First published May 28, 2016, updated Sept 8, 2021
One of the questions I receive regularly is “How do I get what I want in life?”
I respond with several questions, a suggestion to do a very important activity, and some tips, all of which are outlined below.
The biggest question — the million-dollar question — is “What do you want?”
The answers are usually quite vague, along the lines of “I want to be healthy”, “I want to be rich”, “I want to be happy”, “I want to be loved”, “I want to travel”, “I want to do meaningful work”, and so on.
While these are all a good start, they aren’t clear enough to help formulate a plan to get from “Here” to “There” and that’s what I’ll share below.
TL;DR (too long, didn't read)
- If you don’t know what you want, you’ll never get what your heart desires
- If you don’t know where you’re headed, you’ll think you’ve arrived when, in fact, you are lost
- The best way to begin to get clarity on values, vision, what you want, your Purpose, and how to plan to get from where you are today to your idea of your best day living your best life is by doing the Ideal Day in your Ideal Lifestyle activity below
- Then use the tips to help you get there (if you need more than tips, click on them to get more help)
Sometimes, people don’t even know exactly what they want or where they are headed (they know what they don’t want — the things that are making them miserable).
They’ve never really stopped to think about it. They are simply surviving.
However, if they don’t know what their future looks like in terms of specific details and what they value, they could start down a path that is going to lead to new things that make them miserable.
Understanding "What Do I Want?"
Think of this activity as one that creates a picture on the lid of a great big jigsaw puzzle. All the pieces are comprised of what matters to you, your values, your vision, your strengths, etc. You simply don’t know the image you are trying to make with all the pieces yet.
The point of this activity is to get you thinking about your future in a way that touches your heart rather than your head.
This activity is about imagining the best day in your ideal lifestyle.
Imagine your life in the future at least 10 years out.
The likelihood of this day unfolding exactly as you imagine it is very slim. After all, the world will be a much different place and you will be much more experienced and wiser in 10 years (just look at all the changes we've gone through since COVID-19 struck.)
- 10 years from now the work you imagine in this exercise may no longer be relevant or needed.
- In 10 years the people you imagine may no longer be in your life and you will have new friends and possibly new family members.
- In 10 years' time, you may have had some amazing success that makes what you imagine today a little underachieving.
- You may have had some curveballs that have completely changed the course of your life.
And this is all perfectly fine.
This is not the point of this activity though. The point is to gain clarity about what you WANT, what your VALUES are, WHAT you consciously or subconsciously think is “perfect” for you right now at this point in your life.
Imagine that you are living the BEST life you could possibly imagine.
Pick one day in that BEST life — your Ideal Day — and describe it in such detail that your favourite actress and a director could re-enact this day exactly as you imagine it.
Close your eyes, relax, put your feet up or meditate and ask yourself to picture yourself one day in the future. This is what you would consider being a perfect day.
It can be a day when you are retired or a day when you are still working. It doesn’t matter. Simply ensure it's at least 10 years out so that it stretches your imagination beyond what your brain can envision to what your heart is telling you that matters to you — your lifestyle, your values, your purpose, and what makes you feel happy and fulfilled.
Imagine the day from the moment you open your eyes in the morning until the time you go to bed.
- How old are you?
- Where are you living when you wake up?
- What time do you get up?
- Who is in bed beside you when you wake? (or what… e.g. your pet)
- What does your room look like?
- What does your house look like?
- What do you have for breakfast, lunch, dinner?
- Then what do you do in your day?
- Who do you talk to throughout the day?
- What are you planning?
- What are you working on?
- What kind of work are you doing?
- What do you do for fun?
- What are you planning?
- Who do you see?
- What activities do you do?
- What’s happening with your family and friends?
- How do you feel? Pay special attention to how you feel both as you imagine this day in the future and how you feel about your dream.
- How does this day compare with other days this week, this month, this year? (Is it very similar to other days or are your days quite different?)
Write out your imagined day with such detail that an actor and director could re-enact it perfectly.
