I Could Do Anything If I Only Knew What It Was Book Summary - I Could Do Anything If I Only Knew What It Was Book explained in key points
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I Could Do Anything If I Only Knew What It Was summary

Barbara Sher with Barbara Smith

How to Discover What You Really Want and How to Get It

4.4 (329 ratings)
15 mins
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    I Could Do Anything If I Only Knew What It Was
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    You must overcome expectations, non-action, and hidden resistance

    Three big themes usually keep people from knowing what they want: what they think others expect; not taking action; and “hidden resistance.” Let’s consider each. 

    First, there are other people’s expectations. You may have zero clue what you actually want, but you probably have a clear idea of what you think others expect of you. Expectations are conveyed through the stories about you passed on by parents, other family members, friends, or peers. Say you grew up in a family of doctors, and you were told that you also would become a doctor. Or it could be something more subtle – maybe your father complaining about politicians all your life has made you steer clear of a career in politics.

    Even with good intentions, all of these inputs can make for too much noise. You have to cut through that clutter to find your own voice. Here’s how: Make a list of everyone who matters in your life and what you think they expect of you; next, consider any decisions you’ve made based on those opinions. Note which choices have made you happy, if any. Keep the list handy so that as you move on, you’ll know the dreams you are chasing are yours and no one else’s.

    The next big block to goal setting is not acting at all. You have to start doing something, even if it’s small. While it’s tough to get moving when you don’t know what you want, you still need motivation to act when the goal is finding the goal. 

    There are four big pushes for taking action in this conundrum. First, you have to at least try something to know whether you like it or not. Even disliking something will steer you toward what you do like through the process of elimination. Second, the act of trying new things on its own raises your confidence, regardless of the outcome. Third, lucky things do happen, but can’t if you don’t open the door to them. And last, going with your gut trains you to follow your instincts, or at least fine-tune them in cases where things don’t work. 

    It also takes action to identify your personal hidden resistance, the third thing that can keep you from knowing what you want. This one is unique to you, and only you can find it. To do that, Sher offers a series of exercises to make you consider what would be your perfect job. For the sake of brevity, we’ll combine the concepts into one exercise.

    Grab a pen or your notes app and let your imagination run wild as you list every aspect of your ideal job, right down to the hours you’d keep, what you’d do, and where you’d do it. If you struggle to think of what would be perfect, instead write down the same kind of list – but describing the absolute worst job you can imagine. Take that list of negatives and change each detail to a positive counterpart. Either way, you’ll arrive at a fantasy job description. 

    Now imagine actually doing the fantasy job. Do you feel uneasy? Why? Are there any thoughts popping up telling you that you can’t? What exactly are they saying? Those feelings and messages are coming directly from your hidden resistance. Jot them down – we are going to explore just a few of the scenarios where others’ expectations, non-action, and hidden resistance rear their heads, and how to knock them off your path to knowing what you want.

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    What is I Could Do Anything If I Only Knew What It Was about?

    I Could Do Anything If I Only Knew What It Was (1994) offers practical guidance to help people figure out what they want in life and how to use that knowledge to go after it. It tackles the most common obstacles to goal-setting with exercises and tactics that help people customize an approach that works best for them.

    Who should read I Could Do Anything If I Only Knew What It Was?

    • People who do not know what they want in life
    • High achievers who feel like something is missing
    • Anyone struggling with figuring out their next steps

    About the Author

    Barbara Sher was a therapist, career counselor, and business owner who has been called “the godmother of life coaching.” Prior to her death in 2020, her career spanned five decades that included many media appearances, a worldwide network of “Sher’s Success Teams,” and seven books, most notable among them the best-seller Wishcraft, and Live the Life You Love, which won the Books for a Better Life Commission’s top motivational book award.

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