A friend comes up to you, and tells you they want one of the above things: “I want [X]!” they say.
You set aside what you were doing, make time for them, and give them all the advice and help you can.
They smile, nod, and pretend to take it, and you feel good about yourself for helping them get what they want.
Months later they’re whining on social… “I want [X], why can’t I ever get [X]?”
You ask them if they followed any of the loving advice you offered months earlier.
They say “No I didn’t,” and quickly rifle off a million excuses about why they couldn’t apply your advice.
Has this ever happened to you?
In my career as an advisor, it’s happened to me way, way, way too many times.
And it feels bad.
And often, we repeatedly waste our resources trying to help people like them get what they claim they want.
Why would someone seek me out, tell me they desperately want something, set aside time to receive the greatest wisdom on the planet, then only pretend to follow it?
Plus… why would I waste my time giving them help when chances are they’ll fail to apply it?
It seems insane to me when I write it out. No one is making people do these things. But it’s all too common.
Well, after experiencing this more times than I can count, I’ve boiled it down to two things:
And the sad thing is, most people don’t even realize they’re doing this.
(Which could be a 3rd point: Their choice to live in denial.)
Misunderstanding is the biggest issue, so let’s dig into it and see what’s up.
The main misunderstanding is this:
Most people don’t really know what the word ‘want’ means.
So they mis-use it and confuse everyone around them.
They’re taught to think whatever impulse they have is a ‘want’, but impulses can come from bad habits, poor teachings, misunderstandings, societal dogma, etc.
An impulse is not a want.
Most people believe that if they have an impulse toward fame, it means they ‘want‘ fame, and then they go and ask for help achieving it.
That’s not necessarily true, in fact, it’s not even likely.
They may not want fame at all.
They’re likely just following a society-trained impulse.
So… most people think they know what ‘want’ means, so they throw it around, but actually they misunderstand it.
This makes them unable to get what they want —and worse— it spreads to everyone they misguidedly recruit in achieving their ‘dreams.’
To me, it’s painful, tragic, and sad.
Because the people who are most guilty of this are usually good people. Positive people. Well-intentioned people…
…but this misunderstanding causes tons of problems.
And they don’t even realize they’re creating them.
And it’s all because they’ve been taught wrong. Society teaches us to want money, fame, status, sex, love, beauty, etc.
And there’s nothing wrong with any of those things, if you really want them.
But the truth is…
Most people don’t actually know what they want.
For example, we may or may not actually want the things listed earlier, but society trains our impulses toward them.
So people end up confused.
And they spread their confusion to others, and end up wasting everyone’s time, energy, and resources as they pursue something they don’t really want.
Despite our not knowing what we truly want, still we continually blurt out “I want this…” or “I want that…” all day.
In reality, most of us just have a vague idea in our head, and then we waste other people’s time with it. Most of us don’t really know what we want, but we run out and ask for advice about random topics.
We’re in denial about our true wants, and our denial is hard to spot.
It usually takes the form of obsessing over X, and refusing to prioritize Y, & Z.
Anyone who prioritizes this way is ignoring the number one rule of getting what you want.
“But what is it,” you ask?
If you want a glass of water (X), you must travel well to the kitchen, handle the glass with care, and make sure not to over-pour or miss the glass (Y & Z).
If you want to grow food (X), you must plant a seed, the plant must be provided nutrients, the food must be harvested (Y & Z).
And if you neglect or half-ass any of the steps, you won’t get what you want.
If you want X, you must perform Y & Z well.
It sounds simple… and it is.
And most people understand this principle for simple things, but they abandon it as soon as they have a more complex want like wealth or relationships.
For example, Vincent approaches me and says:
“I want to inspire the world to exercise.” (X)
Great, I love it, I’m happy to help.
So I explain that in order to do this, he’ll need to grow a substantial audience on a single social channel (Y), and since he has but no budget to advertise (but does have many hours in the day), he’ll need to manually get followers 1 by 1 (Z), to start.
To me, this isn’t rocket science, but I explained it and he seemed to get it.
You wanna inspire the masses, Vincent? Step one: Get mass attention.
So you’d think a smart, positive, inspiring guy like Vincent would easily handle this simple set of steps, right?
Instead, he wastes a designer’s time by hiring them to make a new website. Totally unnecessary.
During this, I remind Vincent gently about the importance of gaining followers on one social channel.
He then wastes his time by filming youtube videos.
He also asks me for help improving his on-camera technique, and since I’m dedicated to ryzing him up, I do, while reminding him often about the importance of getting followers on one social channel (Y).
Anyway, noticing that Vincent’s not doing the essential 1-by-1 building, I spend an entire day, ‘racing’ him —manually grinding out my own follower count— to show him what’s possible.
He thanks me. But does he buckle down & pull another shift getting followers the next day?
Instead, he claims that blogging’s the most fun, sustainable activity for him, and takes it up.
Vincent ends up wasting two years making zero progress towards his true want.
Now think about these:
Well, those are deeper, more philosophical questions than I intend to answer here— but I will say this:
Whatever the answers are…
…Vincent better get his shit together or he’ll never get what he wants.
His desires will be forever frustrated, and his life will plateau miserably.
