How to Figure Out What You Want With, Well, Lucifer

Have you ever spend some time thinking about your goals... only to realize you have no clue how to figure out what you want

I certainly have. There was a time in my life when I thought that was a rather unusual problem to have. After all, doesn’t everyone know what they want?

Over time, and after many conversations with other people, I realized that this is a much more wide-spread issue than it might seem.

I can’t tell you how many hours I’ve spent helping people getting clear on their desire. People often think that coaching is only about accomplishing goals. In reality, when I coach someone I often spend a lot of time helping them get clear on what they actually want.

A while ago, when I helped a rather confused client decide what she most wanted in life, the following thought raced through my head:

‘Oh, geez, I think I have become my client’s Lucifer. Without the drinking problem.’

Let me backtrack for a moment so I can explain what I mean by that.

What Lucifer has to do with anything

A while ago, I started watching Lucifer which is a fun show starring the actual devil (played by Tom Ellis). In it, Lucifer decides to leave hell and ends up becoming a crime-fighting, civil consultant for the LAPD.

The show’s Lucifer has a superpower that comes in handy when trying to solve crimes: he’s able to extract people’s deepest desires from them, simply by making eye contact.

(He also can — and does — drink super-human amounts of alcohol without getting intoxicated. Hence the drinking problem.)

Lucifer’s standard line in the show is:

“Tell me, what is it you desire?”

His line of questioning often leads to rather hilarious results as people have to answer that question honestly, often for the first time in their lives.

There’s the guy in the midst of a middle crisis who left his wife for a young yoga teacher. Subjected to Lucifer’s superpower, he reveals that all he really wants is to take a nap (apparently, all the sex and partying with his new partner is a bit much for him).

Or the cut-throat CEO Lucifer meets in the middle of a commercial shot involving half-naked people dressed as angels. She reveals to him that her deepest desire is to stop using sex to sell an inferior product.

You get the point.

While these examples are extreme, they show that there’s often a huge discrepancy between what people actually desire and the goals they choose to pursue with a lot of intensity.

The power of knowing what you really want

As I continued watching the show, it occurred to me that Lucifer’s standard line is actually incredibly profound.

There’s power in discovering one’s deepest desire. As Napoleon Hill put it:

“Desire is the starting point of all achievement, not a hope, not a wish, but a keen pulsating desire which transcends everything.”

If we know what we really want, we can make the decisions and take the actions that will get us there.

Unlike the people in the show, we won’t end up realizing that our current life is incompatible with our values or with what we most care about... which can save us a ton of regret

There’s only one problem with all that.

Most of us just don't know how to figure out what we want

If you’ve watched the show and are like me, you may (once or twice) have caught yourself thinking: ‘Gee, I really wish he would ask me that question. Just so I could know for sure if I’m on the right track.’

Given that the show’s Lucifer is probably not available for life coaching, here's a different approach for getting clarity. 


How to figure out what you want by identifying what you don't want

“Men go to far greater lengths to avoid what they fear than to obtain what they desire.” ― Dan Brown, The Da Vinci Code

Ironically, the best way to get clarity about what we want is to think about what you don’t want in life.

For instance, I don’t want to be without my loved ones, I don’t want to do work I perceive as meaningless, and I don’t want to feel miserable.

We can find three fairly typical desires right in that one sentence:

  • having my loved ones be alive and well,
  • doing work I find meaningful, and
  • being happy.

All I need to do to get to those desires is to ask myself what I don’t want and to then flip the statement.

Now’s your turn to ask yourself: "What do I not want? And what’s the opposite of what I don’t want?”

This is how you figure out what you want! But wait, there's one more step: 

How to figure out what you what above all else

To discover your order of priority, all you need to do is to rank the things you don’t want in order of how much you don’t want them.

For instance, in my case:

What I most want to avoid is not having my loved ones around. If I had to deal with grief, I certainly wouldn’t be happy and doing meaningful work would only marginally improve things.

I can’t imagine being really happy (or fulfilled) while doing meaningless work so that’s the second thing I would want to avoid from my list.

If I avoid scenario №1 and №2, it’s pretty unlikely that I would feel miserable. So, that’s being relegated to the last place.

To put my desires in order of priority:

  • having my loved ones be alive and well,
  • doing work I find meaningful, and
  • being happy.

Now’s your turn to ask yourself: “What do most want to avoid?” This question will help you put your desires in order of priority.

Gaining clarity on what you most desire is crucial for creating the life you most want. Without knowing what truly matters to us, we’re a rudderless boat.

Once my coaching client knew what direction she wanted to head in, she was able to set her sail accordingly.

The process above is how to figure out what you want so you can do the same. 

And you won’t even have to talk to the show’s Lucifer (or your friendly neighborhood coach) to do so.

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View posts by Louise
Louise is the founder of Leader for Good. She's a former lawyer and academic who moved from Germany to the United States where she started her own business. Today, Louise loves helping her coaching clients and students connect with their passion and purpose. You can find out more about her coaching business at
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