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How to Get What You Want

Six ways to claim success, happiness and the life you deserve

Mick Jagger got it wrong. Unlike his refrain from the enduring Rolling Stones hit “You Can’t Always Get What You Want,” believing that you can achieve the life you deserve and taking active steps to claim it is important in personal momentum. Here are six ways to get what you want in your professional and personal life:

1. Have a clear vision. There’s a big difference between stating “I want to be successful in a big corporation” and “I want to be a Vice President leading Business Intelligence in a Fortune 500 company.” Being specific about the essence of what you desire, i.e. leadership of a function in a certain size business, without being tied to how it takes shape or form (B2C versus B2B, narrowing it down to a particular industry) is the first step in making this vision a reality. Then bring it life in a number of ways – consider creating a vision board, writing about it, designing a screen saver to reinforce this goal, posting the intention where you can see it, etc.

2. Move forward with intention. Using the corporate job example above, research the credentials of others who hold the kinds of positions you ultimately desire. Identify key factors that helped them stand out; perhaps it was actively speaking at industry conferences, going after complex certifications or being proactive about starting new initiatives. There is power in understanding the lay of the land. Someone I respect just moved from a warm, fuzzy culture to a place where directness combined with political one-upmanship is critical to rise to the top. Take the time to understand those behaviors and cultural landscape as cues for how you can succeed in your career path.

3. Honor your life goals. My friend Steve loves to travel. Formerly a Senior Vice President at a major bank, he took a career sabbatical in 2016 to see the world. Naysayers claimed it would be hard for him to re-enter corporate America without a job in hand. During his time off, Steve got to explore places like New Zealand, Czechoslovakia and Spain, fell in love and took time to nurture relationships with family and friends. When ready to resume his career in early 2017, Steve landed a terrific job working for the best boss he ever had. Today he is happily planning his wedding and is thriving in a career that allows him to positively influence the affordable housing marketplace. Yup, a total case of #winning.

4. Be resilient. Called stupid by his teachers as a child, Thomas Edison had 1,000 unsuccessful attempts at inventing the light bulb before getting it right. Stephen King’s manuscript for “Carrie” was rejected 30 times before it became an international bestseller. Bill Gates dropped out of Harvard and had his first business fail before starting Microsoft and becoming the youngest self-made billionaire. There are always going to be setbacks and challenges along the way. How you handle adversity and pick yourself back up directly impacts the likelihood of achieving goals.

5. Go for “Yes, and…” Do you believe getting what you want will necessitate a difficult choice? You know, having a happy family life or a successful career, living near loved ones or moving across the country for an exciting opportunity…you get the picture. Rather than focusing on “either/or,” look to the concept of “Yes, and…” which involves accepting an idea and then adding to (rather than negating) it. This standard improvisational comedy practice has been adopted by a growing number of businesses who realize it fosters ideation, brainstorming and greater collaboration. Take a moment to consider how “Yes, and…” can jumpstart the path to your heart’s desire – whether it is getting into better shape, going back to school to earn a degree or being selected for a popular reality TV cooking show.

6. Practice Gratitude. When it comes to propelling positive, permanent changes in your life, gratitude is one of the best sources of fuel. Ever hear the saying that “like attracts like?” The same is true for gratitude. Expressing your appreciation for small wins or big milestones creates more goodness that merits gratitude, and so on. I start each day with a journal entry listing everything I’m grateful for, and this practice has created positive momentum for more success and happiness. 

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