Being thirsty, but forever failing to acquire water, is not a good look.
You can see that Vincent may not even want X, and he’s definitely not focused on Y & Z.
We began our lives clearly knowing our wants.
We knew what we wanted as kids, before society trained us away from it.
We didn’t stress-eat, we ate when we were hungry, and pushed the food away when we weren’t.
We knew when we needed affection, or to be picked up, and we knew when we needed to be left alone to nap.
We were in tune with our own wants, our own needs, our own happiness.
We didn’t let what others think, or how it might look, or what we’d been taught distract us from what we wanted, at least not for very long.
And we can be that way again.
But to manage it, we must replace a lot of teachings & bad habits we may have picked up.
And that takes —gasp— effort.
So you have to decide, are your hopes, dreams, & wants worth getting clear on?
Or is it too much effort?
Would you rather stay confused & clueless about making your wants a reality?
I’m gonna assume the former, and show you how to get clear.
So here’s an exercise I created years ago but forgot about and abandoned until one of my clients, Cynthia, came up with it on her own (without my sharing it with her!)
The exercise is simple.
It’s a series of clear, detailed, honest lists.
The first list is “Things I Must Have,” and here’s a small, 3-item sample (but you should make a big list):
The second list is “Things I Really Want,” and here’s a small, 3-item sample:
The third list is “Things I Kind Of Want,” and here’s a small, 3-item sample:
These lists need to be written down, in black and white. It’s the number one way to beat denial, shed light on the truth, and accept reality as it is.
The writing needs to be done alone, distraction-free, and honestly, to avoid any false wants society has tainted you with in the past.
(It’s tempting to do it in your head or an app, but study after study shows writing things down will change your life and make things real, whereas mental pondering won’t.)
Anyway, these lists seem good right? I wasn’t tricked by society, I really do want wealth.
But people have written down their wants before and still not accomplished them.
Well, one of the big issues is that people aren’t self-assessing properly.
And rarely are they balancing their likes with their dislikes, their wants with their anti-wants.
So the last step is to write an opposite list of things.
Fourth list, “Things I Find Unpleasant:”
We write this list because you can’t be clear on your wants, if you’re not clear on your “don’t wants.”
You’re either clear on both, or clear on neither, because they’re all related; connected.
And more importantly:
You can’t reach what you want, if you don’t enjoy the journey.
Unpleasant things are like holes in the road, they can ruin your path, no matter how good-looking the destination is.
Let’s say you have “playing basketball in a league” on your list of Really Wants.
Unpleasant things will kill that want.
Like say you love basketball, but noncompetitive people annoy the hell out of you…
Sure, you can go out and play in a casual league, even get a friend to join…
…but any casual attitude will eventually make you hate the game you once loved.
You can’t have even one noncompetitive person involved, because sooner or later they’ll spread their influence to your team (or opposing teams), and the game will become worse & worse, sucking any joy out of basketball for a competitive soul like you.
Unpleasant things are like a drop of food coloring splashing into a bowl of water.
They color everything with unpleasantness, even things you once loved.
Which means you either:
A. Want basketball enough to adapt and make non-competitive games enjoyable somehow.
B. Want basketball enough to find or found your own league of competitive games.
C. Don’t really want basketball that badly after all.
And for so many people, the answer is C.
They’re not willing to start their own league. They’re not even willing to find a new one. And they definitely aren’t willing to transform into someone who sees non-competitive people as a fun challenge.
And this brings us to the final detail of this entire exercise.
Once you have your wants, and your unpleasant obstacles, you have to decide which wants you’re truly, really, honestly willing to do the work for.
In our basketball example (for most people), “playing basketball in a league” should never have been on their Really Want list, because they —like most people— aren’t willing to do the work needed to overcome obstacles.
Their real, clear, honest want is more like:
They’d “happily play competitive ‘ball if it landed in their lap, but they’re not gonna lift a finger to make it a reality.”
And they definitely shouldn’t be asking friends to join a league with them.
Now, instead of making your friend join the casual league with you, you don’t waste their time.
Now, instead of hiring a basketball coach to ‘overcome teammates noncompetitive attitudes’, you admit your team just isn’t competitive and you can’t bring your A-Game in that environment.
Now, instead of whining about ‘ball, you admit you don’t want it enough to even bother finding a new league.
Now your true wants are clear.
And you won’t accidentally burden others with any confused wants, things you think you want but really don’t, or things society has tricked you into ‘wanting.’
You can move towards your true wants, and get started on the right foot.
But all this only deals with the X part of the formula.
Like, yes, I really am broke and I truly do want buttloads of money.
OK, great, that brings us to the next exercise.
The Clear Path.
This exercise helps you get clear on the Y & Z necessary to realize your wants.
It works by starting with your desired goal, destination, or result (X), and plotting out a series of steps (Y & Z) towards it, similar to our glass of water example from earlier.
It’s best to write this one down on paper too, but you can get away with it on a PC or phone.
(Again, doing it in your head likely won’t help you get what you want.)
X: “I want to go from 0 to 1000 followers by year end.”
Y & Z: Create 10 nice posts. Comment on 100 targeted accounts daily.
