How to Get What You Want Most

When you know what you want, you increase the chance of getting it. If those around you know what you want, you increase your odds even more. Unfortunately, most of us don’t know what we want. And fewer still can articulate it to others.

enlightenment clarifies your values

Even more problematic is that we think we know what we want. We think we want more money, power, and possessions. And too often we think we will only get what we want if someone else does something for us. We don’t, however, recognize the need under the want. Our limited awareness of this deeper need is the cause of most of the confusing communication and related inefficiency in business and the dissatisfaction with our lives.

We Will Never Get Enough of What We Don’t Really Need

The surface want (e.g., more money) is a strategy to meet a deeper need (e.g., security, autonomy or being seen). Typically, the strategy doesn’t meet the need. Or if it does, it is met short term at best and at worst, the strategy actually increases the amount of what we want. My example is making $3 million by age 33 — a figure well in excess of what I said I wanted by that age. Then proceeding to make risky bets that I hoped would triple that figure in the next couple of years.

I didn’t need money, I needed to be affirmed and seen as a success and being worth something as a person. I could have made $50 million and these needs would have remained unmet (actually I did make $50 million and those needs did remain unmet, but that’s another story).

The Cause of Need Illiteracy

Understanding your deeper needs and when these needs are unmet is a vital leadership and life awareness skill. There are thematic needs each of us have — for some it is a need to be heard, to make a difference, for justice — these vary from person to person. There are also situational needs that arise due to events — the need for truth, physical safety, and connection.

Once we unearth the deeper unmet need, we can seek better strategies to meet it. We can share with others what need we are trying to meet and enroll them in ways that help us meet our need.

Going for what we really need seems so simple, so why don’t we do it? Much of it has to do with how ignorant we are of our inner needs. We spend so much time focusing externally or on our intellect that we ignore our emotions and our heart. Most of us have been raised in a culture that puts a premium on both of these — we should not be surprised when we see how disconnected we are from our needs and the needs of those around us.

In business, I often change the language from “need” (people hear that as being “needy”) to “values” or simply “what you care about” or “what matters most to you.”

Needs: The Key to Power and Resourcefulness

The power in connecting to your deeper needs and hungers is that you discover two important things about life. One, at the level of core human needs, we all share the same needs, although some are met and some are unmet at any given time. Two, most of our needs can be met by changing the way we view ourselves and others.

What are your core thematic unmet needs? What ineffective strategies have you been pursuing to meet them? The ultimate in resourcefulness is connecting to your deeper needs. Imagine the kind of clarity and impact you can have when you step into relationships and leadership grounded at the level of what matters most.


Author’s Note: I am deeply indebted to Marshall Rosenberg, author of Non-Violent Communication, who taught me about the difference between needs and strategies to meet needs. Contact Brian.