When Life Doesn’t Give You What You Really Want: 5 Reasons and What You Can Do About It
I want to ask you a very important question: Are you getting what you want out of your life? Are you truly happy with the way things are going?
It’s common for the answer to that question to be, “I’m not sure,” or “Not really.” And it’s an uncomfortable feeling to realize that you’ve sort of been living your life on autopilot without really getting what you truly need or want.
So what can you do when you find yourself in this boat? I believe that it’s never too late to start going after what you want in life and live a life that you’re deeply satisfied with. Today, I’ve gathered some reasons why that life may not be giving you what you want, and what you can do about it.
Reason #1: You don’t know what it is you really want.
Do you ever feel like you don’t really know what you want? In my personal and professional experience, this is one of the most common reasons why people don’t feel truly satisfied in their lives. Everything is “fine,” but you can’t help wondering: Is this what I really want? When you don’t know the answer to that question, it’s hard to feel like you’re getting exactly what you want from your life.
When you don’t know what you really want in life, you don’t know how to answer the question, “Are you happy?” Your answer might be something like, “I guess so.” But deep down, you feel like that isn’t true – you aren’t truly happy, but you aren’t sure why.
I see this happening particularly often with women because we tend to be so focused on taking care of others’ needs. We’re daughters, sisters, mothers, grandmothers. But too often, we don’t stop to think about what it is that we want.
What to do:
One of the most important things you can do to combat not knowing what you want is to self-reflect and set meaningful goals for yourself. When you’re able to envision the life you truly want (and the steps you’ll need to get there), you can more confidently determine whether or not you’re getting what you truly want in life.
There are so many ways to do this depending on what resonates with you. Some people like to make lists of very concrete goals that would make them feel fulfilled and happy. Others are more fluid with their life vision – maybe you’d prefer to make some sort of vision board or write in a journal envisioning an ideal future for yourself. The important thing is to be as detailed as possible.
Remember to set goals that are achievable and realistic, but don’t sell yourself short, either. For example, “Become a billionaire” might be unrealistic for most (but hey, if you want to go for it – go for it!), but “Reach a level of passive income that supports a comfortable lifestyle” could be realistic. “Save every dog on the planet” is (sadly) unrealistic, but “Have at least one foster dog in my home at all times” is perfectly doable.
Reason #2: You haven’t created a purpose.
Another reason why you might feel unsatisfied in your life is because you don’t have a deeper purpose for the things you do every day.
This is so common, and it’s nothing to be ashamed of. Finding meaning and purpose in life is one of the most important components to happiness, and yet most of us don’t learn how to find that purpose.
The truth (and it may be hard to hear) is that purpose doesn’t just fall into your lap. Except for a very lucky few, most of us don’t just wake up one day with the epiphany of, “This is why I was born! This is my purpose!”.
Language matters, and I like to say that we build our purpose rather than finding it. Finding purpose makes it seem as though if you just walk along the road of life for long enough, your purpose will appear in front of you. I think we all know that isn’t how it works.
What you can do:
Purpose needs to be intentionally created. If you feel like you haven’t found your purpose in life, then start taking steps to figure out what brings your life meaning. Keep in mind that it might not be about uncovering a hidden purpose; for many people, it’s about intentionally making the decision about what your purpose will be. And your purpose, to define it simply, is just your reason to get up in the morning.
Ask yourself questions like, “Where do I find joy?” and “What sort of impact do I want to make on the world?” Remember that your purpose doesn’t have to be winning the Nobel Prize or becoming a saint. Your purpose can be something as simple as making great coffee or being there for your friends. It can simply be to enjoy your life while you’re here.
Creating purpose is about living a life that’s in alignment with your values. Figure out what your values are, and you’ll never be too far from your “why.”
Reason #3: You haven’t put in the work.
There is a saying: “Life doesn’t give you what you want; it gives you what you deserve.” Now, in my opinion, this is a pretty harsh way of putting things – plenty of people go through horrific things that nobody deserves.
