Before we go any further, let me clarify what I mean by the title of this post. When I write “How to Get What You Really Want,” I’m not talking about a bigger house, a nicer car or a more important job. There are ways to do all of those things, of course. But, if you think about it, are any of those things what you really want? My guess is the items on your really want list are more intangible but longer lasting than any of those. It probably includes things like good health, true happiness and strong relationships with the people that matter most to you. This post is about how to get those things—the things you really want.
Getting what you really want comes down to being aware of what you’ve been doing up until now and then making a simple shift in your actions to get what you want. I can illustrate how it works with the stories of three different people who were aware and made the shift:
The first story is about a guy named Steve. He’s the founder and president of a successful investment firm. I met him years ago when I was leading a conversation on Creating Your Life GPS for a local chapter of the Young Presidents’ Organization. Steve came into the session exuding skepticism that the conversation was going to make any meaningful difference for him. To his credit, though, he decided to participate in answering the three questions I was asking the group to consider:
- How are you when you’re at your best?
- What are the routines you need in your life to make sure you show up at your best?
- What outcomes would you expect to see at home, work and in the community by regularly showing up at your best?
After giving the group time to capture their answers on a worksheet, I asked them what they noticed. Skeptical Steve surprised me with his answer. “When I’m at my best, I’m supportive,” he said. “But that’s always applied mainly to my kids. I’m extremely supportive of them. What hit me just now is the difference it would make if I was intentionally supportive of the people who work for my company. That would make a huge difference for all of us.” What did Steve really want? A more engaged team and more fun at work. Awareness and a simple shift in his actions helped him get that.
The second story happened more recently in a Becoming a Mindful Leader program that I was leading for a large company. One of the participants shared how she used to think that she needed to be one type of person at work and another type of person outside of work. She explained that the work version of herself had historically been a tough, no BS, suck it up and do your job kind of persona. That’s what she thought she had to do to succeed. Meanwhile, her nonwork self was fun, loving and joyful with family and friends. She found the constant shifting between these two versions of herself to be exhausting and demoralizing. One day she decided to just be the family and friends version of herself all the time, including at work. Since then, she’s been both more successful and happier at work. What she really wanted was to just be her true self all the time. Awareness and a simple shift in her actions helped her get that.
The last story comes from my wife, Diane. Before I started writing this post this morning, I was talking with her about what I was thinking about writing. She immediately said, “That’s what I did with the boys.” When we were young parents to our two boys, Andy and Brad, we faced the usual stresses that most parents face. Unfortunately, that can manifest itself in yelling at the kids when things don’t go the way you want. One day, one of the boys had a friend over to play and the friend did something that violated one of our house rules. Rather than yelling at the kid, Diane quietly asked him to stop doing what he was doing and explained why we didn’t do that in our house. The little friend stopped and went about his business. It was at that moment that Diane asked herself, “Why am I nicer to my kid’s friends than I am my own kids?” From that point on she resolved to always have a conversation with our boys rather than a shouting match. Was it a perfect record from there on? Heck, no (especially for me), but it made a big difference. What did we both really want? A strong and loving relationship with our sons throughout their lives. Now that they’re 24 and 20 years old, the report is so far, so good. Awareness and a simple shift in our actions (led by Diane) helped us get that.
So, what do you really want? What simple shift do you need to make to get it?