I was thinking about The Rolling Stones Classic “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” single off of their 1969 “Let It Bleed” album. More specifically, I was focusing on the depth behind the second half of that line “But if you try sometimes, you might just find, you get what you need.

How many times have you really wanted something only to find when you finally get what you want, it’s not really what you expected. Or even more important, it’s not what you thought you needed?

You Get What You Want vs. You Get What You Need

There are so many great examples of this in life: seeking something and then realizing after we get it that it’s not what we really needed. We all have our own stories. Love and money tend to be a part of many of them.

For example, you really want to make more money. So you leave your current job and take another job that pays you $10,000 more a year. That’s what you want. But after you make the change you realize that the pay raise isn’t changing your life all that much. Maybe it’s letting you go out to dinner more or lease a more expensive car. But that’s not making you happy. Meanwhile, the new job is incredibly demanding (What do you expect for more money?) and it’s taking that free time that you’d like to spend going out to dinner and making you stay late at work. You don’t like the people you work with as much and you miss your old life.

You got what you wanted. You didn’t get what you really needed.

Figuring Out Want vs. Need

Life has a funny way of tempering or grounding our envisioned wants or desires.  I’ve found on my journey that the harder I try to get what it is that I think I really want, the greater the obstacles or road-blocks keeping me from reaching or attaining “my desired want.” It’s almost as if a giant Detour sign (see Follow the Signs blog post) has been placed directly in my path. And it’s flashing… “You are about to make a really big mistake… Are you sure you want to go here?”

I’ve learned over time to adhere to the detour sign and have found that this acceptance and patience is oftentimes rewarded with an outcome better suited for me and even greater than I could have ever imagined.

When it comes to making key decisions in life, I’ve found that having the patience to really assess and think through my options–followed by an acceptance of those options based on a present-day reality–usually enable me to get more than what I need.

Keep an eye out for the detour signs in your life. Be introspective and take the time to assess your options. It will help you ensure that you get what you need more often than not.


Sometimes we can learn a lot from music. The Rolling Stones are a great example. Many of their songs, including “You Can’t Always Get What You Want,” can teach us some good life lessons. We just have to listen–both to them and to ourselves.

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