Mitch in Brooklyn, NY, 2021. Photo by Ebru Yildiz.

What Do You Want?

Instead of making resolutions, this new year’s tell yourself the truth

Mitch Horowitz
3 min readDec 31, 2021


This article is adapted from the forthcoming second edition of my book The Miracle Month.

On the eve of the new year, I am reminded of one of my favorite quotes from Friedrich Nietzsche: “Formula for our happiness: a Yes, a No, a straight line, a goal.”

“Formula for our happiness: a Yes, a No, a straight line, a goal.”

This is from Walter Kaufmann’s translation of Nietzsche’s The Antichrist, written in 1888 but considered sufficiently controversial so that its initial publication was delayed until 1895. It was not bluster when Nietzsche wrote in his preface, “Only the day after tomorrow belongs to me.”

Many of us are educated to think of “serious” philosophy as scholastic, logical, macro, and abstract. I dissent from that. Philosophy should govern next Tuesday.

Philosophy should govern next Tuesday.

In an 1898 lecture, William James challenged American philosophers to produce a philosophy of “cash-value, in terms of particular experience,” with his emphasis in the original. Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote essays on the themes of “Wealth” and “Power,” speaking of such things not abstractly but explicitly. We need a philosophy of actuality. Of results. One that honors the goals of the individual rather than seeking to deny, rearrange, or ignore them.

What do you want? That be the most important question of your life. It belongs to you alone. It has no parameters.

What do you want? may be the important question of your life.

I believe that nothing does more to enact the powers of the psyche — including the causative and creative potentials of thought — than focusing on one passionately felt aim. It is the single greatest guarantee we have of getting where we wish to go. It is not an absolute guarantee. But it is the closest that we are granted.

Why the emphasis on focus? Nature is powerful when focused. Air, water, light — all are dispersible. But when concentrated, all are extremely powerful. We mirror nature. “As above, so…



Mitch Horowitz

"Treats esoteric ideas & movements with an even-handed intellectual studiousness"-Washington Post | PEN Award-winning historian | Censored in China