The One Question That Reveals What You Really Want - Matt Essam

The One Question That Reveals What You Really Want

If you ever feel like the work you’re doing has got a bit monotonous and boring, and you’re just taking on projects to pay the bills, then you’re not alone. In fact, over the past few years, I’ve worked with hundreds of freelancers and small business owners in the creative industries who feel exactly the same.

I’d like to share with you a framework that I’ve used to help my clients get more creative fulfillment from their work and to find projects that they’re genuinely passionate about.

Back in 2015, I was sitting on a beach in Thailand with my laptop. I’d spent several years building this business that I thought I wanted. I thought it was the dream business, and I remember sitting there with this real deep sense of unfulfillment because I couldn’t really figure out why I had actually done all of this stuff. It looked great from the outside, but deep down I didn’t really have any purpose or meaning in my work. What I realised was that I hadn’t actually taken the time to figure out what it was that I really wanted. Why was I really building this business? What was I trying to achieve? When I sat down and did that, I realised that I’d actually built a business that wasn’t going to give me the things that I wanted.

One of the processes that I go through with my clients is helping them to really figure out what it is that they want. I often say to my clients, you don’t want a business, the thing that you want is the thing that you think the business will give you. People have lots of different things that they want, and I often refer to these as values. Values are essentially emotions that we want to feel on a regular basis, for example, freedom, respect, significance, or a sense of contribution. It’s easy to leave these feelings out when thinking about building our business and, therefore, we can quickly fall into this trap of just doing work that becomes quite monotonous and unfulfilling.

To prevent ourselves from falling into this trap, the first thing we need to do is to think about changing our perspective. At the moment, you may be in this mindset that you should be doing this type of work because this is what you’re good at, and this is what you can get paid for, but in order to really uncover what’s important to us, we need to shift our perspective.

One of the ways that I help my clients shift their perspective is by asking them questions, and one of my favourite questions to ask is:

If you had three years to live, and money was no object, what would you do?

This is a great way to really get your mind thinking outside of the parameters that you live in, in your current world, to truly uncover some of your deepest desires.

Once you’ve spent time thinking about this question and written your answers down, the next question is one of the most important, and that is, why would you do that? The things that we’re saying we want, ultimately, we want a feeling from them. In other words, we want to feel a certain way, and that’s one of the key parts that I look for when my clients are describing their ultimate business or their ultimate dream. Why do you actually want that? What is it going to give you? What’s the emotional state that you want to feel when you have that thing?

You’ll find that it will generally come down to things like, I want to feel a sense of freedom, I want to feel a sense of making a difference, I want to feel like I’m connecting with people, and when you get down to those things, they’re really your core values. I’ll know that I’ve hit a value because you can’t really go past that, you can’t say “why?” anymore, and you realise that it’s actually just a feeling, it’s something that you feel, rather than something that you have.

The final part of this framework, once you’ve answered these two questions, is you really need to figure out how you are going to bring these values, or these emotional states, into your business, or your day-to-day life, so you’re not waiting for some time in the future to build a business that gives you those things. How do you actually bring those into the ‘now’? How do you actually encompass those values into your business and allow yourself to live those values on a daily basis?

There isn’t an endpoint when it comes to thinking about what you really want, and you can get the creative fulfillment that you want from your work right now – you don’t have to wait!

I often spend more than a day on this process, really digging down to find people’s values, but what I’d love to know from you is, if you had three years to live, and money was no object, what would you do?

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