A few years back I read a terrible self-help book. It was one I’d never buy for myself which is probably why I didn’t like it much. BUT, it did have one useful idea.

Know exactly what you want and don’t water it down.

It’s been on my mind recently because I’ve been reading a far better business book — “The Coaching Habit” by Michael Bungay Stanier.

While it can be summarised in one sentence — give less advice, ask more questions, let the other person speak more — it also has a ton of value inside and one of the biggest is the question

What do you really want here?

Admitting what we want

Most of the time,

  1. we don’t know what we really want
  2. when we do know, it’s the surface level desire
  3. and we prevent ourselves from knowing because we are afraid to say what we actually want

This makes us discuss ideas or solutions that don’t actually get to the core of what we want. When we can admit what we want — even when we feel like it’s selfish, impossible, or “not what people like us do” — we can find real solutions.

Those may mean compromises including ones that consider those factors, but they may not too. When we are clear about what we really want, it makes it a lot easier to make appropriate compromises and know when we shouldn’t.

Here’s a simple example

You might say “I want a more managerial role” and so gun for a promotion. But when you get down to what you really want, it’s more free time, but you’ve been conditioned to think 1. a more senior role is easier (The reverse can be equally true). 2. more money = more free time (but it can come with more overhead). 3. The more senior your role, the more likely you need to respond outside regular hours.

The better solution might be to go freelance, consult, or even take a lower paid, more hands on position but with more free time.

Now, that might be you, but it might not be you too. If you see that example and accept the conclusions without knowing what you really want, that’s a recipe for disaster.

What do I really want?

This is the part of the post where I should give a personal example to help illustrate it, but I can’t do that so easily.

You see, I’m not really sure yet.

But I have a new note in my obsidian vault and I’m using the 5 why’s technique to help dig deeper.

Maybe you just need a piece of paper, but I recommend you give it a go.