How to get what you want

Do you like to get what you want? Of course you do. It’s human nature. The key to getting it, though, is knowing what you want — and sometimes that’s the hardest part.

To get what they want out of a situation some people will manipulate, bully, unscrupulously persuade, hypnotise or use embedded commands. When you’re at the other end of this, at some level you know. You may sense the incongruity between body language and words. Maybe you read the micro-expressions that flash across their face for a millisecond. Or you get a gut feeling something’s not right.

If you don’t want to be that bully, how do you achieve your own goals without impeding others?

A key premise here is, as Deeprak Chopra wrote, “If you help others get what they want, they will help you get what you want.” That presumes, though, that you’re aware of your needs as well as those of others. So, what do you want?

Although we use the phrase glibly, to genuinely know what you want requires a certain amount of clarity and self-knowledge. What do you really want? What are your needs? What do you need to make your life better?

When the Americans successfully landed a man on the moon, the spacecraft was constantly correcting its course. Do you? Do you stop and check that where you’re headed is still where you want to go?

To be clear about what you want it’s important to objectively assess where you’re functioning right now. To help you do that we’ll look at two models of the human condition. The first of these is Brandeis University psychologist Abraham Maslow’s “Hierarchy of Needs”.


Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

Maslow identified that we are motivated by unsatisfied needs and that lower needs need to be satisfied before higher needs are met.

When your basic needs of food, warmth and sleep aren’t met you may feel sick, irritated, in pain and uncomfortable. These feelings usually motivate us to remedy the situation and then we can focus on other things.

So who in your life is cranky? Maybe they’re exhausted, starving or in pain. How can anyone focus on love, nurturing and contribution when their very basic needs are not being met?

It’s hard to be nice, kind and thoughtful towards others when you’re in pain. Address any basic physical hungers or pains and you will be better able to identify your higher goals.

Once your basic needs are met, safety is next in importance. When you feel ‘unsafe’, stressed and your life feels out of control, your thoughts become worries and this becomes your focus. More altruistic thoughts and ideas fly out the window.

If you live with the pending threat of violence every time you return home, how can you provide service to another? How can you be an awesome team player or enthusiastic supporter? It will take an enormous amount of energy, personal strength and determination.

Love and belonging are next on the ladder. Given food but deprived of contact with others, baby chimpanzees die. Premature babies who are touched and gently stroked inside their Medicribs grow stronger quicker. Elderly people in nursing homes with labradors to stroke and love seem happier.

How about you? How many hugs a day do you like? We all need love. We need to be needed. To be accepted. To be appreciated. That’s why a weekly massage of nurturing physical contact is so good.

How many groups to you belong to? Associations, clubs, work groups, family, hobby interest groups, neighbourhood groups, gangs — the need to belong is a basic human drive. There are very few hermits in the world.

Next up the rung are psychological needs: self-esteem and the esteem of others. Our self-esteem comes from doing a good job and knowing it: mastering a task, a skill and feeling competent. Can you give yourself a pat on the back for things you do well? When we can do this for ourselves instead of relying on others to give us their approval we empower ourselves to make a bigger difference.

The esteem of others is more than the appreciation of the “belongingness level”. At this level of need, wanting admiration has to do with the need for significance, influence and power. Once you have the lower needs met you may decide to buy the sports car, bigger house or boat.

The highest level of needs is self-actualisation: the desire to be the best you can be, to make a difference, to fulfil your potential. People who have all needs met can maximise their potential and help others. This is why getting your own needs met first is not selfish — it’s healthy. Once you have your needs met you can better help others and be more accepting of both you and them.

So identify where your needs lie in this hierarchy and that’s a solid step toward clearly identifying and then achieving your goals.

The Six Human Needs

Anthony Robbins built on Maslow’s five-level hierarchy to recognise six human needs, all equally and simultaneously important and non-hierarchical. If you find it hard to see where you are in Maslow’s model, thinking about yourself in these terms may help.

Certainty & variety

We all need some degree of certainty in our lives and this cuts across all of Maslow’s levels. Certainty is comfortable and gives you a base to work from, but what happens when everything in life is certain? When you know exactly what each day will bring? When life is a rut and stale? What happens is the joy goes.

Variety, so the saying goes, is the spice of life. However, if everything were unknown, how would you feel? What if you don’t know where you’ll sleep tonight, where your next meal will come from, who’ll be in your life tomorrow? Perhaps for a time this is exciting, but in the long run it’s exhausting.

After more than 20 years in a good secure relationship I separated from my husband and later amicably divorced. Once the house was sold I spent almost half the proceeds travelling overseas for pleasure and personal development. I maintained an office in Pymble and flew back to Sydney fairly often to speak and train. I welcomed the uncertainty and variety of everyday.

During this gypsy phase my friend Carol was my home away from home. In between travelling and house sitting, Carol was my little bit of certainty amid the intense variety. After two years I knew it was time to get more certainty and once again put down roots.

Life is like a pendulum: you swing one way and then back the other way. Too much certainty for too long and the pendulum swings as far the other way, until it’s time to swing back again.

