Why not getting what you want is what you want
“You can’t always get what you want…”
Maybe it’s a little past your generation, but sixty odd years ago, that line spurred legions of unwavering fans throughout the rock ‘n roll world. Today, the question isn’t really whether or not you can get what you want… instead, it’s more nuanced: Should you always get what you want?
Not getting what you want can suck. It feels like you’re sacrificing a part of yourself. You feel a pit in your stomach, and you’re upset that even with the best of intentions, you ended up with a bad outcome.
But sometimes, not getting what you want can be exactly what you need.
We know. This is a controversial take. But bear with us, because we’re about to blow your mind.
Why getting what you want leads to bad outcomes
You might not want to hear it, but sometimes, getting exactly what you want leads to disastrously bad outcomes. You can earn that raise, buy that house, enter that relationship… but unintended consequences from good intentions happen all the time.
Why? Because it’s not about what you want. What’s actually important is your underlying beliefs and feelings about the things that make you happy (your real desires, goals and needs).
We know, we know, this is sort of a headspace-y concept, so we’re going to go through a real life example to illustrate the point.
An example of bad outcomes from good intentions
Let’s take a scenario from our latest podcast episode. In this story, two brothers move in together. One brother owns the house, and lets the other brother rent at a discounted rate. Despite the good deal he’s getting, the other brother starts showing up late on his rent payments and making changes to the house that the owner—the first brother—doesn’t want.
In the end, the two brothers get into a bunch of huge fights about the house, and ultimately, the owner decides to part with the house altogether. He does this by selling it under his brother’s nose and sending him an eviction notice.
Now, in this instance, the first brother’s goal (on paper) was to end the rental relationship and make some money by selling the house. That’s what he wanted. And on paper, he got exactly what he want: he sold the house.
But is that really what he wanted?
Or did he want a good relationship with his brother? After all, there’s a reason he let him move in in the first place, right? And that’s why they tried pretty hard to make things work while they lived under the same roof. So, does selling the house without his brother’s knowledge and handing him an eviction notice really help him achieve that goal?
That’s the difference between getting what you think you want and getting what you actually want. If your actions don’t align with your real goals, you’re going to end up pretty miserable.
Not getting what you want helps relationships
Pull out a piece of paper and write this on it: “Would I rather be right or happy?”
Tons of people confuse being right about something with being happy in their lives. They’d rather…
- Be “right” about winning an argument than happy with their partner
- Be “right” about choosing a higher paycheck than happy with a more fulfilling job
- Be “right” about buying a nicer car, home, wardrobe, TV, etc., etc. than happy with their current car, home, wardrobe, TV, etc., etc.
- …And the list goes on, and on, and on.
Another story example from our podcast: a dry couple chose to not offer alcohol or any other beverage at their wedding except water. They did this to save money and not break the bank.
On paper, that’s “right,” right? You shouldn’t go into debt for other people. You shouldn’t compromise where your finances are concerned. And you shouldn’t feel obligated to offer booze if you don’t drink and don’t want to shell out for a bartender on your big day.
But does that make anyone happy? No. The wedding guests were pissed off. No beverages except for water?! Not even fun mocktails, or soda for the kids?
There’s a saying about weddings—the ceremony is for you, but the reception is for everyone else. And in this case, being right about saving money isn’t worth making everyone (including yourself!) unhappy by skimping on beverages. Instead, it makes you look like a cheap host, an insensitive planner and a callous newlywed.
On the other hand, dipping into your pockets for a compromise (some coffee, soda or tea at least) would make everyone happy, and save everyone the headache of a big argument about not serving any beverage but water.
See how it works?
Get what you want by not getting what you want
Okay, so we’ve established that it’s not always best to get what you want. Why? Because doing so helps you get what you really want: peace, harmony, satisfaction, ease. Those things will set you free—not a slightly larger bank account or the satisfaction of winning a relationship argument.
If this resonates with you, you’ve gotta listen to our latest podcast. It’s all about how not getting what you want can get you what you really need. Click below to listen and let us know what you think.