The Simple Trick to Getting What You Want


The Simple Trick to Getting What You Want | Wit & Delight
Photo by Toa Heftiba on Unsplash

Gratitude is a funny thing. Whenever we feel lost, we need it most. And yet, it’s harder to find. Grace doesn’t show up at our door like you ordered a subscription online. It doesn’t show up when our world is the color of a blank February sky. We have to look for a reason to be grateful. We must, when we least want to move, seek out hope. And sometimes it takes the weirdest, deepest chasm of lostness to find it again.

I don’t want this introduction to mislead you. This post is about getting what you want. But I wanted to preface my reasoning with a few key notes.

Lately, I’ve been feeling (hmm) awful. I like emotions to be sirens—chaotic moments of shock and realization, lots of tears and overflowing happiness. Whatever the emotion may be, serve it to me like it’s going to set something on fire. Paint the town red. Fireworks above my head. Because the emotions that really scare me are the ones the color of concrete. They’re flat and taste like nothing. They don’t make me really angry or really sad or really happy or really anything. I don’t care to get dressed for them or be opinionated about them. They’re merrily there. And that’s why I’ve been feeling awful. I’m scared of the lackness. I’m scared of my inability to move forward.

I’ve been floating around in the violent current of a pandemic, hoping to drift and find a break for air. It’s February, the toughest month, the longest January. And my wanting has reached another level. 

It’s during these times of inactive emotion I know I need to do something. And honestly, a gratitude journal doesn’t always do it for me. I’ve been floating around in the violent current of a pandemic, hoping to drift and find a break for air. It’s February, the toughest month, the longest January. And my wanting has reached another level. 

“Getting what I want” is more simple than I thought. A pandemic has placed my longing on a large pedestal. I desperately want a face-to-face connection. I want my energy back. I want my emotions to be flooded with empathy and fireworks. I want to feel intentionally pretty again. I want to enjoy putting on makeup. I want my back to stop hurting. I want to enjoy my work, my job. I want all of these things back. And yet, nothing is working. Not my Passion Planner. Not my gratitude journal. Not my to-do lists. Nothing. Nothing is getting me anywhere.

Forgetting to be grateful is pretty kosher. And it’s normal for a gratitude list or long-winded planning to blatantly not work. In fact, gratitude lists sometimes don’t work at all for me. They make me feel guilty. They remind me of how many people don’t have those things. And they remind me that, when I’m feeling ungrateful, I must be just an asshole. 

So, it’s time to reevaluate.

Emily and Amelia Nagoski wrote about gratitude practice in their book, Burnout: The Secret to Unlocking the Stress Cycle. (Writer’s Note: I’m never going to stop quoting this book.) They write, “Being grateful for good things doesn’t erase the difficult things. Women have spent centuries being grateful for how much better we have it now than we did before. This ‘gratitude for what you have’ has been used as a weapon against us, to silence our struggle and shame us for our suffering.”

So, it makes sense that while reading Lit by Mary Karr, I came across a quote that made me stumble to grab a pen: “Whatever you want emotionally, you have to start giving away.” 

An epiphany. A small firework. A dash of red. A flicker of heat. Perhaps, a solution. And a simple trick to getting what I want. Giving it right the hell back.

It’s what I’m working on, in my sea of concrete colored feelings and energy. It’s gratitude turned on its head; put to action for other people. Getting what we want is about giving other people what we need so someone else feels the gratitude.

There are multiple ways you could apply this simple concept to your life, depending on what you need emotionally and physically. And that’s what I want to write about here. It’s what I’m working on, in my sea of concrete-colored feelings and energy. It’s gratitude turned on its head; put to action for other people. Getting what we want is about giving other people what we need so someone else feels the gratitude. We are so individualistically involved, sometimes we think that we have to help ourselves before/instead of helping others to feel better. And I don’t think it’s self-serving to think that way.

So, here is my list of ways we can go outside of our individuality and get what we want. And let me note: by doing absolutely nothing self-serving. 

Want to find company? A connection? Open up to other people.

Write someone a letter expressing how much they’ve helped you. Perhaps it’s an old professor who changed the way you read literature. Perhaps it’s the barista who smiles at you every morning. Write a long letter to grandma about how much she, and her fried bread recipe, have changed your life. Write a letter to your first friend in college, expressing why you’re so happy they dealt with your nervous energy freshman year. We build our relationships through storytelling; writing through our vulnerabilities. When we write the truth for others, sharing why we appreciate them, we become better versions of ourselves.

Now, I think it’s important to add a note here. When you open up to other people, the intention is not to use their love to love yourself better. We never need other people’s love to love ourselves or to be “complete.” In this case, we need other people to teach us how to love ourselves best—by giving them a piece of our own appreciation. By being selfless communicators. 

