TIME advice

How Can I Get What I Want in Life?

Worried about my job
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Answer by Oliver Emberton, founder of Silktide, for Quora

There are just two reasons why you haven’t done the stuff you ‘want’ to do.

  1. You can’t because of something external
  2. You won’t because of something internal

Here’s the thing: nearly everyone who succeeds, will always assume number #2. By default, the reason they have failed is themselves. It is, without fail, their own fault. Always.

If this sounds like willful bunk, consider the flipside: those who fail always assume it’s not their fault. With that attitude, your ego is forever letting itself off the hook. You can’t learn from your experiences, except maybe that you shouldn’t have even tried, because – well – that big bad world was just super-mean to you again.

Try listening to a lot of normal conversation: it’s just ego repair.

“I’ve been here 6 years in the same job and they still haven’t promoted me!”
“I know, me too! It’s so unfair…

As Don Draper would say: I hate to break it to you, but there is no big lie. There is no system. The universe is indifferent.

Whenever “it” or “they”, “he” or “she” is to blame, you’re just diverting the blame. Because the only thing that matters is what you can control: what-are-you-going-to-do-about-it?

There are always situations when you really can’t have something that you don’t control. Maybe you dream of being a championship triathlete, but you were born without legs. Well of course.

Except that kind of reductio ad absurdum doesn’t excuse 99.99% of the identical, fundamental bullcrap that most people lament about: their health, jobs and relationships. For this trinity, the principles are well known and within the capability of everyone. Assuming, of course, you accept responsibility for that.

Why do we make excuses?

Making excuses can make us feel better. Excuses are like painkillers for our self-respect.

Surely they evolved with this purpose. For not everyone can succeed all the time, and if you can’t, it’s better that you don’t become too depressed about it.

But the chances are the things that you want – that you want the most – are not fast cars, Angelina Jolie’s chest or a giant catapult to the moon. Most of us crave fundamentally simple things: love, respect, security, health, significance. These things don’t require that we’re born to wealthy parents, or with perfect genes.

If you’re reading this, the chances are you have access to education, sanitation, medicine, freedom of speech, shelter and the sum of the world’s knowledge (The Google), and that you take them for granted. For over 150,000 years human life would have utterly sucked compared to now, and you’ve been born in the last 70 or so, in the blessed minority, when it doesn’t. You’re so lucky you can’t imagine.

You are the problem

Whenever you hit a wall: find what you can do about it, do it, and forget anything else. All the other stuff just consumes your attention and accomplishes nothing.

The solutions to all your problems are probably so obvious, you likely already know them. The trick is simply acknowledging it’s your responsibility alone to make it happen.

This question originally appeared on Quora: Life: How can I get what I want? More questions:

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