If something you imagined doesn’t feel exactly right when you are writing, ask yourself what feels off and then adjust it. (Hint: consider if it is the dream itself that doesn’t feel right OR if you are doubting your ability to achieve it. There is a huge difference).
Keep tweaking until it feels right if it’s the dream itself that doesn’t seem aligned with your values, your strengths, your purpose, or what you like.
For example, I thought that my ideal lifestyle would include living on a Caribbean Island — open the door in the morning, get fresh juice and fruit, sit outside, and read, go to the gym or a bike ride or a boat trip, come in when it’s too hot to create, make a great dinner, relax, and enjoy the sunset.
And then I realized that I’d be bored stiff in about 2 weeks, and I’d be claustrophobic within a month or so. My hubby was even going to apply for a job he’d been previously offered a job on a Caribbean Island, but we knew we’d go stir crazy.
So, I changed the location and leisure activities, and the perfect location became Italy, and I wasn’t retired.
A few years later I changed the location again, this time to Portugal — still in wine country — but Portugal makes better sense for me now.
I’ll spare you the details of my ideal day in my ideal lifestyle, but I will tell you that what I’m building with my brands, what I’m sharing with my message, how I’ve structured my life and the decisions that hubby and I are making will get us living in Portugal one day.
If your ideal day doesn’t feel right because it doesn’t align with your values, revisit your values worksheet.
If your ideal day doesn’t feel right because it doesn’t align with your purpose, (or if you aren’t sure WHAT your purpose is, check out this post.)
If your ideal day doesn’t feel right because you don’t believe it’s possible check out this post about the Quadruplets of Discontent and try to identify which one is messing with you.
Once you have revised your day and it feels right, read it out loud.
The reason why you are doing this is to check in with yourself to see how you react when you speak your dream.
Watch for places your body twitches or otherwise indicates to you that it’s not right. Watch for places where you may be saying to yourself “I don’t deserve this” or other negative thoughts.
Your brain is excellent at keeping you safe — so much so that it will play tricks on you to keep you from realizing your goals and achieving what you want. It will tell you stories that aren’t true, so pay close attention to the stories that pop up while you are doing this.
Explore the negative thoughts — what do you need to do so that you tell yourself you do deserve this and can achieve it?
Keep tweaking with the day until you can read it out loud and you believe what you have written.
Take this activity up to the highest level by reciting your day on camera.
Turn on your webcam or your phone camera or some other video recording device, look at the camera, and, without looking at what you’ve written, explain your ideal day.
This exercise is for your eyes only so don’t worry about how you look or sound. Remember to share the details so that if a director and actor saw the video, they’d know how to re-enact your day perfectly.
When you are playing back the video look for a few things: What did you change in your story? Where did you stumble? Did you look like you believed yourself that this ideal day is possible? How do you feel while sharing this day?
The power of this activity is that it helps you understand your dreams and what is important to you. It’s also what you should be working towards so that when you are making your day-to-day decisions now you can move towards this day.
When you finish this image of your ideal day in your ideal lifestyle exercise, you should understand what you are doing, how you are feeling, and what your heart wants you to pursue at this point in your life.
The next step is to make sure it aligns with your “Wants” and your “Values” that you have already listed and then you start figuring out what you’ll need to get from where you are today to that place.
Of course, it’s not always going to work out and it may take way longer than you expect but it gives you a picture of your destination. You’ll know the picture of what your heart wants you to create. Then you’ll need to set some specific goals to start making this day come true.
Struggling to complete the activity?
If so, ask yourself these deep, thought-provoking questions:
- What makes me happy?
- Why am I living my current reality instead of pursuing my dream?
- What would happen if I pursued my dream?
- Could I live my dream even though there might be challenges along the way?
- If I could choose between two paths – one path leads to happiness and fulfillment and another path doesn’t lead anywhere – which path would I pick?
- If money were not a consideration, what would I be doing?
- Which steps must I take first before starting down the road toward my goal?
