17 Aug What’s in the way of you getting what you want?
In a recent post, I discussed how working out what you really really want for yourself is key to creating a fulfilling life. If you want to read more about this, take a look at ‘What do you really really want?’ over on my website. There’s also a free download to help you decide what it is that you really want. It’s different for each of us.
Activate your Reticular Activating System to get what you want
The next question is, then, what happens once you know what you want? Sometimes, just knowing what you want is enough to make it happen. Making that desire conscious means you’re on the lookout for what you want. So, when an opportunity arises, you’re able to make a quick decision and take action.
The scientists suggest this is because you have activated your Reticular Activating System (RAS) – a bunch of neurons in the brain stem that create a gateway between your conscious and subconscious mind. David Allen in ‘Getting Things Done’ describes it thus: “Just like a computer, your brain has a search function – but it’s even more phenomenal than a computer’s. It seems to be programmed by what we focus on.”
That’s how I found my London flat. I was renting in north London, liked the area, and was clear that my next home would be somewhere with outdoor space. The only action I’d taken was to make that decision. En route to work one morning, a picture in an estate agent’s window caught my eye. It was a view of trees and greenery taken from the lounge window of a flat a few roads away. The estate agent saw me hovering and invited me for a viewing. The flat had an 80’ south-facing garden, a good layout and was in the right location. It needed renovating but I was OK with that so it was easy to make the decision to buy it. My RAS had been briefed and did its job by helping me to ‘see’ that picture in the estate agent’s window. I don’t think I’d have spotted it, if I hadn’t been so sure about what I wanted.
The three things that stop you getting what you want
And, then, there are other occasions when you know what you want but it eludes you. What’s happening here is one of three things. You’ll either be stalling on taking action – otherwise known as procrastinating! Fears and doubts will be getting in your way. Or, you don’t really desire the thing you say you want.
Procrastination happens because you have unconscious conditions that need to be met before you’ll make a move. If you want to know how to spot and deal with these, have a read of my post “What’s stopping you from starting?”
Fear make us play small or drives us to burnout
Very often, when we’ve decided we want something that seems like a stretch, an inner voice will pipe up. It’ll have a view on what we’re going for and will come up with all sorts of reasons to give up. “It’ll be impossible for you to get that”, “You’ll fail so there’s no point in trying”, “You won’t like it when you get it”. This is the voice of the part of us that wants to keep us safe. But, in doing so, it drains us of our motivation to achieve and we end up playing small and feeling unfulfilled.
Or, that voice will become a slave driver, cracking the whip and driving us into taking action by threatening us. “You have to achieve this goal OR ELSE you’ll be a failure, you’ll be humiliated, people will think you’re worthless/a fraud/incompetent/lazy.” So, to avoid the feared scenarios, we go into a frenzy of activity and the one result you can be sure of creating is stress. Taking this approach to getting what you want may get you some results but is exhausting and is not sustainable in the long run. It’s the road to burnout rather than the path to fulfilment.
How to deal with fear and doubt
The first step towards dealing with these fears and doubts is to make them conscious. Once you’re aware of these blocks, you can then remove them so you can move towards your goals using purpose as your motivator instead of fear.
I’ll talk more about how to harness purpose to achieve success another time.
But, for now, take a moment to think about something you are wanting but recognise that fear and doubt are stopping you from achieving it. Listen in to that inner voice and write down what it’s saying.
Once you’ve emptied your mind onto paper and your fears and doubts are out in the open, take a look at them with your objective mind and ask: “Are any of these feared scenarios definitely going to happen? Or is there a possibility things could work out some other way?”
When you realise that you don’t know what the future is going to look like – none of us do! – you start to loosen the grip of the fears and doubts that you were holding as absolute truths. Those fears and doubts are just your subjective points of view about what may or may not happen in the future. Recognising them as such and getting in touch with what is really true for you will allow you to start moving more easily towards what you desire.