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How to Get What You Want

Be prepared to change your mind.


June 27, 2021

Whether you’re fifteen or eighty, you can identify a want and set out to achieve it at any stage of life. You start with one step in the direction of that goal. And then take another one, and another, until you’re going full steam ahead. But, of course, you won’t always know precisely how you will get from where you are to where you want to end up. That’s okay.

The tricky part is that getting what you want isn’t always a straight line from A to B. Think of snakes that keep shedding their skin because they don’t fit anymore. They outgrow them or wear them out, or they shed before reproduction or giving birth, watershed moments in the life of a snake. We’re not all that different. We need to keep shedding the old skin that doesn’t fit to make way for what does fit at different life stages.

I guess my point is that we have to hold lightly our ideas of who we are and what we want in order to keep growing and evolving, and thus our wants may change..

I had a client once who believed she had to have children by a certain age. Every time she thought about another year passing, she felt like something was wrong with her. It took her a while to see that she hadn’t had children because she loved being an aunt. That was the role she reveled in at that time. When she let go of the old plan, her life opened up to new adventures and possibilities.

Pay attention to how you feel and how you behave.

Wants change because we, and life, can be unpredictable. Sometimes life hands us a knock that throws us off course.

The way to handle life’s surprises and stay awake to your changing desires is to pay attention to how you feel. We discover hidden parts of ourselves by paying attention to what feels right and what feels off. But often, we don’t listen to that voice inside us that knows the next step or tells us not to take one. If we don’t listen, that’s when we can end up living lives of quiet desperation or raging like a snorting bull at the world.

Trying out lots of paths can feel like we’re doing something wrong when in reality, we’re just exploring what does or doesn’t fit. What does or doesn’t feel right.

Try everything.

My son tried every sport as he was moving through elementary school. He tried softball, soccer, football, basketball, and martial arts. And when he tried them, he didn’t always finish out the seasons. But, we didn’t force him to continue. Because we knew that every sport he tried and eliminated, he was potentially getting closer to what he had an affinity for. He ended up playing hockey all during high school and never missed a game.

Some parents might say that we allowed him to be irresponsible by not finishing every season of every sport he tried. However, it turns out he became a highly disciplined marine, so apparently, we didn’t totally blow it.

I started in advertising, and though I kept getting promoted, I knew it wasn’t a fit for years before I went back to school to see what was.

Ending up as a psychotherapist was never in the cards as I grew up, or even in my twenties and thirties. Hell, getting a degree wasn’t in the cards, much less a master’s degree. But I found that I almost always knew what the next step should be as long as I was paying attention. And when I listened, every step got me closer to finding my ‘fit,’ even though I didn’t yet know precisely what it was.

It’s okay if your dream changes.

Our dreams often change over time. The key is to stay in tune with ourselves as we grow and mature. How many people do you know who go from birth to death not paying attention to what fits, what feels right to them? They don’t like their work, or their friends, or their family, and yet they stay exactly where they are.

I’m old enough that as a little girl, I wanted to be Miss America when I grew up (I know, give me a break) until I realized that what I really wanted was to matter. As I matured, I understood that winning a beauty pageant wouldn’t give me that feeling. It took half my adult working life to recognize that I wanted more than anything to focus on understanding the human condition and how I might make a difference in someone’s life other than my own.

Jordan B. Peterson, in ‘Beyond Order,’ says it like this: “Imagine who you could be, and then aim single-mindedly at that.” I think he’s right, but be careful not to take that line out of context. He’s not saying you must know right away! And don’t worry if what you want changes.

We have such a short time on this planet. So try anything that sparks curiosity and makes you feel excited. That’s loving yourself. And somehow, loving yourself allows you to love everyone with whom you come in contact.

Trust life to help you correct.

Life will happily let you know if you take a path that doesn’t serve you or others. Pay attention to the signs along the way so that you don’t get stuck for too long. Pay attention to that internal voice that says do this, not that.

I’m not suggesting we jump like monkeys on amphetamines into anything that grabs our attention at the expense of our responsibilities and commitments. But do honor your curiosity and feeling of excitement when something resonates, be that a new acquaintance, or a new experience, or a new idea, even if somebody else disapproves.

Often, people disapprove because they haven’t learned how to cherish their own curiosity and faith in life. They haven’t learned that what makes life rich is all our different colors. If every leaf were green, we’d stop going to the arboretum in the fall because there’d be nothing to get excited about.

If you don’t like the bed you made, make it over. But, to get what you want, you must be willing to change your mind.

Much love,