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Not Getting What You Want? Stop Trying

Apr 10, 2008
For more than a decade I yearned to know my calling. I tried many, many books, processes, and workshops to figure it out. All to no avail. Eventually, I began to despair of ever discovering a purpose for my life.

Are you in a similar circumstance, wanting something in some area of your life yet it just isn't happening? Do you long to do work that is fulfilling, to be happily married, to know what you're passionate about, or to start a successful business?

Sometimes no matter how actively, steadily, and determinedly you pursue something you want, it still eludes you. If you are like me, you may put even more pressure on yourself to make it happen.


Unfortunately, when you add pressure, try harder, and effort more you often end up working against yourself, getting in your own way. The increased pressure and the accompanying stress may cause you to be LESS able to see, act, and respond in ways that move you closer to what you want.

Sometimes the best thing to do is to take the pressure off; ease up, let go, lighten up, and let things unfold.

Isn't that easy for me to say??!!?? Yes, and if you're saying "That's not so easy to do!" I completely agree.

Yet many times taking the pressure off is exactly what we need to do. You've probably had more than one experience when you finally let go of something only to have it show up. I certain have.

But how do you take the pressure off when you really want something and it's not happening?


Denny, a man in his early 40's, very much wanted to meet and marry someone who would be the life partner he'd long dreamed of. After several relationships that hadn't turned out as he'd hoped (haven't we all had a few of those!), he wanted to get it right the next time.

Many people who want a life partner become very intense and desperate. With each person they meet, they are completely fixated on "Are you the one?" This is a good way to scare off any potential partners as well as distort your perceptions of the person in front of you.

Denny didn't want to fall into this trap. So he decided that rather than focus on finding someone to marry he would focus on dating 100 women.

He figured after he'd dated 100 women he would clearly know what he did and didn't want in a life partner and then be able to choose a good partner for himself. And in the meantime, he wouldn't have any self-imposed pressure to find his life partner.

With this shift in focus, he was able to enjoy himself as he met and dated a number of women.


"Judge each day not by the harvest you reap but by the seeds you plant," said Robert Louis Stevenson.

So often we can't control the harvest we reap, the results we get in our lives. We can, however, control the seeds we plant by choosing where to focus our attention and what actions to take. The "List of 100" can help you do this.

Anytime you want something and are feeling stuck, frustrated, or discouraged about not getting it, use the "List of 100" to take the pressure off yourself and increase your chances of getting what you want.

When you create a "List of 100" and focus on completing that rather than on what isn't happening in your life, you shift your attention. You focus on your actions and what you can control, rather than on the result that is eluding you.

With a broader perspective and less pressure, you open up the space and possibility for something wonderful to show up in your life. And for you to have more fun along the way!


I've used this strategy myself.

In 2001 I was still struggling with not knowing my calling. I decided to do 100 different things that interested me or that I had some curiosity about. The activities did not have to have anything to do with what could become fulfilling work for me. In fact it was better if they didn't as I really needed to take the pressure off myself!

So I took a six week Insight Meditation class, visited a care center for drug-addicted infants, saw a movie on Nepal, got my toenails painted, volunteered to read to toddlers, went to a New Year's Eve party, took Italian classes, went to a Clarity International workshop, and more.

When I looked back at this list, I saw that I stopped keeping track after number 13. And it turned out that #3, the Clarity International workshop, opened the door to my life's calling and the work I am doing today.

Just last week I set up two new lists for myself. I've recently become clear that I want to do more coaching closer to where I now live. So I'm beginning to market more in this area.

Since I can't control the results of my marketing, I've started two different lists that focus me on what is in my control that I think will help build my business here. One is the "List of 100 Events and Meetings;" the other is the "List of 100 Relationship-Building Activities."

Whenever I start to wonder or worry if my marketing is going to get me the results I want, I turn my focus back to actions that fit the criteria for these lists. This shifts my attention and definitely is more lights on than focusing on results I can't control.

By the way, I learned the "List of 100" strategy from Denny. I was the 12th woman he dated. There was such a special connection between us that he never made it to number 13.

We celebrated the 15th anniversary of our first date last week and have been very happily married for 14 years. The "List of 100" strategy definitely took the pressure off Denny's dating and very shortly he found what he wanted! Lucky me!


If you'd like to experiment with the "List of 100," try this.

1) Identify the area in which you're not making as much progress as you'd like.

2) Choose the focus for your list. What seeds can you plant? What activities would be lights on (energizing and enlivening), in your control, and tangible enough that you can track them?

3) Create a numbered list on your computer or in a notebook. Each time you do something related to your list, add it.

No, the list doesn't HAVE to be 100 items. Pick a number that is big enough to take the pressure off and shift your attention.

Several clients have (jokingly?) suggested a list of five. If you're trying to figure out the smallest number you can get away with, you're probably not yet ready to let go of your intensity about getting what you want.

4) Keep focusing on your list activities and give yourself credit for what you do.

One day you may surprise yourself and realize that, with a little help from the "List of 100," you've gotten what you wanted!

About the Author
Bonnie McFarland works with women at midlife who are bored, stuck, or restless and wondering what to do with the rest of their lives. Visit www.labellavia.com for her free e-book and ezine to create more pleasure, passion, and purpose in your life.
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