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Happiness Is As Simple As Asking For What You Want (As Appeared in Forbes Article on 8/11/17)

Jack Craven
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August 11, 2017

**Happiness Is As Simple As Asking For What You Want by Jack Craven as featured in Forbes.com on August 11, 2017

How often do you ask for what you really want? If you're like most of my clients, you're probably living life not asking for what you want because you fear others might judge you. You may even think you're undeserving. You knock items off your to-do list rather than do the things you actually want to do. Your greatest pleasure isn’t doing the activity, it’s crossing the activity off your list. And if you actually do shift your thinking to do what you really want to do, an inner critic might smother the idea by whispering, “You’re being selfish. You don’t deserve it. There are many other 'shoulds' that take priority over your 'want.'”

Here’s a radically different approach. Make a new to-do list. Begin a practice of identifying things that bring you energy and excitement. When the inner critic appears, notice the judgment come forward rather than get attached to it. Then, visualize the pleasurable idea. The more detail you can envision, the more your energy will rise and the greater the chance you will give yourself permission to act on it.

I recognized the value of this exercise years ago. I wasn’t allowing myself to do what I really wanted to do. I was a father, husband and CEO of a business. I put everyone and everything else first, and it depleted my energy and ability to even recognize what it was that I wanted.

I decided to attend a leadership workshop hosted by the Conscious Leadership Group (http://conscious.is) and discovered how much I had neglected my own wants. For example, I eat the same breakfast every day: Greek yogurt and bananas. Bananas are essential to my breakfast, so much so that if we run out, I would get angry and place blame. Sound crazy? I kept this feeling to myself because I judged myself for being so petty.

But one day, I shared my want with my wife: bananas every day. We laughed at how important I made bananas to my breakfast, and she wanted to honor my want. It felt amazing to not only ask for something I wanted but to be heard.

I didn’t stop there. I became more attuned to other wants arising. What part of my job did I really enjoy doing? What didn’t I enjoy? I began to delegate the parts of my job that I didn’t like. I then thought of more things I wanted to do with my wife and daughters, and we started making plans to do them all.

My 50th birthday was approaching, and my family asked me what I wanted. Though I was getting more used to identifying my wants, I didn’t have an immediate answer. Then, the idea slowly appeared, and I smiled. I have done over 50 triathlons in my life, a handful with my wife cheering me on, but none with my family. I never asked them to attend before because I didn’t want to burden them with getting up early to watch me race for hours. But I noticed the judgment, then shifted my attention to visualize them cheering me on and waiting for me at the finish line. That was my big want. So, I asked them to attend. It wasn't my fastest race, but I’m certain it was the most memorable.

This exercise applies to teams as well. What do members of your team really want? When I asked a team this question recently, the room fell silent and I could feel the tension build. Finally, someone blurted out that they wanted to do more work remotely. Her supervisor said that could be arranged. Then another person asked for more peer feedback, and finally, another wanted sacred time carved out where no meetings were scheduled. Every person got what they wanted. The team’s energy rose and they were happier and more productive at work.

So what want are you willing to ask for? Are you willing to make it a priority?

Jack Craven
Jack Craven is an executive coach to business leaders, and the teams and companies they lead.

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