Want to feel grateful? Volunteer.

Volunteer at a homeless shelter. Drive to every stoplight you see people asking for help and actually help. Give money and food. Shovel the entire sidewalk on your side of the street. Sign up for email lists that automatically give advice about how to be involved. I recommend signing up for Anti-Racism Daily to stay updated on what’s going on in the news and do something about shifting your communities for the better. It’s one of my favorite daily emails.

Want to feel a sense of purpose? Give back to the community.

Donate some money to different places in your community once a month. Perhaps it’s a community that needs help rebuilding or a small business that needs the support. Set up a recurring payment to a favorite charity. A few to get you started: the Blackhouse Foundation, HandsOn Twin Cities, Women Giving Back, West Broadway Business Coalition, or The Link

Want to feel more productive? Help someone with a project.

Clean your mother’s kitchen for her. Wash your dad’s car. Go grocery shopping for your single mother sister, who has become nothing but a set of monkey bars and emotional serum for her children. Iron your husband’s dress shirts. Offer to shovel the sidewalks and driveway for your grandparents or pick up their groceries. 

Want to feel creative? Make something for a friend.

Make pipe-cleaner hearts and mail them to every single one of your girlfriends. Print themed calendars filled with memories. Perhaps it’s a “College Calendar” that tracks all your most embarrassing moments. Or, a calendar with all of your favorite text messages you’ve received from them. I can’t stress this enough: Let it be weird. Paint someone a picture. Write them a poem.

Want to feel loved? Put it out there.

Send everyone you know a vintage postcard that reminds you of them. Write a love letter inside. Tell them you love them more than it seems appropriate. Make it a point to tell someone you appreciate them every day, just once. Get out the damn three words: “I love you.” Text messages count. Facebook messages count. Instagram messages count.

Lately, I’ve been focusing really hard on my purpose in life. And a very important thing to me is engaging in meaningful conversations around love. I know it sounds cheesy. But speaking out gives me a sense of meaning, and when I tell people I love them, I know I’m serving my greater self. I’m working on it. I am a million miles from perfect. It’s tough to remember to be this “person of purpose” because we’re all these fight or flight, hairy, wild, selfish mammals that are constantly learning the basics of survival. 

At the end of the day, we get what we give. And “getting what we want” is as simple as extending what we need to others.

BY Brittany Chaffee - February 9, 2021

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February 9, 2021 2:40 pm

Oh how I love this all soo much! Thank you for the wise words

February 10, 2021 12:07 am

Thank you so much! This was just what I needed to read today.

February 10, 2021 7:13 am

Brittany – I have been trying to remember the name of the Burnout book for months so I can order it, and then here you are, just giving it to me. Thank you.

February 10, 2021 9:06 am

Yessssssssss!!!!! Yes yes to all this!! Thanks Brittany. 💖

February 10, 2021 12:49 pm

This has been so helpful! I have been feeling the exact same way and have been pondering other ways I can get out of this rut as my usual methods aren’t working anymore. Thank you!!

February 10, 2021 6:17 pm

How I bumped into your article is beyond me. I read it 3x to try to understand it. I see it as just narcissistic foo foo – a dreamer expressing herself through poetry. I am a been there, done that guy (not macho) with 3 lovely daughters who are also very accomplished just “doers”. Being a ” doer” means you see, accept and take on all the challenges in daily life before the dreamers. Look forward each day to taking on any and all challenges presented. Simply put, just cut the wishes and dreams and warm bread and move quickly… Read more »

February 10, 2021 8:35 pm

Beautifully written! Pipe-cleaner hearts! What a throwback; that would totally be a cute little surprise.

February 11, 2021 11:41 pm

I just love your writing and point of view. Thank you for sharing…I needed this today <3

February 13, 2021 3:55 am

Very much enjoyed this, thank you for your thoughts. I have always been a big believer in leaning in to gratitude. I recently read an article where Glennon Doyle was speaking about getting what we want as women, and she spoke about gratitude in a different way – she sees that emphasis on gratitude an a distinctly female cross to bear, and actually something which serves to keep women humble & quell desire and ambition… I think she was quoted as saying something along the lines of “you don’t see men telling each other to write in gratitude journals” which… Read more »

February 15, 2021 3:17 pm

This might be the most helpful advice I’ve come across in years! I plan to write out these suggestions in my planner so I can reflect on them when I need the reminder. 🥰

Lynn Ellen
March 1, 2021 12:03 pm

All you have written here is what I am feeling and needed today, tomorrow, next day……. Thank You so much Take Care God Bless ! :::

Lynn Ellen
March 1, 2021 12:06 pm

I have not considered giving away my emotions that I need to others Thank You for these meditative words I feel and need the words you wrote today, Take Care God Bless 🙂

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