“You can't always get what you want  

But if you try sometimes, well, you might find

You get what you need.”  


Wouldn’t it be wonderful to always get what we want? I know that I’d love that. But we can waste a lot of time and energy on unrealistic goals. No matter how much I love to sing, how much I rehearse, how many vocal lessons I take, or how many band members come and go, it is doubtful that I will be the next Pat Benatar. 

Sometimes we need to have a hard look at our goals, dreams, visions, or ideals and make some decisions about whether it is time to give up, revise or let go.


So, go ahead and think of something you have wanted to do, be, or have. Something you have held close to your heart for a long time and have expended precious time and energy on.

Maybe you have made some progress here and there and felt the heady thrill of your efforts bearing fruit. Maybe you’ve had bits and pieces of the ideal, for little spurts of time, only to have it slip from your grasp, again.

Likely you have played mind games with yourself, analyzing “why” getting what you want seems so challenging. You may have brainstormed countless strategies hoping to give life to a vision that dances in your imagination.   

You may have tried to “dream big” by convincing yourself that positive thinking would bring you closer to your ideal. And you may have occasionally downsized your ideal, believing this is a more logical approach. If you did this, you may have felt a little ashamed.   


The truth is that anything worth achieving will require us to endure many ups and downs. Vacillating between the feeling of certainty and moments of hopelessness is natural. Even the most successful people have dark nights of the soul on their journey to success.   

Another truth is that as humans, we need to experience a feeling of progress. Progress is crucial to maintaining momentum and being happy. We are meant to learn, grow and expand. Yet, we often stubbornly hold on to dreams, goals, visions, or ideals that may not serve us.    

A less popular truth is that sometimes our dreams, goals, visions, or ideals are unrealistic borrowed expectations that we have absorbed via social programming. They steal our time, energy, and self-esteem.  


Are there times when we should seriously consider letting go of something, we think we want, or at the very least consider revising it? Whether we decide to give up, revise or let go is a personal choice.   

But this choice should be deliberate, conscious, and honest. We should be asking ourselves some tough questions.   

This is not a comprehensive list, simply a starting point:    

1.    How much time and energy have I already invested?   

2.    How long will those two precious resources continue to be available?   

3.    How much progress have I really made?   

4.    Are other important areas of my life being deprived of these resources?   

5.    Do I have the innate talent and aptitude for this particular ideal? (We can’t all be rock stars no matter how much we want it or how much we practice.)  

6.    Have I come to identify my success or value as a human being with an unrealistic outcome?  

7.    Do I really want a particular outcome or has it been programmed into my psyche by external influences and past experiences?  

8.    What feeling am I trying to create, or need do I have, that I think will be fulfilled by achieving a particular outcome?   

These questions are important, they are tough but worth our time to work through them.


Giving up

When we think of giving up, our primitive mind (Bob) may remind us of the platitude “Winners never quit and quitters never win.”

We may associate giving up with shame, exhaustion, depletion, and frustration. We might get a sense of a loser slinking away, beaten down by life, depressed, and devoid of energy. Not a very nice picture, is it?

Letting go

When we think of letting go, however, our primitive mind (Bob) may remind us of the platitude “If you love something set it free…”  We may associate letting go as a conscious decision to extract ourselves from an attachment to an outdated or unrealistic ideal.

We might get a sense of a winner made stronger by life, moving on, walking away, head held high, with new hard-won distinctions and the ability to create better goals, dreams, visions, or ideals. This is a much better picture, isn’t it?


We can’t always get what we want and sometimes what we think we want is nothing more than an automatic programmed expectation that the primitive mind (Bob) has absorbed hook, line, and sinker.

If we have worked hard, with total commitment, have invested serious time and energy, been creative with our strategies, been open to receiving support, and are still not getting what we want, it may be time to revise or let go.   

The 14-year-old rocker in me loved the idea of being the next Pat Benatar. While my level of commitment has had its ups and downs over the years, and singing has been put on the back burner for years at a time, it is still something that I would categorize as a goal, dream, vision, or ideal.   

The 50-something rocker in me has more experience and new distinctions and has come to realize that what I really crave is growth and high-energy creative expression. So, participating in classic rock “garage bands” meets these needs while ensuring that plenty of time and energy is still available for other important areas of my life.  

I hope you will make good use of these questions; they are tough but important.

“You can't always get what you want  

But if you try sometimes, well, you might find

You get what you need.”  


Terri Lee Cooper MSc. RSW