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How to Ask for What you Want

Updated: Jul 6

There are so many reasons why we don’t want to speak out loud the things that we want. It often feels like we’re conditioned to doubt that the things we want are actually good for us, and at times, we’re suspicious of our own instincts. If I ask; "what do you want for your life or your career right now?", most people balk. I think its because there is just too much weight to it.

The most obvious answer for why we can't ask for what we want is that sometimes we truly don’t know what we want. We may think that we know but we don’t have complete confidence that the thing is IN FACT the thing.

Another thought - We’re afraid that what we want makes us unrealistic or wrong. Is it stupid to want that? Am I making a mistake? Will I regret that tomorrow? Or maybe we’re afraid that we can’t have what we want, and that by voicing it, we are publishing the want, and basically guaranteeing our own failure…and then we have to live with that.

Here are two tips for figuring out what you want and then having the courage to ask for it.

1. Lower the Stakes

When I’m coaching clients, one way to help them figure out what they want to do is by lowering the bar and reducing the stakes. In my client intake form, I ask: “What would you do if you knew you could not fail?”. The answers always blow my mind. I had one client who provided me with the most specific answer – something like: “I’d start my own organic soup company using local ingredients from (insert name) farm from the community, and I’d make them healthy and easy to make and I’d distribute them via this channel, and I’d label it this way, I’d reach out to these people to help, etc.”

She had THE WHOLE THING PLANNED. She had clearly spent a lot of time thinking about what she really wanted to do and how she would do it IF there wasn’t a chance of failure. I loved it because it was so directional. Her answer didn’t necessarily mean that she actually wanted to start her own organic soup business, but it did tell me that she was entrepreneurial, passionate about organic local food, invested in building something from within the community, and the type of person who was very thorough and thoughtful. That insight gave us a very good place to start.

2. Shift Your Perspective

Consider this – changing the environment around the choice will change everything - even if your brain stays the same. I’ll even ask clients to stand up and physically move around the room. That simple action alone will create a shift that can lead to new awareness. Changing perspective will dramatically change the way you think about making choices

Consider these perspective changing questions:

· Imagine the world was ending and you had 6 months left. What would you do?

· If you had a magic wand, what would you choose in this situation?

· You get to hit an 'undo' button after 24 hours. How would you spend your time now?

Here is what I know now after countless coaching conversations: People know what they want. Sometimes they aren’t ready to admit it, even to themselves. Sometimes they don’t want to share it, because they don’t want it to be true. Sometimes they know that its there, but they aren't ready to act on it.

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