How far does your pendulum swing? It depends. Those are my two favourite words in the English language. Just being aware of the pendulum of life can help you understand yourself and give you insights into others. Every one of us seeks a balance between certainty and variety, although the comfortable ratio of that balance is different for each individual.


How do you get your significance? What makes you feel important? This is the equivalent of Maslow’s level four. Does work give you your significance? Your title? Your qualifications?

Or maybe your family gives you so much significance at home you don’t feel the need for more formal recognition at work. Maybe your significance comes from running voluntary organisations, from sporting prowess or from excelling at something and being acknowledged as an expert.

Once each of us has our significance need met we can then more easily acknowledge others for their expertise and brilliance. We can then help others excel even more.

Love & connection

Love and connection directly relate to Maslow’s level-three social needs and form a component of all five levels. Baby chimps, premature babies and the elderly all thrive more when they receive love and connection.

When our family adores us and our workmates love us and we’re newly in love, life is wonderful. Life is grand. Just imagine what a wonderful world if this stage were permanent! It wouldn’t be Earth, though, would it? How would it be if you could believe you’re truly loved so your “cup runneth over” with love? You could then easily give it to others.

What can you do to fulfil the need for love and connection for yourself? What would you need to believe?

You, like each one of us, are a unique, beautiful soul who’s being the best they can be. When your “cup runneth over” with love you will attract even more love and connection: “As you sow, so shall you reap” — which brings us perfectly to the need to contribute, to give back.

Contribution/giving back

Church groups encourage the weekly donation at church or, more reliably, a 10 per cent tithe. George Clason’s 1925 classic The Richest Man in Babylon talks about the same principle. In keeping with Maslow’s hierarchy, it’s easier to give when we have all our needs met. Think Bill Gates, Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt, the late Kerry Packer and Warren Buffet: all give substantial amounts to worthwhile causes.

Remember, there are alternatives to money. You can give time, energy or resources. If you ask someone who gives, especially without expecting some sort of return, they often say, “I gain much more than I receive.” Have you experienced this? Working in soup kitchens, helping wash down tables after lunch at the ashram, shopping for a housebound friend are all examples of this need.

Who can you help today and not tell anyone?


As you get older you not only grow taller (and much later shrink maybe a little), you may expand horizontally! However, here we’re talking about growth of your mind, attitude and spirit. What do you do on a daily basis to grow? How can you help the important people in your life grow? How can you help?

Engage with others. Talk honestly, openly and transparently. Enjoy cups of coffee and dialogue together.

Achieving your goals

So, having established what needs are important to you at the moment and therefore being clear about your goals, how do you make tangible steps toward those goals?

Here are seven steps you can follow:


How to get what you want…ethically

  • 1. Know what your want.
  • 2. Get your own needs met.
  • 3. Help others get there needs met.
  • 4. Be open honest and direct.
  • 5. Ask for what you want.
  • 6. Listen and trust your inner knowing.
  • 7. Trust that if you don’t get what you want there’s something even better round the corner!

If you’ve used the above descriptions to identify your needs and those of others, You’re already up to step 4, “Be honest.”

Tell the truth!

Clear, direct, honest communication works. Your thoughts, words and actions must be congruent. If you’re trying to hide something, your body language will reveal this. Telling the truth removes the stress of having to remember what story or excuse you used! Make life easier for yourself by saying what you mean and meaning what you say.

Ask for what you want

It sounds simple, yet sometimes we expect others to read our minds. Have you ever thought or said, “They should’ve known!” Well, a simple request for help delivered with a smile sets the right tone — and it works. What’s the worst thing that could happen? They could say no. And then you can ask someone else to help you. Know that there are resources within you and all around you to help you can get what you want.

Listen and trust your inner knowing

Listen with your eyes, ears and your feelings. With your eyes and ears you can become more observant and recognise others needs. By tuning into your feelings you’ll sense what feels right and allow yourself to be guided in the right direction.

Something better

Now, if you follow the six steps in the box and you don’t get what you want, an empowering refrain is, “There’s something even better round the corner!” If you believe this to be true, it is true. If you believe it isn’t true you are also right.

My favourite demonstration of trusting there’s something better around the corner comes from when I had some work cancelled about four years ago. I was so looking forward to the trip and the training. However, it meant I could re-book a business conference I’d had to cancel. At the first breakfast, Dean Collier sat down beside me and we were engaged to be married before the conference finished!

Would we have met another time? Possibly? Probably? Who knows? The time was right for us to meet. I’ve learned to trust that everything happens in the right place at the right time with the right people!


The key to success

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs and Robbins’ Six Human Needs are powerful tools for your tool kit. Any situation can benefit form a quick mental needs check. What do I need and what does the other person need in this situation? Then do your best to fulfil those needs or (and here’s the important bit) not! The choice is always yours, but knowing your own needs puts you in a place to make that choice.

A key to success in life is to know that you can fulfil your own needs. That is real power. With your own needs met you can go straight to Maslow’s “self-actualisation” and fulfil your potential and contribute to humanity. You can get what you want helping others get what they want.

The WellBeing Team

The WellBeing Team

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