Four Steps to Change

Bill Abbate
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Have you ever heard something so simple that made so much sense you asked yourself," why hadn't I realized that before?" While listening to a gentleman online recently, he commented about how desires drive our lives. Of course, they do! But there is far more to it than this simple statement.

It is easy to make the connection that our desires drive what we do (our actions) that determine what we get (our results) in life, isn't it? It is so straightforward something must surely be amiss. Or is there?

Let's examine this idea a little closer to see what sense we can make of it.


"You are made in the image of what you desire." Thomas Merton (1915-1968)

Desires are one of the most basic motivating forces in every life, so it only makes sense they lead to action. They begin as soon as we are born and continue throughout our entire lives. Is it not the desire to have sustenance and be comforted that makes a newborn cry?

Even at the end of life, when you think you may give up every desire, your final desire may be to give up and move on from this body. Were it not for desires; humanity would not exist.

From our earliest desires to please our parents to our final desires to have lived a good life, desires drive us throughout life, year to year, day to day, hour to hour, minute to minute. With desires being so important, why don't more of us stop to examine this driving force in life?

Perhaps we are so close to our desires we take them for granted? Maybe we are subject to them in a way? Desires are often operating in the background beneath our consciousness.

Since desires drive our actions, it occurred to me they also drive our behaviors. In fact, perhaps this idea can be written as:

Our desires determine our behaviors which drive our actions leading to the outcomes in our lives.

Makes sense, does it not?

Changing behaviors by changing desires

"Be careful what you set your heart upon - for it will surely be yours." James A. Baldwin (1924-1987)

As the thought occurred to me that our desires drive our behaviors, it started to make sense that if we want to change a particular behavior, maybe we could start with the desire driving it. Change the desire, and the behavior naturally changes.

To test this theory, I looked back on my life and saw this played out repeatedly. Whenever I changed a behavior, I first changed a desire. For example, early in my career, I was a workaholic, spending an inordinate amount of time working to the detriment of my marriage. When we almost divorced, my desire changed from earning as much as I could to something far more essential. My desire to keep my family intact was stronger than my desire to earn. I only had to wake up to this fact to realize it and change my behavior.

Think about anything you care about that you possess. The home you own came from the desire to become a homeowner. Your marriage came from the desire to be bound to your spouse. The love for your spouse came from desire. The food you eat comes from your desire to eat. Almost everything in your life came from some base desire.

No, I am not saying desires give us everything in life. No one desires tragedy, sickness, automobile accidents, hurricanes, and many other things. But those things you desire out of a deep need are often attained.

"Out of need springs desire, and out of desire springs the energy and the will to win." Denis Waitley (1933-present)

I remember my desire to be successful in my career. This desire drove my behaviors, and therefore my actions, which led to some high-level positions in my industry. Two years after my first wife died from cancer, my desire driven by loneliness affected my behavior to begin looking for someone. This desire could also be said to come from a deep need to have someone in my life.

Within two days of joining, I connected with Jane. My desire for her made me behave in a way to win her love. We later married because of our desire for one another. We have now been married for nearly 14 years. Our desire to remain married for the remainder of our lives will ensure our behaviors appropriately drive our actions to make it happen.

Please note that a desire that comes from a wish may or may not lead your behaviors to act on what you want in life. Wishes mostly come from our wants, not our needs. You can learn more about wants vs. needs in this brief article: How to Tell a Want from a Need in Your Life

Check your desire

"We all have different desires and needs, but if we don't discover what we want from ourselves and what we stand for, we will live passively and unfulfilled." Bill Watterson (1958-present)

To determine where you are heading in life, why not check some of your desires?

  • If you have the right desire that comes from a deep need, you will likely get whatever it is you desire.
  • If you have no desire and no direction in mind in an area of life, you know the old saying – "any road will get you there if you don't know where you are going!"
  • If you have a wrong desire, it will likely bring wrong things into your life. You may want to change that desire ASAP!

To uncover a specific desire in life, think about something important and ask the following questions:

  • “What is my desire to _______________.”
  • "How strong is my desire to achieve this?"
  • "What do I want to do about this desire?"
  • "What can I do now to change it?"

You can ask these questions about anything in life.

For example, it could be your desire to save money, continue your current job, buy a new car, take a sabbatical, start a relationship, or practically anything else you may desire.

To show you how this works, look at this example:

  • "What is my desire to save for retirement?"
  • "How strong is my desire to achieve this?" Fairly strong but not vital by any means.
  • "What do I want to do about this desire?" I need to strengthen it so I don't wind up destitute when I am older!
  • "What can I do now to change it?" I better chat with my spouse about it, and we will meet with a financial planner sooner than later.

You see how this can easily qualify your desire. One thing the person in this example can do is deepen his desire to support the need not to wind up broke later In life. If he does this, his behaviors will change, and he will begin acting on this desire.

Final thoughts

Keep this simple four-step formula in mind to achieve what you want in life.

  1. Develop and strengthen your desire, especially one coming from a need
  2. The desire will inevitably drive your behavior
  3. Your behavior will cause you to do something, to take action
  4. The action you take will result in an outcome that may ultimately satisfy your desire

Finally, pay attention to how great your desires are. If you desire great things in life and need them bad enough, you will likely get them—the greater your desires, the greater your potential.

If you wish to achieve anything in life, keep the following words of a very wise man in mind:

"Desire is the starting point of all achievement, not a hope, not a wish, but a keen pulsating desire which transcends everything" Napoleon Hill (1883-1970)

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Semi-Retired-Leadership/Executive Coach -Personal & Career Growth Expert -Editor and Leadership Writer at Illumination -Author

Richmond, VA

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