It’s never how you wanted it

If there’s one lesson life insists on reminding me of, it’s this: You can get what you want, but it will never be how you wanted it.

If there’s one lesson life insists on reminding me of, it’s this: You can get what you want, but it will never be how you wanted it.

You’ve probably experienced this yourself.

You got that big client you’d been pursuing for months, and they were absolutely miserable to work with.

You got that big order that exceeded your revenue target for the year, and fulfilling it was astoundingly exhausting.

You got that great article written about you in the industry press, and nobody seemed to notice.

You finally rented office space for your business, and the world shuts down for a pandemic—which is exactly what happened to me.

In fact, all of these have happened to me.

But the important fact here is not that these successes were disappointing. That’s how humans are, it’s just hedonic adaptation. We’ve evolved to be unsatisfied with our progress because that’s what keeps us yearning, growing, exploring, and reproducing.

That’s our biology, so be it.

No, the important fact, in each of these cases, is that you got what you wanted.

The fact that it was hollower than you’d hoped doesn’t at all change the truth that you succeeded.

You won.

You did it.

And it’s entirely up to you whether you feel good about it or not. It’s a choice you get to make.

Your biology will shove it aside and tell you that it’s not enough, it’s not right, and that one more win, one more big job, one more big accomplishment and then, for real this time, you’ll be happy.

Or you could choose to remind yourself that you already got what you wanted.

You set a goal. You had a dream. You went on a mission.

And it succeeded.

You succeeded.

And you get to relish it, and love it, and be happy with it, if you so choose.

Or you can choose to decide it’s not enough this time, which is the same as deciding that it will never be enough.

You will never have enough.

You will never be enough.

That can be motivating for a while, until you start to believe your own stories about how poorly you’ve been treated, or how unworthy you are of success.

And then it turns inward, and becomes actively discouraging—because why bother trying if nothing ever turns out like you’d hoped?

Instead, we need to reckon with the fact of life that nothing ever will turn out exactly like we hoped. Because we’re not psychic, and nothing about the future is perfectly predictable.

Nothing will ever go exactly as we planned.

So we need to take notice of when we win, when we succeed, and when we get what we want.

We need to write it down, savour it, and refer back to it.

Your brain and your biology want you to move on to the next goal, the next target, the next ambition. And don’t worry, you will.

But you need to force yourself to sit for a moment, ponder your success and your accomplishments, and then move on from a place of gratitude and fullness.

That’s the kind of motivation that lasts, that keeps you moving forward, and helps you overcome inevitable setbacks.

When I talk about having a structure—a strategy—for your marketing work, this is part of it. You need to understand, well ahead of time, that the upcoming accomplishment you’re pushing yourself so hard to achieve will, inevitably, feel empty.

If you let it.

But to stay motivated for the long haul, we need to put a process of celebration, appreciation, and gratitude in place in our work. We need a system for acknowledging what we’ve done and achieved because it will not come naturally, and it will not feel satisfying all on its own.

Today, right now, write down three of your biggest recent accomplishments.

Write down what you did, the specific actions you took, to make them happen.

And then write down three principles you can derive about yourself, your work, and your process that made them possible.

And then give yourself a smile—as cheesy and uncomfortable as it might feel—because if you don’t, no one else will.

The simple fact is, you might just end up getting everything you want.

And it will be up to you whether it feels good, or feels bad.

Because it will never be exactly how you wanted it.

But it can be so much better than that.