Getting What You Want



Recently I was speaking with some former interns of my organization about what they really wanted out of life. The answers ranged from strengthening their faith, figuring out a meaningful future, reaching professional goals and creating valuable relationships. Here’s the problem: Everyone wants something, but we don’t always know how to get it. 

So, what’s the difference between those who want and those who get


People who tend to get what they want know how to identify their goals. Clearly declare what it is that you’re chasing. Identify it to yourself and to anyone who will listen. Stating it makes it real. Knowing the destination makes it that much easier to pursue the object of value. 


Time and again I’ve realized that there are no shortcuts to reaching goals of great value. So, before you begin your pursuit, decide if it’s worth it. I realize that there will always be doubts – there will always be fear of the unknown. But let’s just say that you should have at least an 80% commitment rate with the intention of bringing it up to 100%. If you’re going to do something, just do it. Pursuing things half-heartedly will result in unnecessary failures. There will be enough failures through life as reality smacks you in the face and you get to know yourself better. But needless failures will discourage you from pursuing things that matter. It’s a nasty cycle. 


While it’s a good idea to consider if your goal is worth the effort or not, it’s also important to avoid “over-thinking” your decision. I was speaking with a friend after a recent conference event at Oxford, and he told me that one of his biggest regrets was “over-thinking.” Over-thinking, simply put, gets in the way of everything. It paralyzes us, it sends us down wrong paths and often keeps us from thinking creatively and productively. Over-thinking often kills success. 


One of the biggest concerns I hear about “getting what you want,” is when people say, “I don’t know what I want.” It sure would be great if we always knew what we wanted, where we were going and where our interests and talents lie. Those who know themselves, and know what they want in life, are already way ahead of the game. 

For the rest, give yourself room to shift and change as you hunt your goals. For some, life unfolds gradually. One thing leads to another. You might also find yourself changing as you go through life. What you want at age 20 may not be what you want at 30. Every person who pursues goals must include room to shift, change and grow. My advice for those who are struggling to find themselves, is this: Pay attention. Self-recognition, opportunities and the right people may just present themselves to you when you least expect them. 


It’s easy to get frustrated and walk away. But usually the last people at the negotiating table are the ones who get what they want. It’s not always “fate” or talent or who you know that makes the difference. Sometimes it’s just a matter of who hangs in there the longest. As Winston Churchill said, “Never give up on something that you can’t go a day without thinking about.” 

One final thought: When reaching for your goals, do NOT wait around. You’d be surprised how quickly “later” turns into “never.” Chase what you want. It won’t chase you.

3 thoughts on “Getting What You Want

  1. Hi Phil,
    Thank you for your work and your words of wisdom. Ever since I heard you speak at an ACSI convention years ago I was hooked. I appreciate your emphasis on leadership and your example of leadership.
    Concerning this article “Getting What You Want”, I’d like to ask your thoughts on going a step beyond “what I want” verses “what God wants”. In other words, how do you advise a student when they ask, “How can I know the will of God for my life?” When someone sincerely says, “Not my will, but Thy will be done”, in what direction do you lead that person? As well, how do you redirect a student that you feel if they succeed with their own personal ambition, they may find they have climbed a ladder to the top that was leaning against a wrong building?
    God bless,
    Doug Jones

    1. Let me share a couple of thoughts – which I’m sure will NOT satisfy anyone completely! : 1.) Chasing what “you” want will always be consistent with who “you” are. So, if you’re God-centered in your core desires, you will never have to ask: “Is this what “I” want versus what “God” wants.” 2.) I think we’ve over-spiritualized finding God’s will and it’s left a lot of young people very confused and looking for “callings” and “feelings” like some Zen-Buddhist form of Christianity. I would rather encourage young people to identify their God-given strengths, develop those talents into skills and then teach them to recognize ways to plug those abilities into the needs of this broken world and to live out their faith consistently- in any setting, in any group, in any profession. If you’re looking for “God’s will,” let’s start with this: Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in every circumstance… (I Thess. 5:16-19) I could go on and on about this topic and how we’ve ruined a generation of young leaders because we emphasized “feelings” of being in God’s will over “knowing” the truth of how to be salt and light – causing others to be open to God.

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