If I didn’t have such a strong moral compass, I would make an excellent supervillain, because I spend my life scheming behind the scenes and putting my plans into motion. I am not the kind of the person to go with the flow, I am the flow. I have no choice whether or not I reside in the river that is existence, but I chose to become the current rather than swimming within it. Getting what you want is an art. It is a skill which must be practiced over time in order to develop it.
2017 was a year of sacrifices. It was a year of learning what mattered to me, and watching it slip through my fingertips. Knowing what you want isn’t enough, you have to learn to make it happen. You don’t get to the top of a ladder by standing on the ground wishing you were up there in the sky. One of the most important lessons I’ve learnt this year, is to work with what you’ve got. We do not exist as islands; humans are social creatures, and our lives are filled with people who can help and support us.
It does not come naturally to me to ask for help. I have always been a solitary creature, and my first instinct is to do things by myself, for myself. (Again, I would make a great villain). But the lesson I have been learning for the past few months, is that it’s okay to rely on other people. I realised I don’t have to do things on my own anymore. The world is less scary when you have people who you can call home. But what is even more important than learning to rely on others, is being able to rely on ourselves. You have to become your own cheerleader if you want to succeed in life. I didn’t become good at getting what I want until I believed that I was capable of it and that I deserved it. Instead of asking “why me?” I began asking “why not me?”
You have to know yourself inside out. Know your flaws, know your strengths, know your weak spots. For example, I know that I am a compulsive shopper. If I go into a bookstore with no intent of buying something, I will come away with at least three books. Because I have this knowledge, I can do a risk assessment every time I walk past a bookstore, and avoid going in if my bank balance is low. Similarly, I know that if I ever utter the words “there’s no way in hell I’m doing that!” I will one hundred percent do the thing, just to prove a point, because I am super competitive, especially with myself. I know which parts of me can be hazardous. I know where I will shoot myself in the foot. I also know where my gambles will pay off, where I can get ahead because of my brains or simply my sheer guts.
Life is a constant multiple choice test, and I want to get the best grade possible. Hence, I have to figure out the consequences of each choice. Oftentimes, life throws me a curveball and all my thinking ahead becomes futile. But it doesn’t stop me from persevering. Because in spite of failed tests and dead-end roads, I know where I’m going, and it doesn’t matter if I know how to get there. The path before me is filled with tangled, prickly shrubbery that I must fight through to get ahead, but I know the destination I’m heading towards. The obstacles don’t scare me, because I will find a way to combat them.
To get what you want, you have to ask for it. This is sometimes the tricky part. You have to know your audience — know who it is that can actually help you, and how to approach them. I often find it scary to ask people for favours, but nothing beats the buzz I get when they say yes!
The next step, is to see life as being filled with opportunities. Sometimes you create your own opportunities, other times you can seize the ones that land in front of you. But you have to learn to recognise them. I used to see “signs” everywhere, and think I was on the right path. I stopped taking control of my life because I believed I would end up where I needed to be. I got swept away by the river, and before I knew it I was drowning. The signs were mirages, and I was fooled into thinking I was headed for a future that wasn’t meant for me at that time. When I say you should see life as filled with opportunities, I mean real, solid opportunities, not fantasies.
The one thing we cannot control in life is other people. This was a tough lesson for me to learn. I like to be in control at all times, but any situation involving other people is a wild card. If you are like me, you will learn to observe people closely, to learn their behaviour and patterns, to second-guess their next move. But even then, people will surprise you. Each person has their own internal world that no others are privy to. We can never truly see what exists inside another person’s heart or soul, and that is why they will always surprise us, why they are always at risk of throwing a spanner in the works of our plans.
You may be wondering how we can get what we want when all situations involving other people are a minefield. I will tell you how: focus on yourself. Firstly, when we have a healthy relationship with ourselves, it makes our relationships with others easier to handle. Secondly, you are the only person in this world who entirely has your best interests at heart. We all have ulterior motives, whether we want to admit to them or not. Sometimes we have good intentions towards others, sometimes we have no intentions towards them at all, oftentimes other people are the collateral damage we leave behind. Few things can destroy us as completely as our fellow humans.
Even in the worst case scenario, when your heart is broken and you’ve lost everything you thought you could rely on, you still have one thing left. Do you know what that thing is, which remains to you when all else is lost? It is yourself. You are your own life partner, you are your career, your spouse, your best friend, your author, your narrator, your god. You are your everything. You are the only person who will be with you from your first breath to your last, and that is why you must take care of yourself.
