Wright Foundation | April 5, 2022

Five Steps to Getting What You Really Want

When a friend asks what you want to do, are you able to answer right away, or do you struggle? What if someone asks what you want from your job? Your relationship? Your life?

Struggling to name what you really want out of life? Here's how learning your yearnings will help you find purpose and meaning.

Do you have a list of “wants” that seems endless and unattainable? Or, do you know what you don’t want, but aren’t sure about what you do want? Do you feel like you’re left unsatisfied even when you get what you want?

You’re not alone!

Knowing what you want is a crucial life skill. You can get what you want when you want it. Here’s how to finally figure out what you are truly seeking.

Step One—If You Like It, Say It!

I’ve struggled with knowing or saying what I want my whole life—even the simplest decisions. For example, I’d scan the menu endlessly at a restaurant because I wasn’t sure what I wanted for dinner—let alone what I wanted for my life.

Know what I mean? (Tell me I’m not alone on this!)

The first step to knowing what you want is to be aware of what you like. Start expressing those likes in small ways. If you see something you’re attracted to or that makes you feel good, simply say it out loud:

No ‘like’ is too small or unimportant. As you continue to declare your preferences, you’ll start to get a clearer picture of what pleases you. It’s like your “aha’ light goes on, and you’ll suddenly realize what REALLY matters to you.

Keep going—you’re beginning to form opinions that will lead you to your deepest desires.

Step Two—If You Don’t Like It, Say It!

As important as it is to know what you like, it’s equally important to know what you DON’T like.

The second step to getting what you really want is to start expressing your DISLIKES in small ways.

What bugs you, annoys you, or displeases you? Start making a list. Then, when you are with others and you see, feel, or taste something that you don’t like or doesn’t feel right to you, say it aloud. Responsibly, of course. The point is to not to just judge another but to get more comfortable consciously expressing your dislikes clearly and directly.

It takes practice. Start with saying what you don’t like. And then, bring up something small you dislike about someone else’s behavior, and build from there.

Step Three—Focus on the WHY, Not the WHAT

Now you’re ready to start exploring what’s underneath those likes and dislikes—to discover why they matter to you.

It’s easy to feel confused about what it is you really want. You may think you want to lose weight or get a new car. You may think you want a certain item (or items!) on Amazon. You may want to go on more dates or wish you could get promoted at work.

This is often what psychologists call “mis-wanting”—mistakenly thinking some THING will bring you happiness, only to find the moment is fleeting, or you don’t feel all that satisfied when you get it.

What is it about the promotion or the designer dress that leaves you feeling a little empty—even let down—once you get it? Are you doomed to dissatisfaction?

Is it just wrong to want things? Absolutely not! But if you never know WHY you want a certain thing, you will always feel unsatisfied once you get it.

So, how do you get satisfaction from your wants?

Think about this: What do you hope that thing/accomplishment/goal or…will do for you?

Answering this question will help you learn what you truly long for deep inside—at the Wright Foundation we call these yearnings. Underneath every want that we have is a deeper yearning. They are the deep universal wants of your heart that, as humans, we all share—to love and be loved, to connect and create, to matter, to achieve our purpose, to serve, to be seen.

The list goes on, and once you begin to learn yours, everything changes.

Step Four: Satisfaction and the “So That” Test

You want to run a 5k. You train. You work hard. Every morning you get up with the alarm, put on your sneakers, and hit the pavement. Maybe you use one of those training apps. You buy new shoes. You sign up for your race.

Then the day of the race comes. You cross the finish line, and you feel great…for a moment. Then the feeling passes. You look back at your hard work and think, “Is that it?’ or  “I’m still the same as I was before.” Or, you feel empty or dissatisfied –and start looking for another goal or accomplishment to fill the void.

This is because you didn’t know WHY you were doing it in the first place. You didn’t know what you were yearning for beneath your goals.

If you want to get more out of your goals, put them to the “so that” test.

Why do you want to run a 5k?

So that I can say I did it.


So that people will see me as more accomplished.


So that people will respect me.

Respect! You want to run a 5K so that people will respect you, and you yearn to be respected.

Go through that process with any “want,” and you’ll always find the deeper longing beneath. And when you know what you truly yearn for, you don’t have to wait to win a race or buy that designer dress or… You can meet that yearning in a myriad of ways right in the moment.

Step Five: Yearn, Baby, Yearn!

Everyone has yearnings. They drive you. And when they are met, you feel satisfied.

It doesn’t matter if you run a 5k, give a TED talk, or own the biggest house on the block. If getting those things aren’t connected to your yearnings, you’ll go to bed feeling unsatisfied every night.

I read a book where the author was on top of his sport. He was at the pinnacle of performance. He had won the trophy and achieved his goal. The night after he won he was sitting in his bedroom, and he thought, “Is this it? Is that all there is?”

All these empty feelings came up for him. He thought, “Well, if I keep hitting more goals, maybe it will be enough.” He eventually realized that’s not the point, and it sent him on a life journey. Why was he doing sports in the first place? Was he yearning to feel alive? In control of his life? Did he want security? Recognition?

Like him, I was the girl who was good at goals. I had a strong will and worked hard to achieve those goals. Yet, even as I ticked them off, I soon felt empty again.

Only when I figured out WHY I was chasing those goals–what I really yearned for– did I finally feel nourished.

The more I did that, the more I became even more successful than my original goals because now I was focused on getting what I yearned for deep inside. I, like every human on the planet, yearn to love and be loved, to matter, to connect, and to make a difference. I didn’t yearn to get the goal, I yearned for what I thought that goal would do for me. And when I focused on meeting my yearnings directly in the moment, rather than some arbitrary end goal, I actually had better results. But more importantly, I was satisfied, nourished, and fulfilled.

Yearnings are the answer to living a satisfying life, and I am grateful to share them with you. You deserve to live a satisfying life—a life where your deepest longings are met.

As we connect our yearnings to our satisfaction, we not only begin to live our best lives, we contribute to creating a world that works for everyone.

What’s not to like about that? To discover more about living up to your full potential, don’t miss our resources on Wright Now. We have many different courses available to help you discover more about yourself, your relationships, and your career. Also, check out our upcoming events. Get MORE today!

The Wright Foundation for the Realization of Human Potential is a leadership institute located in Chicago, Illinois. Wright Foundation performative learning programs are integrated into the curriculum at Wright Graduate University.