March 15, 2016

The Single most Important Key to Getting What You Want.


The group of us backpackers huddled around the dinner table, deeply engrossed in the presence of Thony, the proud owner of one of Bali’s most inspiring venues.

Without many words—and with a cartoon-like smile spread across his face—he emitted an air of positivity, confidence and wisdom to his guests. Earlier this year, Thony followed his intuition and built (the first of its kind), a self-serve vegetarian restaurant, art gallery and creative space in Ubud.

Before the restaurant, Thony worked as a life coach until he ran with his seemingly random intuition to build the venue. With limited funds, zero staff, little relevant experience and no advertising, “Nine Angels” flourished in a few months.

While listening to Thony speak of his success, most people responded with surprise and intrigue. Yet, it seemed so obvious to Thony: “Do you know the single most important key to you getting what you want in life?”

Now he had our attention.

“Deciding what you want!”

There it was—a fundamental truth, just as clear and simple for all of us as it was for Thony.

Reflecting on Thony’s point, I decided to drop all my self-help books, New Year’s resolutions and to-do lists. I realized that my systematic indecision has often left me feeling lost and unaccomplished, at many times in my life—it wasn’t a weak sense of determination, work ethic or pure lack of luck that led to feelings of emptiness in the pursuit of a new search.

When we pinpoint our own wants—not the wants of anyone else or what we think society will approve of—we give ourselves the ability to achieve.

It’s liberating to think that there’s one simple but large roadblock in the way of us getting toward that point in life where everything we’ve ever wanted falls into place. Frequently, what’s holding us back from getting what we want is simply that we haven’t decided what that means for us.

I’ve realized that many of my role models and mentors who have achieved their goals have the self-knowledge, patience and courage to ask themselves this powerful question: “What do I want?”

Of course we all want happiness, financial stability, a loving relationship, health and good fortune for our family and friends. We’d like more satisfaction in our careers and to be less tied down by our work lives. Some of us will even get as radical as to wish for the well-being of humanity, the environment and to all those strangers around the world in need.

But these answers don’t address the fundamentals of what exactly it is that we want.

Before we can make any change—whether it’s ending a relationship or a career, starting a new business or love affair, trying out grandma’s apple pie recipe, or whatever—we have to know what it is in order to get the ball rolling, and we have to be specific.

For example, I can’t count how many times I’ve said,“I really want to cook more.”

I now know that this means nothing, unless I’m willing to put the time and effort into committing to a what, where, when and how (instead of opting for Indian takeout). “On Wednesday I would like to try out a recipe from my new cookbook and invite over a different friend for dinner.” Now that’s something I can actually get behind!

How about work? We all tend to express interest in a future with more days off and less stress. What exactly does this future look like? More flexibility in a work schedule can mean many things—collecting unemployment, starting a million dollar online business or becoming an exotic dancer at a bar in Florida. All of these will give us more days off and perhaps reduce our level of stress.

When I graduated college, I took the highest paying job in New York that I could get. On the surface it seemed like what I should want—I’d join a large class of incoming analysts at a well-known company, securing a safe investment in my future. The reality of the fact is that I had no idea what I was getting myself into. My day-to-day bored me to tears. I didn’t ask myself what I wanted from life, so I took what others wanted or simply what came to me, because I didn’t think to confront myself with this burning question.

I’m grateful that I woke up to this reality and decided to fight for self-employment and freedom.

My desire was to launch my writing career, whatever it took. I wrote for free to build a portfolio, stayed up through the nights, networked with no shame and researched until I dropped. Most importantly, I wrote and wrote, because I knew what I wanted. I decided what kind of role I’d like to be in and envisioned my life in that space.

Most of us spread ourselves so thin, looking into countless opportunities, job postings, books, podcasts and classes out there. There’s an abundance of material offering us a taste of the infinite number of opportunities on our horizon. We all know those people (perhaps ourselves) that get enveloped with a certain business idea, start learning a language and join a new club, only to find that the attention shifts to a different pursuit before they can finish the first project.

However, the ironic part about this is that most of us will never get to that place of completion in what we truly want, because we don’t take the first step necessary towards getting there.

We don’t choose exactly what we want, so we stay with what we don’t want, and blame it on circumstances.

Before we complicate things with logistics—how exactly it will work and when the moment is right—we’ll need to know the finer details of what we’re aiming for. Understanding what we want takes powerful self-knowledge and relentless self-inquiry in a feat of authenticity.

Understanding what we want out of our precious time relies on a solid understanding of ourselves—apart from the expectations of others and the competitiveness of our society. Only then should we commit to a place, a goal, a skill set we want to learn or a friend we want to spend quality time with.

That’s when we’ll start to see what we want, blossom to fruition.


Relephant reads:

What to Let Go of to Get What We Want.

Let Go of What you Want.


Author: Shoshanna Delventhal

Apprentice Editor: Monica LaSarre/Editor: Yoli Ramazzina

Photos: Author’s own.

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Shoshanna Delventhal