How To Get What You Want In 2 Steps. Seriously.

get-what-you-want
One of the topics I think about All The Time is the type of life I want.

These days, I’m thisclose to living The Dream.  I’d like a few more clients who have built philanthropy into their business models.  I’d like a bit more upper body strength.  I need more winter-friendly clothing and, eventually, I’d like a better car.  Like, one with remote entry.  Or power locks!

But I got this close to my Dream Life by doing something so crazy-stupid easy it nearly falls under the heading of “I don’t want to tell you about it because it’s so obvious that I feel embarrassed saying it out loud.”

But here it is:

I figured out what I wanted.
Then I stopped doing things that didn’t get me closer to that goal.
And when I had stopped doing those things, I started doing things that brought me closer to what I wanted.

That’s it.

Free 5-day money bootcamp

If you want to build a thriving freelance business

Stop:
missing deadlines, working for free, being afraid of networking, downplaying your talent

Start:
researching new platforms/software/trends in your field, reaching out to people you want to work with, doing self-directed work, following up with leads, maintaining a blog/social media/internet presence

If you want to save money for a big purchase

Stop:
eating out, buying things you don’t need, keeping monthly payments (gym, cable) you don’t use

Start:
making and sticking to a budget, reminding yourself why you’re on a budget, eating in, doing cheap things with your friends,

If you want to be in a serious relationship

Stop:
dating people who don’t thrill you, mooning over your ex, hooking up with that person you know is bad news, putting off Big Deal conversations that need to happen

Start:
asking your friends if they can set you up, online dating, defining your deal breakers, thinking “do I like them?” rather that “do they like me?”

If you want to be healthy/fit

Stop:
eating unhealthy food, driving everywhere, avoiding exercise, drinking so much coffee/alcohol
Start:
eating more produce, walking or biking when you can, finding a physical activity you actually enjoy, drinking more water, getting outside

If you want a great social life

Stop:
hanging out with people who don’t fill you up, hoping that people will call you, gossiping constantly, flaking out on events you committed to

Start:
reaching out to people you want to know better, creating events and inviting people to them, saying yes (and attending) more events, taking classes filled with like-minded people, being reliable + helpful, saying nice things to and about people

What’s really great?  Just stopping the counter-productive behavior has a huuuuuge affect.  And  then when you start taking proactive steps?  Dude, you’ll be unstoppable.

Edited to add:
In the comments, a lot of you mentioned you don’t know where to start because you don’t know what you want.  But, really, I bet you do.  I think a lot of us think that ‘knowing what we want’ sounds like an elevator pitch for our dream lives: “I want a group of 8-10 smart, funny friends who do lots of outdoor activities and throw great parties, a partner who works at a non-profit, and a job with flexible hours and four weeks of vacation time.”

And while it’s great to get really specific like that, knowing what you want can be as simple as “I want to work for myself” or “I want two more close friendships.”

Don’t get down on yourself if you can’t narrow in on some super specific goal and realize that what you want will change over time.  You’ll either change direction, achieve said goal and need a new one, or reach your goal and realize it’s not that great.  And that’s okay!

What are your current goals?  What can you start/stop doing to get closer to them?

33 Comments

Alicia @ Humble Foodie

I love this post and it's a great reminder to stop doing things that don't make you happier and more successful as a person. That said, what if you have yet to figure out what you want? I would love a simple two-step plan on that front…is that even possible?

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DaniellaBella

Good plan. I just need to know what it is that I want. Any hints for that? I know that it's simple but somedays it just seems so very far away…

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Kim

This is great, not just good, plan. I'm still not 100% sure who I want to be in life but I know what kind of life I want. I'm slowly working towards it, promoting my blog, posting everyday, working with locals to promote them (and thus, promote myself). It's been wonderful. That and I'm doing a 30 day challenge workout that is kicking my butt. And yet, I'm already starting to feel more confident, stronger, and my clothes fit well again!

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meganet

Wonderful advice! It's so easy to forget these types of things, and then complain that we're not getting what we want. Thanks for this!

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Lauren

I thought the end of the first sentence was "and I'd like a better cat." And then I was all "POOOOOTTTTIIIIINNNNNN NOOOOOOOO!!!!"

Thanks for the advice!

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Sarah Russell

I love this! Working towards what I really want has enabled me to quit my job to pursue a freelance writing career, work on projects I care more about than ever before and be more financially stable than I ever thought possible.

