Eliminate Your Wants to Get What You Need
When I told my husband, Mike, I was going to quit my very good Google job, I didn’t ask for permission the way I’d carefully planned. In fact, I totally flubbed my plan altogether, and it ended up working out even better than I’d hoped.
I decided I was leaving just a day earlier, while sitting in the hair salon. It felt urgent. I had to tell someone right away; uttering it out-loud would make it real. I tested it out on my hair dresser, Chase, when she asked me what was new. “Well, I quit my job,” I said. My eyes squinted closed with nerves; I could barely believe myself. I held my breath and looked at her bubbly blonde reflection in the mirror. She was standing behind me with my limp hair in her hands. Her head was cocked to the side. I was prepared for questions. I was prepared for doubt.
She grinned from ear to ear and said, “that’s awesome! Congrats!” then proceeded to snip my split ends and tell me about when she decided she needed a radical life change, how she quit her job, moved across the country, bleached her hair… I breathed deeply and listened. Look at her, I thought — alive, radiant, glad she made the change. I was going to be fine.
I knew the next person I had to tell was Mike — practical, traditional, level-headed, Mike. He was going to squash this before I even had a chance to make my case. I went to bed with knots in my stomach thinking about how to get him onboard. It wasn’t that Mike didn’t believe in me — in fact, he’s always been my number one supporter. But to have the audacity to walk away from a salary when I didn’t have much to replace it with was laughable. We just bought a house. We have young kids. We don’t have massive savings or family to fall back on. I had to speak his language, I had to lead with the numbers. I had to ask if he believed I could do it.
The next morning, I woke early. I started a spreadsheet and ran five scenarios ranging from best to worst case on how we could afford to quit my job and build a business. In each column, I drafted a brave and nerve-wracking list of lifestyle changes — options like pulling the kids out of their expensive schools and daycare, opting out of a big vacation, not furnishing our guest room, and doing my own nails! Oh, the horrors were real. But I was ready to exchange it all to make my dream a reality.
I let Mike sleep in until 7 (WOWOW for around here), handed him a cup of coffee, and let him catch up on sports and political news for an hour or so. He was in a great mood (no thanks to the political news) and I was ready to drop my bomb. As he sat on the couch with his coffee in one hand, phone in the other, I approached timidly.
“So,” I started, “we need to have a really important conversation today.”
His eyes grew wide and I could tell I was scaring him. I could see worry on his face. Something was horribly wrong, he thought. Her health, our relationship… I really didn’t intend on freaking him out (crap). My immediate reaction was to reassure him that I wasn’t dying. I completely forgot about my plan to sit down next to him gingerly and open my laptop to the budget. My careful script went out the window in an instant and instead I blurted out, “I need to quit my job.”
Once more, I braced for a dismissive reply. Maybe even a laugh. Only this time, the stakes would be higher; he was my life partner, not my stylist. To my surprise, his face softened and a slight grin stretched slowly across his face. He was relieved.
“I know,” he said. “I know you do.”
I could hardly believe it. My eyes welled with tears and I started laughing nervously. “What do you mean, you know?” I asked.
“Rachel, I’ve known this for a long time.” He’d been waiting. He reminded me that this wasn’t the first time I’d brought up leaving my job. Before, I’d always been asking for permission, complaining, not willing to give up my lifestyle, not ready to do the hard work. And now, I was. And he was glad.
This story is important to me for two reasons. First, it’s that you know I’m only human. I’m no different than you. I’m full of nerves and self doubt, yet here I am, getting exactly what I need. And two, because in this exchange with my husband, I had an awakening. Have I always asked permission for what I needed? Have I always left my fate up to another’s willingness to prioritize me? Could I have done this long ago??
Now, everywhere I go, I see women asking for permission. The subtle and not-so-subtle ways we shoot ourselves in the foot, diminish our desires, and put ourselves last by politely asking. Can I cut my hair? Can I apply to this job? Can I go away on a girls’ weekend? By asking, we’re communicating A WANT (an added bonus). By telling, we’re communicating A NEED. And when we truly need something, we must not allow room for “no.”
By asking, we’re giving someone else all the power and glory when things go well.
There is a difference though, between stating your needs and being demanding. Being demanding usually means you’re not willing to consider how your needs affect others. You’ll get what you want at any cost, irrespective of those around you. No one wants to help a demanding individual. Whether you want to start your own business, have another baby, move back East, backpack around Europe, or want your family to go vegan, your goals are only as audacious or impossible sounding as you make them seem.
My hope is that we all start identifying what are truly needs vs wants and that we step up to inform the world of our truest needs. THEN ACT ON THEM.
Here are my tips for communicating your needs:
Research. Figure out exactly what you need and know how it may affect others. Be prepared to discuss and really listen.
Frame your need. Present it as a heart-centered yearning, something you have no control over. If this doesn’t feel authentic to you, perhaps what you really have is a want.
Be specific. What do you actually need from others? Is it money, time, childcare, or a gym membership? The more concrete the need, the easier it is to give.
Know your bottom line. Are you willing to go elsewhere to get what you need? If you’re reliant on another person, place, or thing to enable your needs and they cannot provide, will you give up or move on?
I’d love to know… is there something your heart needs that you’re struggling to find support in making it happen?