In order to get what you want, you must view yourself as a constant work in progress. Your desires — whether they are material possessions or career aspirations, or anything else — are not the end goal. They are one milestone on a long road. If you think about it too hard, the only end goal of life is death, because that is where it all culminates. Hence why I don’t think too far into the future. I am goal-oriented and I like to plan ahead, but I only do so by a few years. If I were to plan for 70 years ahead I’d realise most of my goals only go towards feeding the monster of capitalism, and they will all seem futile once I’m buried in the ground. But they are not futile.
The things you want are expressions of yourself. You are writing your own history book with each choice you make. Choose wisely. It doesn’t matter that we exist in a capitalist monster of a society and our existence is probably futile and we’re all going to die in the end, because right now we are alive and we are tiny waves in a vast ocean, and it’s beautiful. I don’t look at my life and think it’s meaningless just because I’m a small existence in wide world. My life is important. The world isn’t made up of big moments and significant events, it’s made up of tiny moments piled on top of each other like a precarious croquembouche tower. Our small lives matter, our hopes and dreams matter. Getting what we want matters.
We must work to further our own ends, without causing harm to others. We are each individual threads in a tapestry. We each run our own path, and we each serve a purpose in the bigger picture. It is our duty to ourselves to live the life we want to live, and it is our duty to others to do no harm. This does not mean letting others walk all over us, however. It is about realising that we count for one, and only one. We are not worth less than others, but we are also not worth more than them.
I only became good at getting what I want, when I started setting boundaries. Know your value, take yourself seriously, and don’t let anyone convince you that you are not worthy. If people don’t respect your boundaries, they don’t belong in your life. Everyone has off days, sometimes things are an accident. But if people keep repeating the same behaviours that devalue you, that is a major red flag. Take it as a warning sign, and run as far as you can in the opposite direction.
A big thing for me is communication. I have had a disproportionate number of people in my life who were horrendous at replying to messages. It became a pattern, and it kept repeating in different areas of my life, and it bugged the hell out of me but I didn’t really do anything about it. Obviously there are some special cases. If you’ve dropped a massive bombshell on someone, it’s natural that they may take a ridiculous amount of time to reply. But if there is no obvious reason why people are weird in their communication, it probably means they are indifferent to you, or don’t want you in their lives. Sometimes people are genuinely busy, or bad at communicating over text, but if something becomes a pattern it usually does so for a reason. If you are attracting the same patterns from all corners, ask yourself whether you have been setting enough boundaries.
Something I’m only recently starting to learn is: you have to call people out on their crap. Even if they’re your friends. When you tolerate something, you are making a statement to everyone around you. If someone does something that is problematic or seems wrong, or if you feel you are being disrespected, communicate. Don’t be reactive, don’t be passive aggressive or start a fight, but raise the issue and talk about it like rational humans. Face-to-face communication is the best way to get what you want. We’re all human, we’re all flawed, but inside we’re all the same. You can defend yourself without destroying someone else.
Time is money. I am punctual person, and for some reason I attract friends who are not punctual in the slightest. It is one of my pet peeves, and for ages I thought it was just because I’m a bit of a control freak. But the other day I realised it’s more than that. I don’t mind waiting for people. I like spending time alone, I always have music and earphones with me, waiting can be pleasant in the right circumstances. But right now I can feel my deadlines approaching, and I have a tendency to undervalue those deadlines because they are self-imposed. I want to publish my novel by the end of this year. I want to have finished editing it by the end of the summer. It’s already the middle of July, and time is going by at an alarming rate. Spending half an hour or an hour waiting for a friend isn’t that much time in the scheme of things, but it adds up. I will spend at least some of my working life being freelance or self-employed, therefore I have to view my time as a commodity, because time truly will be money.
However, I can’t blame it all on other people being less punctual than I. Last year I had the opposite problem, in that I would show up 20 minutes early for everything. Thirty minutes if I was particularly nervous. It wasn’t a case of other people wasting my time, I was wasting my own time. Just like I waste my own time when I spend hours scrolling through twitter, or stalking people’s instagrams, or watching episodes of “Charmed” that I’ve already seen eight times. I waste hours of my own time every day. When I was feeling bitter about other people wasting my time, it occurred to me that I wasn’t feeling resentful towards them, but towards myself. I have lazy tendencies, I procrastinate to the enth degree, I waste more of my time than every late friend combined. Often when someone triggers our bitterness, it’s because their actions are a mirror of our own deficiencies.
