Every day businesses undertake projects that are intended to guide and shape their futures. Considerable effort is put into these projects – countless person hours and dollars.
But studies show that these projects often fail. And for those that don’t fail, a relatively small percentage can truly be considered a success.
Most projects fall into this “other” category where they aren’t outright failures; but they didn’t really achieve what they had set out to do. For these projects, their success is measured in relative terms.
Because of the costs involved, a lot of time and effort has been spent trying to understand this problem.
Why do projects not have a higher level of success? Is it due to shortcomings in the people involved? Is it the approach organizations take? And what can we do to try and improve the level of success in the future.
Often the failure of projects can be boiled down to one basic problem:
The business didn’t know what it wanted, or what it was trying to accomplish. It had a pretty good idea of what it wanted; but it didn’t truly understand its own needs, or requirements.
What exactly is a “Requirement”?
A requirement can be thought of as an action or property that something must have in order to have perceived value.
This definition of a requirement came from a business book. But really, it applies to anything.
When you buy a car you expect certain things from it. There’s an assumption that at the very least you will be able to start, stop and steer a car. If it doesn’t meet these criteria, then it doesn’t perform the activities we expect and therefore you wouldn’t buy it (it doesn’t have perceived value).
Of course you may buy a broken car as a hobby project or as a collector. But if either of those are your intent then you come in with a specific set of requirements for what you are looking for.
Going back to the business world, it is estimated that as much as 60% of (business) problems come from incorrectly identifying requirements. From not truly knowing what it is that a business wants, or is trying to accomplish.
See, businesses often don’t actually know what they want. And to actually achieve success in getting to what you want, having a *pretty good idea* isn’t nearly enough.
Can You Describe What You Want?
Not knowing what you want is a common business problem, but it’s also a common people problem.
I see this as something we all face, in all aspects of our lives. And like business projects, this is probably one of the main causes of failure people have in their personal relationships.
Not knowing what you want happens in a few different ways.
First, like businesses people often only have a general idea of what they want but they don’t really understand the specifics of it. To a degree this is understandable, but it makes it very difficult to know if something has actually achieved its requirements. How can we determine if something is successful if we don’t even know the criteria we are measuring something against?
In relationships people often use “happiness” as their measure of success, and I constantly see/hear things like “I just want to be happy”, or “people deserve to be happy”.
Fair enough. But what does that mean?
Saying you want happiness is like saying you want to go on vacation somewhere; and then jumping in your car and driving randomly figuring you’ll see where you end up. You could do it, and it might even be kind of fun. You’ll definitely end up “somewhere” and will probably have some new experiences along the way (of course, some of them may be experiences you later wish you never had).
Something like happiness can be elusive if you don’t know what it means to you. People seem to figure they will know it when they find it; but that’s kind of like driving randomly without a map and expecting to get where you want.
It *may* happen. But if it does it’s probably more luck than anything.
One problem is, it’s very difficult to say what constitutes happiness. It’s not status, beauty or wealth – as many who seem to have everything are miserable while many who seem to have nothing profess to be happy. And it’s not just something you can “feel”, as there are a number of things and conditions that can make people depressed and struggle with the feeling of happiness.
So chasing happiness doesn’t work.
But you can have other things you want out of life. You can try to accomplish things for yourself, and for those around you (such as wanting to support your loved ones in the things they do).
To truly be happy in life and in love, you need to have a pretty good idea of what you are looking for. And you need to be able to articulate those things. Because if you can’t, how will you ever know if you find them?
A second problem is that sometimes people believe they know what they want. But once they get it, they realize it’s not actually what they were looking for.
This happens all the time, and I think it is an important and valuable experience. It happens when people think they understand their problem, while in reality they have come up with a possible solution. And it turns out not to be the solution to the right problem.
There are countless stories where someone wasn’t happy, and they attribute this unhappiness to *something*. Maybe their job, or their appearance, or their relationship, or…
…the list can go on.
So they change things. And often find they aren’t any happier. In fact, sometimes they are even less happy, because they threw out one of the positives in their life in an attempt to find what was wrong.
When this happens, they thought they knew the solution to their problem. But they were searching for a solution to a problem they didn’t truly understand.
I titled this post “What Do You Want?”
We all have things we want out of life and love; and if we don’t, we should. But often, we aren’t really sure what those things are. And when we do, it’s sometimes viewed as a negative thing.
It’s easy to say you have goals in life. But love involves two people (generally). So wanting something out of love means that you actually have expectations of the other person.
And this can cause resentment.
Often I see people saying things like:
Why can’t someone just love me without expecting anything in return?
We seem to live in a world that thinks it’s bad to expect things from people. There are all sorts of sayings like “the best way to avoid disappointment is to not expect anything from anyone”, or “true love begins when nothing is looked for in return.” I understand the sentiment behind these sorts of statements, but feel it is a dangerous way of thinking.
Love has expectations. To me that’s a simple truth.
If it didn’t, people could marry and be happy with anyone, and clearly that’s not the case. Somehow it’s alright to say that people can have standards, but expectations are “bad”. Is there really a difference? Expectation is an important aspect of any healthy relationship, as they are simply a way of articulating your requirements – the actions and properties you feel you need as part of the relationship.
Of course it is important that expectations are realistic, and there is a difference between expectations and entitlement.
We all have things we need from our friends, our families, our careers, and yes – even our partners. And understanding yourself and what you want is extremely important for your own happiness.
Often the people who are chronically unhappy are people who just kind of slide through life, rarely making decisions, and rarely having goals. They’re like the person driving randomly, hoping to find a place to end up.
Personally, I don’t want to be happy. I mean I do, but I don’t see it as a goal. Happiness is really part of an experience, or a process. But the journey is the important part.
There are things I want out of life, and out of love, and I have expectations for all the people I care about. My parents, siblings, friends, children, and my partner. And I think it’s only fair that they in turn have expectations of me. But most importantly, I have expectations of myself.
The people in my life won’t always be able to meet my expectations, so yes at times I will be disappointed in them. And I’m sure there will be times that they will be disappointed in me.
That’s life though.
I won’t always be happy, and that’s alright. When I’m not, it’s not necessarily a reflection on the quality of my life, or of the people around me.
Instead of happiness, I want a life where I can be both happy and sad. Joyful, and angry. Curious and afraid. I want to live a life that combines the mundane aspects of day to day life with the bigger experiences, those moments you look back on and remember.
Sadness is part of that. So is anger, hurt and disappointment. I’m not saying I look forward to them, but I accept them as part of my journey.
In the end, all I hope is that the good moments outweigh the bad.