How to Get What You Want In Life

There are a lot of articles I could write in place of this one—how to get the guy/girl you want, how to make lots of money, how to get a great body, how to make people respect you more—and I will probably write variations of some or all of those in the future, but today, we’re keeping it simple: How to get what you want in life.

(Hey. I said “simple”, not “easy”.)

The reason I’m going so broad with this is that the procedure for getting what we want in life is pretty much the same, regardless of what the thing we’re after is.

OK, that’s not 100% true. The procedures will vary from thing to thing (Better body? Eat veggies and exercise! More money? Become an internationally famous pop star!).

You might be familiar with this celebrity.

It’s just that easy, right?

Whatever it is, the starting point is always the same.

So what is it, then? Courage? That’s definitely going to be necessary. Doing what you want to do takes a lot of guts, and you’ll have to be brave. But courage isn’t the main thing.

How about self-discipline? Certainly a powerful and necessary quality, but not enough on its own.

Creativity? Money? Support from family and friends? Good time-management skills?

All awesome, but none are the core of getting what you want.

The primary ingredient to getting anything you want is desire.

I’m not talking wishful thinking or daydreams. This isn’t about petty wants or little demands. This isn’t about fantasizing.

I’m talking about deep aches. I’m talking about the kind of desire that keeps you up at night. That wakes you up in the morning. That gets into your bones.

I’m talking about the desire that makes it hard to eat, sleep, or do anything else that isn’t related to getting what you want.

People can feel this way over a lot of things. We get like this when we’re in love, but we also feel it when we have a goal that’s so important that it becomes all-consuming.

Michael Jordan felt this way about basketball. J.K. Rowling felt this way about writing. Picaso felt this way about painting. Julia Childs felt this way about cooking.

It’s that thing you want so bad you can feel it burning inside you, clawing its way out.

And in the words of Steve Jobs:

“If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. And don’t settle…You’ll know it when you find it.”

The desire you’ll feel when you’re going after that thing—that thing that lights you up—is what will get you where you’re going.

If you have any doubts about the power of desire, do this little thought-experiment with me. If you’ve heard it before, this’ll just be a helpful reminder. If you haven’t, it’s interesting stuff. I first encountered this in The Power of Story by Jim Loehr (check it out, it’s good stuff).

Imagine you’re standing atop a skyscraper. Sixty stories up, right at the very edge.

Across about a 100 foot gap, there stands another skyscraper of the same height. Between the two is a narrow wooden plank.

On the opposite skyscraper, there’s one million dollars. You can have it; all you have to do is cross the wooden plank.

Is the promise of one million dollars enough to get you across? For most, it isn’t. One million dollars suddenly doesn’t seem that impressive when you’re facing a 600 foot drop.

What if we up the sum? Ten million? Fifty? One-hundred million?

A billion? Ten billion?

At what point is it enough money to get you to cross?

For most people, the sum has to get pretty ridiculously high before they’ll even consider the task. After all, what’s any sum of money worth if you’re a bloody smear on the pavement? Not much, and the vast majority of us would rather live another day than chance it.

Now, let’s mix things up. Same scenario, but there isn’t money on the other side of the plank this time: There’s the person you love most, and they’re in immediate danger. The only way to save their life is to cross the plank.

Would you cross it now?

When this exercise is done in person, the money doesn’t motivate even half the audience, no matter how high you make the sum. But when it’s a loved one in danger, every hand goes up. Everyone—everyone—can find the courage to act when something so important is on the line. We all access our inner Katniss.


The 600 foot fall isn’t less scary, and we’re not actually any braver than we were before, but the why has changed, and that makes all the difference.

Money is rarely a big enough motivator to actually get us moving. This is because money isn’t really a thing in and of itself—money is a concept that humans have invented to facilitate the exchange of goods.

In fact, a lot of things aren’t enough to get us moving. Our why has to be strong enough to make us turn off Netflix, get off the internet, quit playing video games, stop texting our friends, and work toward something meaningful. Today. And tomorrow. And the day after. And every day for months, years, decades, until you get what you want.

The thing is, when you find the right why, you don’t even feel all the work.

You’re courageous without force, and disciplined without thought. You put your energy toward your goal, because your desire to achieve it is so great, so intense, you don’t even think about it.

Think of it like drowning. When you’re drowning, you have one goal: Breathe. That’s it. You’re not worried about your favorite show, or sleeping in, or getting the last slice of pizza, or literally anything else. You want air.

I’m not saying this desire makes it all easy. It’ll be hard work, whatever you’re doing. There will be days you won’t want to, but the desire will keep you moving, even when it seems impossible.

When you know why you’re doing something, all the work is worth it.

This is how ordinary people find it in themselves to give their lives for a cause, or work tirelessly toward a goal, or devote themselves daily to a purpose.

Those people aren’t different from you or I, they just have their WHY so solidly in place.

And always remember this: When you have the right why, you’ll endure any how.

Bookmark the permalink.