The Tragedy Of Knowing What You Want

“You can do anything you want to do. What is rare is this actual wanting to do a specific thing: wanting it so much that you are practically blind to all other things, that nothing else will satisfy you.” ― Chaim Potok, My Name Is Asher Lev


This is a simple question that brings most of us to our knees. Not because we don’t know, most people think they do. We are convinced if we could only have this thing, or this job, or this amount of money, then . . . then we’d be . . . happy? Satisfied? Maybe we’re not even sure of that.

As soon as you push on the answers, you discover how flimsy they are.


But some people do the work. They get clear. They learn to set goals, sit in stillness, look into the heart of desire, and learn what they want, deep down.

They have this vision, clearly defined, doable, and that accounts for humanity even in its ambition.


What the mystics fail to tell us is that with knowledge comes tragedy.

Because very often, the more precise you become at what you’re aiming for, the more you realize you don’t have it. You realize your hand is empty of the thing you’re longing for. You recognize that creating what you want will require more of you than you imagined.

It will require letting go of what you have, it will require feeling the pain of loss, it will require stepping into the unknown with no map and no way to control the outcome.


Knowing what you want requires a tremendous amount of courage. More than most of us are willing to muster. And even when we do, we often tremble in the wake of our choices.

I’ve had to make a bunch of hard choices about going after what I’ve wanted in my life. Recently those choices were even harder than I imagined they’d be.

And yet, once you see what you want, once you become committed to creating it, the courage to step out and begin to work arrives. Not in a blaze of magnificent self-assured glory, but in a slow, trembling step towards what’s possible.

That’s the tragedy of knowing what you want. You feel how empty your hand is. You feel how empty you have become in denying your own truth.

But it’s only in being empty, that you become a clearing to be filled in ways you can’t yet imagine.

So what do you want?