How to dig up deep desires

Thinking of a close friend, ask yourself, “What does she want?”

I don’t mean, “What does she want in life? What is her ultimate driving motivation?” I mean the simpler question: “What does she want right now? What’s she about to act on?”

That first set of questions is too abstract, too buried beneath proxies. Does she want prestige? From her friends or from society in general? What kind of prestige, like in her work or her personality? What?

The second set of questions is more concrete and closer to the surface. Does she want something to drink? Hot or cold, sweet or sour? Does she want it in a glass cup or a plastic cup?

And since these questions float up top on the surface, it’s easy to see their answers: just watch what happens next (in some cases, depending on how well you know your friend, you might be able to imagine an accurate answer).

Starting with the surface can actually end up deeper than trying to start with the deeper question. Asking about, say, prestige, like we did, often ends with vague answers. Or, if you’re like me, you give up on that line of curiosity altogether.

Asking instead about, say, a cup of coffee can quickly get deeper because the path of curiosity is lined with concrete landmarks to guide the questioning. She wants a plastic cup? Maybe she’s not so environmentally conscious. Maybe she just wants the one she won’t have to worry about her children breaking. Maybe she never considered either of those, opting for the plastic one simply for the daisies printed on the side of it.

Almost everything in your friend’s world represents a decision, in one way or another.┬áHer clothes, her line of work, her breakfast cereal, her favorite TV show, her hairstyle, her unmade bed – at some point, she chose each of them or chose to let them default to her.

The question is, why?

Ask that enough times about enough simple things in your friend’s life, and pretty soon a bundle starts to form in the shape of the answer to the deeper question, the question of what she wants in life, her ultimate driving motivation.

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