Now if only I could get my desire to live a healthier life to outweigh my desire to camp out on the couch with a bag of Cheetos… 🙂

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Gigi

For those of you who aren't sure what you want, here's something my therapist has me do (which has helped me immensely!):

Step one: Set aside some time. Don't be thinking about all the other stuff you need to do. Pick a time where you can relax and focus.

Step two: close your eyes and breathe for a minute. Calm yourself.

Step three: Now, say out loud one of your options (if you are mulling over careers, option one might be "stay in current job" or something like that). Don't go through the pros and cons in your head. Instead, just notice how you FEEL when you say that option out loud. Do you feel content? Happy? Unhappy? Disappointed? Heartbroken?

Okay, now breathe again. Stop thinking about Option A.

Step four: repeat step three with each option (for a career mulling session, options B, C, D, etc. might be things like "start my own business" or "go back to school" or "work in X industry"). Notice how you feel about each of these options.

Don't worry about whether you can do any of these things (you can; just follow Sarah's advice in the post above). Just worry about how your heart and body feel. You already know what you want…your swirling thoughts are probably just getting in the way. This is your chance to get them out of the way.

Step five: notice what it is that your heart responds positively to and start on Sarah's steps to accomplish!

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Gigi

P.S. Sarah, love the post. The only thing I will say is that with relationships it's not always so simple, since there are other people involved. 🙂 I think everything else is within our control, but while that's all great advice, sometimes things just don't turn out in the end.

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Sarah Von Bargen

Sure! As my BFF says "You can't choose who you love, but you CAN choose who you build a future with." And you can control your own behavior with people who aren't treating you the way you want to be treated 🙂

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Megan

What a great slap in the face! I so needed this today! Changing ourselves and our lives is as simple as deciding to change.

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Laura

This is totally true– It's just as easy as this. I can't believe how much deciding what I want (and changing my energy focus towards this things) has changed my life. Great post!

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Aurooba Ahmed

I feel like that's SIMPLE not easy. If it were easy to do all that, we'd all be doing it. The solution is simple, nothing complicated, as you said, but implementing it can be a job and a half.. But it's worth it. 🙂

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Daniella

Sarah! First time commenter, long time reader. I love this post so much. The part about better, serious relationships and a great social life is what I needed to hear today.

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iris

If you don't know what you want you can start with short term goals before you get to the longterm stuff. The first step is basically to ask yourself if you're happy…and if you're not, figure out why not and make fixing that one of your goals.

And as other commenters have said, most of the issue here is motivational. Simply identifying your goals (and perhaps displaying them on your bedroom mirror) might be a good first step towards the willpower to improve your life.

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Brittany

If you've never been out west before, you should head north and visit the Redwood forest. Best hiking and beautiful gigantic trees.

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Alan Moore

I actually disagree that everyone knows what they want. I think determining a person's goals is the hardest thing to do. Once a person sets goals, putting a plan in place is the fun part!

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Steph D

Thanks for this- SOOOOO needed to read this RIGHT NOW! Have been having a rough few days (?weeks) and reading this has sorta helped me realize that I need to snap out of this funk immediately.

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Vanessa

Yes – I love this. This reminds me of a counseling technique we would use when I used to work at an organization for troubled teens. If someone was getting into destructive behavior, we would focus on three questions "What do you want? What are you doing? What is it getting you?" It's ment to help you see if your actions are actually getting helping you get towards you desire within the confines of, you know, reality. I hadn't really thought of it as a motivational tool for myself, but it's a great idea.

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Pauline

Great post! You just have to do one small thing every day to try and reach your goal, and one day you will get there. If you are truly motivated you can achieve anything.

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Savvy Aggarwal

Thanks to Cathy Trails for introducing me to this amazing blog. I absolutely love this post. It's so simple and obvious yet so very powerful. And the best part is I know what I want and you've already included that in your examples.
I want to have a thriving freelance business
I want to save for some big purchases
I want to be fit and healthy
yayyy!!!

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caffeinatedandliberated

Do you have any advice on what to do/ how to not feel sad all the time when you aren't getting any closer to your goal despite actively trying to reach them (particularly financial goals)?

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Kamina

If you’re struggling with financial goals and feeling sad, have you tried Sarah’s Money and Happiness bootcamp or course? I’ve only done the free bootcamp and I can’t shout its praises enough. Hop over and join the ‘Money & Happy’ group on facebook!

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Kamina

Oh Sarah, I love this post! Just noticed it’s an old one. Still super awesome and eternally relevant. Thank you.

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