But I get the deeper meaning of the quote, which is that – with the exception of a privileged few – if you want to get what you want in life, you’ve gotta work for it. Dreaming about the things you want is one thing, but have you actually taken the steps to get there?
What you can do:
After you’ve developed a clear vision of what it is that you want from life (see above), outline the exact steps you need to get there. Think about it like breaking the grander vision into smaller goals. Monthly, weekly, and even daily goals can be helpful.
But even when you know the steps you need to take, it can be hard to drum up the motivation to actually put in the work. When you feel your motivation falter, try to connect back to your values and purpose. Why is it important to you to take these steps? How will life be better for you once you’re living a life that you’re happy with?
Reason #4: You’re self-sabotaging.
Or it could be that you know exactly what you want in life and what your purpose is, but you just can’t seem to get there. There are two reasons for this: internal factors and external factors. Let’s start with the internal: self-sabotage.
We’ve probably all done some self-sabotaging on some level. Like maybe we long for a safe and loving relationship, but drive people away when they get too close. Or maybe we’ve dreamed of a particular career position, only to let imposter syndrome scare us away from taking the job. Or we engage in certain behaviors – like drinking too much or gambling – that we know aren’t good for us.
No matter what the exact circumstance, when you self-sabotage, you take away your own chances for success. You end up in a situation where you aren’t getting what you want in life because you’re getting in your own way.
What you can do:
Self-sabotaging is such a complex thing and there isn’t just one simple answer I can give you about what you can do to help yourself. I think one of the most important actions you can take is to examine the roots of your self-sabotaging behavior.
Why do you think you’re doing this? Some people do so because they have a genetic predisposition to certain behaviors like substance abuse. Many of us don’t believe, deep down, that we truly believe that we deserve to get what we want in life. We may say that we believe that, but our actions don’t match that way of thought.
The most important thing is to be compassionate with yourself. No matter if you live with imposter syndrome or substance use disorder, this isn’t a time to start beating yourself up. Therapy can help you examine the roots of your self-sabotaging behavior and work on changing it – and on believing that you’re worthy of experiencing more joy and peace.
Reason #5: Things have fallen apart.
Lastly, sometimes life just… doesn’t give us what we want. It might not even give us what we need. Things don’t always turn out like we’d expected. Why? Well, that’s a question philosophers and spiritualists have been asking for years. Because life is suffering? Because everything happens for a reason? For no reason at all? Unfortunately, no one knows.
But of course, life isn’t always going to give us what we want – that goes for all of us. Maybe you’ve lost a loved one, lost a job or suffered a breakup. Maybe potential employers aren’t calling you back. Maybe you’ve been diagnosed with a chronic illness. There is so much that happens in our lives that’s out of our control. And let’s be honest – that sucks.
What you can do:
When life falls apart in this way, there’s not usually much we can do to change the circumstances. What we can do is change our narrative around it and tap into our resiliency.
I think one of the wisest ways we can deal with these plot twists in life is with acceptance and curiousity. Acceptance doesn’t mean you like what’s happened to you or that it’s fair. It just means that you stop fighting what simply is and define your own narrative around it. It can help to be curious about your response to it and use it as an opportunity to learn more about the roots of your reaction.
Other than that, support from others can help us become more resilient, too. In addition to the essential support you get from friends and family, seeing a therapist can be one of the most powerful things you can do to support yourself through life’s twists and turns.
A therapist can also help you define the life you want to live and address self-sabotaging behaviors like substance use or imposter syndrome.
It’s your turn to take care of yourself and grab life by the horns. I promise you that it’s possible to get what you want from life. I’m here to walk with you through that journey. I offer both traditional talk therapy as well as Ketamine-Assisted Psychotherapy - which is a breakthrough treatment that can really guide your inner healing intelligence to figure out your “reasons” and help make major, long-lasting shifts in your mental health and wellbeing.
If you want to know more about how I can help, please schedule a call – I’m looking forward to hearing from you!