Discover what you truly want


Knowing what you want to do and becoming who you want to be. It sounds lovely, but how do you achieve it? Catelijne Elzes checks out the options.

Before I start learning and practicing, I need to find the answer to one question: How do you know that what you are doing is what you want? Dutch therapist, author and trainer Hannah Cuppen tells me the answer is simple. “Does it give you energy or take energy?” she says. “If it gives you energy, that’s where your soul is, your heart. It almost sounds too easy, but it’s so true.”

Naturally the key thing here is balance. There are always bound to be parts of your work and life that cost energy. Meetings, for example, or doing the grocery shopping for dinner with friends. But when the work being discussed at the meeting or the dinner itself, gives you energy, that’s not a problem. When the balance shifts to the energy-losing side, however, you’re probably doing something that doesn’t suit you well. It still might not be caused by the entire activity—it could be just one part. Maybe you have one particular client who takes too much energy, or maybe the group you do sports with is too hardcore for you.

Barbara van der Steen teaches a class called ‘Become who you are’ at The School of Life in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, during which she first encourages attendees to dream big, and asks, “What if there was no limit? What would you want to do if there was unlimited money, time and space, and you wouldn’t be neglecting anyone by choosing what you want to do?” When I attended, the lady next to me said that she would want to live surrounded only by nature. Someone else said they would love to start a restaurant. I wished for a beautiful and safe village where refugees can live, with good things to do and delicious meals. No more boredom, no more fear.

Next Van der Steen told us to view these dreams as metaphors. “What’s behind this dream?” she asked. “What underlying desire? Is it about mattering more? About fighting loneliness? Connecting people? Ask yourself if there is something small you can do to fulfill the desire behind the dream. Maybe you can invite your recently divorced neighbor around more often… it doesn’t have to involve completely changing your whole life. For example, I love Berlin. So I could figure out a way to actually move there and live there in eight years’ time, or I could just spend more time there now from time to time, cycling around town on a rented bicycle and being happy.”

  • More about discovering what you really want can be found in Issue 22.

Text Catelijne Elzes Photography ©Vicki Grafton/Stocksy United

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