- Where does my mind go when I think about my future?
- What keeps me stuck?
- When was the last time I felt really excited about something?
- Who else needs to hear about this idea?
- Is there someone who has been able to follow their dreams despite all odds?
- Are there people around me that support me as I pursue my dreams?
- Can I find ways to help others succeed?
- Am I willing to put myself into uncomfortable situations to accomplish my dreams?
- Will I be ready for whatever comes my way?
- Have I done everything necessary to reach my goals?
- Would I rather die trying or give up?
- Does anyone care enough to try to stop me?
- Did I ever say no to anything because I didn't think I deserved it?
- What is it that gives your life meaning and purpose? This question has been answered for thousands of years by people all over the world. And yet we are still asking this same question today...
- How do I find happiness? Happiness comes from within us; it doesn't come from external sources or circumstances.
and the Grand-Daddy of all questions, asked by people for eons (or so I assume!) is
23. Why am I here? Why did God create me?
The answer to these questions will help you understand why you're on earth at this time. It will also give you a better understanding of who you really are as an individual and it will give you insight into what you need.
Some people will find this exercise to be very challenging, particularly if they haven't explored what matters to them. Other people will have thought about some of the questions, in both a positive and negative sense.
Regardless of where you fall in this spectrum, know that effects happen due to cause and the most important cause is that you are unique, valuable, and deserving to live your life on your terms and in the way that brings you fulfillment and happiness.
There are no accidents. When you start changing how you look at your world and imagining how it could be improved, your path will start to emerge.
The path will have obstacles and there will be hills and mountains to climb. You may not know where it's taking you but with a good, solid foundation of understanding yourself and what YOU want, along with the support and resources you need to help you get there, you can bask in the positives of the journey while shaking off the setbacks.
While you were completing the activity and answering the questions, did you discover that most of your personal growth and progress towards your reinvention lean towards dealing with negative experiences from your childhood or adolescence?
Quite often, we find ourselves in the position we're in because of our childhood. This continues to be a work in progress for me personally and it can be quite challenging. However, the first step is to understand that there is a problem so that you can address it.
It is usual for people to discover at least a few beliefs that are not supportive of a healthy, happy, ideal life and it's best to work with a professional to help you as you come to terms with a change in those beliefs.
This is perhaps the hardest part of a reinvention -- letting go of things that don't serve us, and stories that just aren't true.
Your lizard mind is going to mess with you as it tries to keep you uncomfortably in the status quo.
This is where things can get a bit messy. Unlearning what you've learned takes a lot of willpower, determination, commitment, and faith that this is the correct choice for you.
People in your inner circles, who also share those beliefs, may feel (probably will feel) threatened that you are on a journey that is going to disrupt their status quo, regardless of how uncomfortable it is for them.
Some people may object so much that they try to undermine your plans. They may not even realize they are doing so OR they may realize it and decide to sabotage your progress because it threatens the dynamic you have.
A prime example of this is when I left a dysfunctional marriage and during a call with my ex regarding a weekend visit with my daughter, he blurted out in exasperation "You never want to fight anymore." I still chuckle because I worked so damn hard to break the cycle of co-dependency and this was my proof that it had worked.
For some people, the source of their discontent is their professional life. With the majority of employees disengaged -- either passively or actively -- and a significant portion of employees planning on changing jobs, you can see why companies would like to avoid hiring someone who has no intention of staying put.
If you are dissatisfied with your current job, then you should consider whether you are unhappy due to:
1. Your employer/company
2. The role you play within the company
3. The industry you work in
4. A combination of all three
5. Something else entirely
6. None of these
Now let's look at each one individually...
Is your dissatisfaction related to an issue with your employer or company? If yes, then you might want to take a closer look at the following:
Is your boss treating you well? Are you being treated fairly by management? Does your manager respect you enough to give you feedback about performance issues?
What do you think about your department? Do you enjoy working here? Would you recommend others join your team? Why or why not?
Is your salary fair compared to other positions within the same organization? Have you asked if there are any opportunities available outside of your current organization?
