Why Most People Never Get What They Want
Benjamin Hardy, PhD Jun 22
Life is confusing.
It will misinform you if you don’t know who you are, what you stand for, and what you want. It can feel almost impossible to live your dreams.
Knowing what you actually want is the first step. Most people never do the inner work to figure that first step out. But once you start to get a glimpse of what you want, then you need to figure out how to get it.
This isn’t exactly easy.
There are some serious forces — internal and external — that will keep you from living your dreams. For example, it takes 7.2 million pounds of thrust to get a rocket out of the earth’s atmosphere. Escape velocity is the scientific term for escaping the gravitational influence of a massive body, such as earth.
In this article, I’m going to briefly describe what it takes to initially escape a life of mediocrity. I will then detail what it takes to succeed at the absolute highest levels.
Gravity never goes away.
Getting out of the earth’s orbit will make your life feel much lighter. You’ll be able to travel wherever you want to go much faster. But eventually, you’ll land on another planet.
And after a period of time, you’ll need to leave that other planet. You might just get stuck there. The gravitational pull of your “dreams” may keep you from evolving to your next level. What got you here won’t get you there.
Here’s a simple breakdown of the process:
Escape Velocity! — How to Live Your Dreams
Live your dreams and be successful are vague terms thrown around a lot these days.
But what do they really mean?
What they really mean is living the life you actually want. The life you believe you should be living. This is much harder than it seems. The most common regret of dying people is this:
“I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.”
Living your dreams and being “successful” is about living according to your own compass. It’s about doing what you truly want, value, and believe in. In an interview with Tim Ferriss, the popular filmmaker Casey Neistat defined success as follows:
“What is the ultimate quantification of success? For me, it’s not how much time you spend doing what you love. It’s how little time you spend doing what you hate.”
Success is not about how much money you make. It’s not about the type of car you drive. It’s not where you live. It’s not how you look.
Success, fundamentally, is about being true to yourself — which includes what you believe in and value. Mahatma Gandhi once said,
“To believe in something, and not to live it, is dishonest.”
Being dishonest with yourself is how you fail at life.
But there’s a problem.
Research has shown that people lie in nearly every conversation they have. This isn’t blatant lying, but just, not fully providing the truth.
As much as people lie to others, we lie the most to ourselves. We lie to ourselves every day.
We tell ourselves that “Today is the day!” and then do nothing about it.
We set our alarm and then push snooze.
If we treated our friends like we treat ourselves, we wouldn’t have any friends.
So, step one of living your dreams is becoming radically honest with yourself.
Step One of Living Your Dreams: Be Honest With Yourself
You must answer the following questions:
- What do I really want?
- What do I really believe in?
- What does “success” look like, for me?
- What does “success” feel like, for me?
- Regardless of what other people think, what matters to me?
- What is the life I believe I should be living?
Answering these questions isn’t as hard as it may seem. You are a conscious being. You have innate intuitive abilities.
Answering these questions, however, is an emotional process, not a rational process. To answer these questions honestly, you must be in touch with your deeper emotional self.
Being honest is emotional — it’s why we lie so much. We hide from our emotions. We don’t want to be vulnerable. We don’t want to be rejected. We don’t want to fail. We don’t want to be wrong. So instead, we stuff our emotions down and ignore them — to our peril.
To begin your journey of emotional development, you must start being far, far more honest with yourself.
What do you love?
What do you want?
You may have forgotten while pursuing other people’s expectations, but it’s there. You’ll never feel successful if you aren’t pursuing what you truly want.
Step Two of Living Your Dreams: Design and Live Your Ideal Day, Consistently
Once you start being honest with yourself about what you really want, you must stop procrastinating.
Who knows how long you’ll live?
How much longer are you going to wait?
Are you going to be one of those people who’s lying on their deathbed, regretful that they didn’t live the life they wanted?
No. You’re not. So, you’re going to stop waiting. You’re going to act now.
How do you do this?
You must begin designing your day to match your dreams. You live your life in 24-hour blocks. How you use those 24 hours determines your “success” in life.
If you’re only spending 20 minutes per day on your “dreams,” then you won’t be successful. You won’t feel successful. Instead, you’ll be resentful about life.
So, you need to start optimizing your day.
You need to maximize the amount of time you spend on your top priorities.
I’ll provide a powerful example. Dean Jackson, the brilliant marketer and entrepreneur, has a technique he calls, “I Know I’m Being Successful When…”
Here are Dean’s own criteria for success:
1. I can wake up every day and ask — “What would I like to do today?”
2. My passive revenue exceeds my lifestyle needs.
3. I can live anywhere in the world I choose.
4. I’m working on projects that excite me and allow me to do my best work.
5. I can disappear for several months with no effect on my income.
6. There are no whiny people in my life.
7. I wear my watch for curiosity only.
8. I have no time obligations or deadlines.
9. I wear whatever I want all the time.
10. I can quit anytime.
This is Dean’s definition of success. Feel free to adopt or steal any of that. However, Dean’s definition of success may not match your true ambitions. So beware of shiny objection syndrome.
