Getting Unstuck

How to Figure Out Where You Want to Be — And Get There.

What Do You Really Want?

It may not be what it seems

Tom tells me that he wants to start a new business.  He's got a plan, and everything.  I take a look at the business plan and, peeping over my reading glasses, casually ask him, "Why are you opening this restaurant?"

First, he says, "I don't know."  Which is always such a good sign.

Then, he says, "Well, to tell the truth, I really want to make more money than I'm making in my job."

OK, reasonable enough.  Plenty of us would like to make more money.  Got it.  But I've got to dig a little.

"Why?  Why do you want to make more money?" I probe.

There's a pause. 

Isn't it interesting?  Sometimes it seems that we all throw around ideas like, "more money" or "thinner" or "Nantucket" with the expectation that everyone not only understands but wants the same thing.  It's as if we use a collective shorthand - but who questions the "why" of the wanting?

Finally, after a prolonged silence, he says, "I have friends who are very successful, and they have the money to do things I can't do. I want to be able to keep up with them. That's why I want more money.  And when I think about what I love, I came up with food and friends and so I thought about a restaurant..."

Sounds like he followed the gazillion self-help gurus who say, "Do what you love and the money will follow." 

But that ain't necessarily so.  I've found that when you do what you love, sometimes the pleasure you get from doing it is so precious that whatever money comes along as a result - even if it's less than you had before - is just fine and dandy.

What Tom really wants is not money.  It's connection with his friends.  It's community.  It's belonging.

And his plan needs to be designed to get him that. 

That's how he'll be happy.

We crafted a plan for him to work on getting promoted - taking his career to a new, highly compensated level - and he's thrilled to have that goal front and center.  More important, he's making time to do lower-cost things with his friends.  Like dinners and parties.  All completely doable, manageable and fun.  All completely in alignment with what he wants most.

When you need a plan to get you where you want to go, be really clear on your destination. It may not be what it seems at first.  But when you get to what it really is... you'll know exactly what to do to get what you want.

Michele Woodward is the author of I Am Not Superwoman: Further Essays on Happier Living and Lose Weight, Find Love, De-Clutter & Save Money: Essays on Happier Living. more...

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