think to look. Specifically, identifying the things we don’t want in (and for) our lives; our Anti-Goals. It’s true; sometimes figuring out what we don’t want helps us lift the cerebral and creative fog to discover what we do want.

So, What Don’t You Want?

Here’s a version of a conversation I’ve had many times:

“I want a fulfilling career but I’m totally confused about what I want to do.”
“Okay, let’s identify what you don’t want (in a career) and that might get us a little closer to an answer.”
“Do you want to work in an office environment?”
“Do you want a sedentary job?”

“Well, those two answers eliminate about a million careers!”
“Do you want a nine-to-five type work arrangement?”
“No, I’d like something more flexible.”
“Would you prefer to work indoors or outdoors?”
“Hmm, out.”
“Would you like to interact with people all day?”
“Not so much; I’d prefer animals.”

And so the process goes until we narrow the focus down a few possible careers. It usually takes less time than you might expect and leaves the person feeling significantly more positive, motivated and excited. Clear, even. Of course, we can apply the same technique to almost any aspect of our lives: relationships, financial situation, lifestyle, health, business development, philanthropy… and so on.                            

So, maybe the smart question for today is:

“What don’t I want?” ;)

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{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

Cardinal Cyn December 4, 2011 at 11:24 am

Great blog Craig. A process of elimination can be very helpful. I once attended a workshop on the psychology of weight loss. They conducted a very quick and effective exercise to help participants identify their values (not quite the same as goals, but using the ‘anti-goals’ technique). Each participant was provided with a pack of cards on which were written various value statements (e.g. feeling good about myself; enjoying food and drink; engaging in clearly defined work, etc). Within a few minutes, by shuffling and eliminating a few times, values and themes were identified. This has been a great tool for me. I still shuffle the cards from time to time, as values like to shift and change too, because they are slippery little suckers!


chebbieanne December 4, 2011 at 3:47 pm

I dont want to ever;
take my life for granted
be too busy to care about the people and animals and world i live in
be boring or selfish
fail to make every day matter
lose my inner child
stop making people laugh
not be there when needed
look like a super model
stop learning and teaching
lose my independence
forget to read Craig’s blogs
become precious
accept mediocrity
forget what i dont want


chebbieanne December 4, 2011 at 3:50 pm

but if i did look like a super model i would learn to deal with it!


Evan December 4, 2011 at 6:38 pm

Maybe this is picky. I don’t think we want vague things, I think we want specific things but don’t know what or don’t have the words or images. This means that paying attention to the specifics of the desire can lead to clarity.

I do think that eliminating what we don’t want is an excellent way to get clear on what we do want.


Gayle December 5, 2011 at 6:41 am

Craig, Im going to try and use your suggestions. I have been wanting to go back to work for the last year (health and weight issues being the problem up til then), but I have no wish to go back to what I did for 25 years as the occupation is not what it was when I started.

I do know alot of the I dont want parts, but still a bit sceptical that I can think up something I do want though. But I will give it a try.


J.D. Meier December 5, 2011 at 7:46 am

> when we get excited, we create mental, emotional, creative and physical momentum
Well put.

There is something compelling about clarity.

I think that conflict in priorities is one of the biggest energy drains, or at least a distraction from what we’re capable of.


R1 December 5, 2011 at 9:27 am

Excellent advice. Thank you.


Kate December 5, 2011 at 1:53 pm

use to be excited, new what I wanted – now not so sure…


Andy December 6, 2011 at 10:38 pm

This has worked for me Craig. Actually it has been the catalyst for providing the most clarity to me about a general direction, not the end goal. That is work in progress.

I know after 15 years i do NOT want to do recruitment any more. I have very little passion for it. I know i do NOT want to move into a cut throat competative sales environment….unless i believe in the product or service, where you can focus on your own environment and not worry about the competition so much. I do NOT want to deal with a product which does not promote health (i.e. fast food, refined foods, etc….) …this still leaves a lot of neutral products and services to choose from.

Yet I still enjoy working with people, providing a service and building relationships and still want to bring my business skills to what ever it might be.

So for me, if this helps anyone, it is about the clarity which is starting to develop and it gets clearer the more milestones/decisions I come to. It can build momentum. It’s not so bad if i do not get it tomorrow as I’m enjoying the process more than what it might end up looking like at the end!


Cristopher Rehnquist July 17, 2012 at 9:12 pm

Possibility Quotes

Sometimes we just can’t find the motivation and inspiration needed to turn around and change our life for better, possibility quotes do a quite good job on providing us the motivation and inspiration that we need to go ahead and change!


Anonymous September 2, 2012 at 4:07 pm

The problem I have is NOT that I don’t know what I want to do, it is HOW to go about getting to where I know I want to go…


meditation guru November 9, 2012 at 8:54 pm

Knowing what you don’t want is an essential step to know what exactly you want. Like your thoughts on clarity.


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