Why You’re Not Getting What You Want

“What do you want?” I asked my client, who had salvaged a major project for the company and was disappointed that the CEO wasn’t articulating his appreciation for her efforts. Well, he had said “good job” in one of his emails but apparently that wasn’t what she was looking for. It turns out, however, she didn’t know exactly what she wanted. All she knew is that she felt like she wasn’t getting it.

That seems to be the case with most of us. We’re walking around in reactive mode, quick to notice when there’s something we don’t like about our circumstances and fixating on the fact that we don’t like it, thinking somehow that will lead to getting what we want. Of course, that’s just our frugal brain’s way of keeping us from using precious mental energy to imagine a different reality than the one in front of us.

But do you go into a new Starbucks and expect the barista to magically know exactly how you like your coffee? Or do you declare, in no uncertain terms, that you want an extra hot semi foam latte three sugars.

The recipe for getting what you want in life isn’t that different: it starts by investing the energy in focusing on exactly what you want in a particular situation — without filtering, being “realistic” or wondering how you’re going to get it.

Once you’ve transferred the mental whirl of dissatisfaction out of your head into a “Here’s Exactly What I Want” list, then you can take a look and start to evaluate what strategic action you might take — or whether you’re willing to take action at all. Either way, you won’t be chasing a nebulous target wondering why you’re not getting what you want.

– So the social entrepreneur founding a start-up optometry education program shifts his focus from the challenges of Third World bureaucracy — and gets clear on exactly what what he would do with $500K.
– The COO who’s frustrated with her mismatched team gets clear that she wants her newly promoted coordinator to be able to do more long term (not just next step) planning — and can identify one tactic to develop this ability.
– The IT executive who’s disappointed that a job opportunity turned out to be internal not client-facing understands that she needs to be clear in expressing her preference to the recruiter, which may close some doors.
– The consultant who’s upset because her manager didn’t cc her on an email using her analysis understands more clearly that she cares less about receiving credit for her work and more about visibility and involvement — to be seen as more than just a research, data gathering resource — and can decide whether she wants to express this to her manager.