I provide Dean’s example to show what it looks like to clearly define, measure and live successfully. Your daily life is a reflection of how successful you are. There are people who make boatloads of money and completely hate their lives.
“Success” can become a trap. It’s a trap if you don’t define success for yourself.
Step Three to Living Your Dreams: Don’t Get Lost in the Maze of “Success”
As a quick overview:
- Step 1 to living your dreams and being “successful” is being honest with yourself.
- Step 2 to living your dreams and being “successful” is designing your daily life to maximize your time spent doing what you care about.
Step 3 is about maintaining, honing, and continually clarifying your path.
As your life evolves, your goals and “definition” of success will also evolve. However, there is a subtle trap that can happen. Just because your circumstances change doesn’t mean you should assume your goals have as well.
You still need to clarify when you know you’ll be successful.
Let me explain — a lot of people achieve their goals and begin living their dreams, only to realize that they’re not actually living their dreams.
A writer could become a professional and find themselves speaking all over the country. This may be exciting for a while, but then they start to feel miserable.
You start to realize that your ideal day has changed a lot. You aren’t actually spending much time doing what you love. Instead, you’re spending your time talking to people you don’t really like on the phone, traveling, etc., when what you really wanted to do was create.
“Success” can lead you down a strange rabbit hole, and you might not like where you wind up.
In the book Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less, author Greg McKeown explains why most people don’t succeed for long. He also explains why successful people rarely become very successful.
The reason is simple. Success becomes a trap. When you leave the gravitational pull of mediocrity and begin living your dreams, and when you design your day to live those dreams — you’ll start to succeed.
Succeeding isn’t really that hard. Most people just aren’t honest with themselves, and few are willing to optimize the margins of their lives to get their dreams going.
But the few who actually do start to see big results. They start to succeed. And with success comes more options, choices, and opportunities. Some of these opportunities are AMAZING. But most are simply distractions.
If you don’t have a process for maintaining clarity on your priorities, you will get lost. And in your mad rush for “success,” you’ll realize that you’ve lost what you once had. You’ll also realize that you are no longer being honest with yourself.
You’ll have started to seek other people’s definition of success, and you’ll have lost touch with yourself. This is a weird place to be, because, in the eyes of most people, you appear to be successful. You’re making good money and appear to have freedoms that most people don’t have.
But inwardly, you’ll feel just as trapped as you did when you first started. You’ll be pursuing other people’s expectations. You won’t feel good.
Being honest with yourself in this situation may be even harder than initially being honest with yourself. The more successful you become, the farther you have to fall. Your ego may get the best of you.
Instead of seeking growth toward your true dreams, you may be satisfied enough with the “status” you’ve gained. Your status will become a trap. Dan Sullivan, the founder of Strategic Coach, explains that your growth must always be greater than your status.
If your focus is on status, then you will fight to maintain that status. And this will stop you from growing out of that status. What got you here won’t get you there. Status doesn’t really matter.
You’ll need to give up a former status to create a new one.
Most people, if they are honest with themselves, simply want status. They want to be “bestselling author,” or “millionaire,” or even, to be “married.” Once they get their coveted status, then their vision ends. They have what they wanted. Therefore, motivation tanks.
Without vision and purpose, people perish.
This is why self-help writers like James Clear advise against setting goals. Because once you hit a goal, then you lose motivation. Although well-intentioned, James is wrong in this regard. Human beings are goal-oriented creatures. We need goals to have a purpose in our lives with which to strive.
The problem is when we see goals as ends rather than means.
Goals aren’t ends. They are means. Once you hit your goal, you need another. Goals are vehicles for self-improvement. They are methods for organizing your life to live out your dreams. They should never stop.
With each goal you hit, your confidence will increase. As your confidence increases, your imagination and capacity for bigger goals increases. Therefore, hitting a goal shouldn’t end your future, it should expand your future.
When you overly attach to a status that comes from hitting a goal, then you’ve run out of future, and are now living in the past.
Living your dreams and being “successful” is a difficult but worthwhile pursuit.
It starts and ends with being honest with yourself.
This can be difficult because we are social and emotional creatures. We don’t want to let other people down. We don’t want to be fully honest about who we are or what we want. So instead, we bury our emotions and live lives of quiet regret.
Don’t do this.
Be honest with yourself.
Begin telling the people around you about what you truly want. The people who support you are the ones to keep. The ones who try to keep you where you are are the ones to abandon.
Then, design your daily life so that you’re spending all, if not most, of your time on only the things you truly value and care about.
As you become successful, don’t get lost.
If you don’t know who you really are — then success will misinform you. You’ll either overly attach to a particular status you’ve developed, or you’ll get lost in the maze of other people’s agendas (i.e., “opportunities”).
All the while, you’ll need to continually stay in touch with and be honest with yourself. To be honest with yourself, you’ll need to say “no” faster to the opportunities that arise.
Just because something is a great opportunity doesn’t mean you should do it. Everything has a cost. Time is the greatest cost.
When you begin being fully honest with your highest self, then amazing things begin happening, immediately.
Success will happen. Success must happen. But it can only happen when you start living the life you want, and not getting lost when success comes.