Are you unhappy with the way your industry operates? Perhaps you believe that certain practices are outdated, unfair, unethical, etc.? Or maybe you simply dislike the fact that you must compete against younger workers who have less experience than you.
Do you wish you could make more money? Could you use more responsibility? Is your position too small? Too large? What kind of impact does your job have on society?
Do you find yourself bored most days? Do you spend time thinking about new ways to improve your skillset? Do you wish you were able to travel more often?
Combination Of All Three
Have you considered moving into another field altogether? Maybe you'd prefer to be self-employed rather than having a traditional 9-to-5 job.
Other Reasons For Disengagement And Discontentment In Professional Life
There are many reasons why professionals leave their jobs including but not limited to:
• Poor pay/compensation
• Lack of opportunity for advancement
• No room for growth
• Frustration over lack of control over decision making
• Not feeling appreciated
• Feeling undervalued
• Being micromanaged
• Low morale
• Losing interest in the profession
• Having no passion for the subject matter
• Feelings of isolation from colleagues
• Fear of losing security
• Loss of identity as a result of changes made to the workplace environment
• Changes in technology
• Conflict between personal values & corporate culture
• Desire to move away from family responsibilities
• Family obligations
• Health problems
• Career stagnation
• Job insecurity
• Needing to earn extra income
What do YOU need to do to make your professional life meaningful and fulfilling and do you have an opportunity to influence those changes in your current role and with your current employer? If yes, fantastic... you can help transform your workplace into a more desirable, resilient experience.
If the answer isn't external -- for example, you realize you are in the wrong career (it happens more than you may think, particularly when someone (parent) has influenced (paid) for your post-secondary education -- then you need to examine what type of work would bring fulfillment, meaning and happiness to your life. Perhaps you can hire a career change coach to help you come up with career goals for your dream career.
Reinvention is a major life decision with far-reaching implications. On the positive side, when you are more aligned with what you want, your core values, vision, strengths, passion, purpose, and talents, work becomes so much more enjoyable. On the negative side, reinvention can be messy, especially as you disrupt the status quo within yourself and your external world.
Always remember though, life is too damn short to be miserable. Even tiny baby steps may feel like major leaps of faith and you may be scared but, if you've committed to living a better life, you will stick with it. You have one life, make it your ideal life.
10 Tips to Achieving What You Want in Life
If you’ve done the activities to know what you want, what your values are, what your purpose is, and what your ideal day in your ideal lifestyle is you are well on your way to figuring out how to get from “Here” (where you are today) to “There” (your ideal day in your ideal lifestyle).
- Be aware of your own Quadruplets of Discontent— Which Quadruplet is the lead for undermining your success?
- Create a vision board with the final version of your Ideal Day in Your Ideal Lifestyle story— choose images that cause an emotional response, rather than, say, an image of a car (for example, why not put a photo of you in that car!?)
- Set SMART Goals
- Use the “T”-Form to get you from Here to There. It will help you to identify what you need to Start, Stop, Increase, Decrease (and what you shouldn’t touch because it’s working for you right now)
- Make a commitment to yourself that you will do what you said you’d do— even if one of the Quadruplets tries to stop you
- Celebrate success— and not only huge successes — celebrate taking each baby step that gets you closer to your goals
- Have fun— it’s a journey that’s full of twists and turns and unseen obstacles — laugh along the way (and on those really tough days, force a smile and trick your brain out of the “whoa is me” state it’s on at that moment.)
- Seek support— no one is an island, and everyone needs support in multiple areas of their lives. Find a mentor, cry on your best friend’s shoulder, ask a family member or co-worker to share some of the load, talk to a professional if things start to feel out of control, and remember that it’s a lie that you can “have it all, be it all and do it all, all of the time”.
- Stay true to yourself— live YOUR life on Purpose, not someone else’s version of your life.
- Never compromise on the dream of your ideal day but do permit yourself to deviate from your initial plan on how you are going to get there.