Which brings me to one of the most fundamental steps to getting what you want: don’t lie to yourself. Ever. I don’t lie to other people, it’s one of my many quirks. I struggle to lie in board games, let alone in real life. But I am a pro at lying to myself. Whether it be “I’m going to stick to my weekly budget” or “I’m not going to snooze my alarm in the morning” or “I’m definitely over him”, I fall for my lies every time. But you can’t live an authentic life if you are in denial about yourself. It’s okay to be unsure, it’s okay to be confused, it’s okay to have no damn clue what you think or want. But it’s not okay to lie. It’s healthier to admit that you’re not where you should be, that you’re going to sleep in in the morning, that you’re not going to tick off every item on your to-do list, that you still have feelings lurking in the back of your heart that should have disappeared a long time ago. If you admit this to yourself, you know what it is you have to work with. If you lie, all those things will come back to bite you.
It is only once you are fully honest with yourself that you can trust your instincts. Deep down, we know what is right for us. But if we are lying to ourselves constantly, how can we have faith in the little voice inside us that tells us where we’re meant to be? I trust my intuition, and it doesn’t let me down. But there have been times when I convinced myself I was following my intuition, when I was only following my desires. I lied to myself. Part of following your intuition is practicing detachment. You have to be prepared to accept the truth, even if it is not the outcome you desire. Lately my intuition has been telling me to trust in something that doesn’t seem logically likely to happen. I have tried to suppress that intuition, tried to reason with myself. The result? I kept dreaming about it, and was unable to forget about it whilst awake. So I stopped telling myself I was wrong. Instead, I chose to have faith in my instincts. It doesn’t mean I am believing a certain outcome will take place — I have no concrete way of knowing that. But I am honouring my feelings, accepting that my intuition is telling me something, and I am not shutting it down. Life works in mysterious ways. You don’t always have to know the “how”, only the “why.”
Finally, my advice is this: you have all the tools you need, they have been with you all along. Many of our perceived flaws are in fact neutral traits. I could write an entire book of my worst qualities. I’m obsessive, and uptight, and I triple-check everything, and I’m a control freak, and I spend too much time on twitter, and I have a creepily good memory, I spend all my time living in the past and the future, and I never know when to let something go. They all sound like flaws, right?
But what is it that I want to do with my life? I want to be a writer, and I intend to self-publish my novels. This means I need to become a business woman. I need to be a publisher, a marketer, and, of course, a writer. All those flaws I listed are not negative traits, they are the things that will help me build my literary empire. Obsessive = focused. Uptight = taking things seriously. Triple-checking everything = detail oriented. Spending too much time on twitter = learning about digital marketing. And so on. I had this moment last week where I realised all the things people criticise me for are the qualities which will make me a successful entrepreneur. It hit me that I had everything I needed within me all along. I was made for this, I am on the right path.
At the end of the day, you are a work in progress and this is a journey. You won’t’ always get what you want. There will be times where it feels like nothing is going your way, and you’ll look back in a few months time and be so glad things didn’t work out. A couple of weeks ago, I was packing up to move into my new flat, and in a bag at the back of my wardrobe I found a notebook of poetry I’d written when I was in Latvia last summer. Ever the procrastinator, I stopped packing and read through the entire notebook. I was stunned by how much I have changed since then. Last year I was miserable, I was riddled with anxiety, I was still recovering from a bunch of emotional trauma, and I hated myself. Reading those poems gave me the perspective I needed to see why particular things from last year were never meant to work out. I was a shell of a person a year ago. Now I am so, so full. I love myself. I still have a long way to go, and I still have many insecurities. But I have come so far. It took me a year to understand how important timing is, two weeks ago I was finally grateful that I never got what I wanted. I wasn’t ready, not in the slightest.
Don’t give up on dreams that seem impossible. They may come to you at a different point in your life, or perhaps something better will come along. Remember the importance of timing. You will change and grow throughout your life, and the right lessons and the right people will come to you when they’re meant to. So chase after what you want, fight for it as hard as you can. And when the fighting seems futile, take a step back. Gain some perspective. Accept what you can’t change, and focus on what you can control, focus on yourself. I promise that all the hard work you put in did not go to waste, because it helped you grow. Perhaps death is not the end goal of human existence after all, perhaps the goal is growth.