Kim is a software developer and the mother two high school students. She has an exciting career opportunity across the country to work in an artificial intelligence lab, which is something she has always wanted to do. The move would disrupt the academics and extracurricular pursuits for her children. Kim strongly believes that her children’s opportunities for future success are increased if they get into a quality university, which depends on their performance in high school; she believes that a disruption of this size could jeopardize their future opportunities. Kim wants to accept the job offer but also believes she should stay the course for the benefit of her kids.
Kim is experiencing the conflict between what she wants to do, and what she believes she should do, and she feels so strongly that the “should” and “want” become confused with one another.
Kim’s desire to expand her career is a want. It is internally generated, growing from her own intention. It is not an obligation or a response to an external pressure. The “should” aspect in this decision is that she “should” take the job as it directly supports her desire.
Whereas Kim’s desire to put her children in the position to offer them the best opportunities for success is also a want, the “should” aspect does not directly support her desire. The notion that she “should” maintain stability for the sake of her children does not directly influence the desired outcome of having better opportunities than they would if they move. It is her assumption, but ultimately it is only tangential to her true want.
If Kim were to accept the position without reconciling her feelings regarding the future opportunities for her children, it could embed a sense of guilt in her and trigger feelings of blame in her children directed at her. Similarly, if Kim were to decline the position without validating her genuine desire for the new challenge, basing her decision on the feeling of “should” could seed resentment toward her current job or her children. (There is a belief that deep resentment is often seeded when one says “yes” to something when they genuinely want to say “no,” and vice versa.)
For Kim to arrive at the best decision for her, she would need to consult her intuition. Intuition is an effective compass to navigate her to the path that leads to “want” without settling for the safety of “should.” Kim could check-in with her intuition through a series of assessments of her senses; two specific ones could work well her in this case.
First, Kim could assess the sensations that come up in her body when she thinks about accepting the new opportunity or declining it. For example, if the thought of accepting the opportunity generates feelings of abundance, butterflies, energy, freedom, or joy, then Kim can reasonably be assured that accepting the offer aligns with her desires (her want). Conversely, if the thought of declining the opportunity generates feelings of bitterness, constriction, pressure, or restlessness, then Kim can reasonably be assured that declining the offer does NOT align with her desires (said differently, she would be acting based on the feeling of should instead of want).
Second, Kim could consider what her dilemma sounds like if she overhead someone else describing it. She could imagine sitting in a coffee shop and overhearing another woman explain the same conflict and think about how it would sound from an eavesdropper’s perspective. How would the woman sound and what would be Kim’s thoughts on the issue? Would she think that the woman was really strong for stifling professional desires to support her children, or would she view the situation as a tragedy that the woman feels compelled to sacrifice her dream opportunity for the future of her children? If the conversation Kim overhears embraces opportunity, solutions, and hope, then it likely is a situation that aligns with a want. Conversely, if the conversation laments challenges, costs, and struggles, then it might be a situation that is not honoring a want.
If Kim takes the job, is that selfish? Living in alignment with authentic desires (wants) produces energy, elevates vision, and reveals creativity and opportunities. How would Kim show up (energetically) for her children if she aligned her career with her desires? Alternatively, how would Kim show up (energetically) in supporting her children’s future if she declines the opportunity?
As a parent, Kim could also consider what example she will set for her children if she accepts the position, or if she stays the course? How will her children approach selecting a university or future profession? Will they be more likely to pick the path based on what they want to do, or based on what they think they should do?
When you are confronted with a conflict between something you want to do and something you believe you should do, you can do two things:
- Determine whether the “should” directly supports an underlying genuine “want,” and that the “want” is only achieved by doing the “should.”
- Assess the situation using your intuition, and specifically these 5 techniques:
- Ask your heart,
- Assess your somatic response (body and spirit),
- Reflect on the “you” in the situation,
- Listen as your own eavesdropper, and
- Assess the decision against your values.
For more information on checking in with your senses about your feelings of want and should, check out the Sensing Your Wants assessment, which is the bonus offering for The One Thing Every Mom Needs to Know best seller.