X: “I want a happy, fulfilling relationship with a cute guy.”
Y & Z: Become a stable, attractive mate who others adore. Work on my maturity and intimacy issues. Ensure I’m meeting new people.
X: “I want an empire.”
Y & Z: Make myself clearly valuable. Get massive exposure on my mission. Build rep as a leader. Embed my influence in the culture.
You’ll notice on the last example, the Y & Z are pretty complicated wants in themselves.
Which means you’d need to repeat the Clear Path process, with each step listed as it’s own ‘goal’ (X), and you’d plot a series of sub-steps to reach those as well.
But because each of the steps is a pretty big ‘want’ and takes effort in itself,…
…most people just obsess about the X (“I want an empire.”)
You’ve likely seen it, or even done it yourself (I know I have.)
It’s common for people to obsess over “I want a relationship” (X) instead of obsessing over “making themselves a stable, attractive mate that others adore.” (Y)
They obsess about X because it’s easier than actually plotting a Y & Z course that addresses the complex sub-steps.
But when you’re thirsty, daydreaming about the glass of water is not ‘really’ easy, of even fun. It’s just a hard path to dehydration.
The easiest, and most fun thing to do, is to get up and fucking quench your thirst, no matter what steps are involved.
It’s just that daydreaming about the water takes less effort than actually getting up and moving.
Obsessing over X seems easier than getting down to the business of actually achieving.
So people avoid it.
It’s easier to whine about X not happening than to put our minds to work solving obstacles and making progress.
And I get it.
It is easier to hope & wish for X, while distracting ourselves from the real work of Y & Z.
But that ease is an illusionary ease.
It’s really a hard AF path to frustration & despair as you make no progress on your dreams and fail to get even the most basic things you want.
Obsessing about the destination is pointless and a huge waste of resources.
If you were obsessing about the next step in front of you instead, you’d actually be speeding towards what you want.
The first step in building an empire is “Make yourself clearly valuable” and it’s a scary, undefined, vague step.
So we need to do the Clear Path exercise, because we need more clarity, we need a better plotted course, we need sub-steps.
The Clear Path sub-steps for ‘becoming valuable’ might look like this.
Y & Z: Discover my best talent. Show it off incessantly. Charge for it. Raise prices as I get popular. Gain testimonials from influencers. Find a mentor and apply their advice. Etc.
And depending on how skilled you are in these areas, you may need even more sub-steps.
But it doesn’t matter.
Whether you’re getting a glass of water or building an empire, there is a path, full of steps, and it’s up to you to get clear on them, and start taking them immediately.
(At least if you really do want what you say you want.)
If you really want something, you get clear on the Y & Z, and then you fucking focus on it. Hard.
See, even if someone has gotten clear on what they want, and figured out the steps they need to take…
…there’s still the problem of getting distracted.
People have written entire books on how to stay focused, and this post is getting long, so I won’t cover it in depth.
Here’s an important point though:
Focus is the opposite of habit.
Habit is easy, effortless auto-pilot. Habit requires little to no focus.
Focus on the other hand, takes conscious effort, especially at the start. It can ‘feel’ like work. It requires a bit of discipline.
But you’re a grown-up, so you have at least a bit of discipline & willpower, right?
So focus & habits are opposite each other but they’re vitally connected.
If you invest in positive focus, guess what you end up with?
So, as you focus on your Y & Z steps (even if they feel hard at first), they’ll eventually become effortless, easy-as-pie… habits.
Life has given you an insanely precious gift:
The power of focus.
And this gift, if used properly, can turn anything into a habit.
None of these impressive feats were “easy” at first. In the beginning they stumbled, fell, made mistakes.
I don’t know what their initial wants were, their X…
…but they quit obsessing about it, instead focusing on the steps in front of them.
And after focusing on their Y & Z, they are now “the best” at each step.
They’re able to perform excellently, even on auto-pilot.
Your focus makes your wants a reality, if you focus on the next step steadily & passionately.
You can let yourself be distracted by the next shiny thing, the hot new trend, or the ‘helpful’ new idea from your crush.
I don’t know how parents, teachers, and society convinced us that making excuses about what we want is a solid path to victory…
…but it’s time to replace those teachings and remember what we knew as kids.
How to get exactly what we want.
Every human on the planet has wants, and each of us is responsible for realizing those wants, or failing to do so.
There are simple rules to manage it, and no excuses for not following them, since we were all born following them, and spent our formative years practicing them well.
Most of us let others pressure, bully, bribe, nudge, and train us away from our natural tendency to realize our wants.
But it doesn’t have to be that way.
You can get what you want, easier and faster than you imagine.
But only if you stop obsessing about the destination, and instead…
…focus on the correct next step in front of you.
Humanity is amazing.
And when people’s wants are frustrated, the world gets a little dimmer.
When people get what they truly want, the entire world blossoms.
Take a moment now to make sure the people around you get what they want…
…by sharing this with others.
Don’t let enlightening teachings remain buried and ignored.
Even small actions like shares, help create a better world, if they’re done with the right intentions.
I offer the best tool for breaking down the exact steps towards what you want, for free, below. Check it out.
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