Why You Don't Have What You Want

Nov 06, 2008 | Updated Mar 17, 2015

In the last week's article on beliefs, we talked about how your beliefs can prevent you from having money. I'd like to look at that question in another light: how conflicting beliefs may not only prevent you from getting what you want out of life, but how they may wind up producing what you don't want.

You may recognize the phenomenon of wanting something and not having it contrasted with having something you don't want and having no idea where it came from.

In earlier posts, we looked at the role of choice in producing, or not producing, what you want. Choice couples nicely with awareness and focus - awareness of what you want together with the ability to focus on your desired outcomes, may very likely put you in the position of being able to produce what you want out of life.

But what happens when you seem clear on what you want, have some awareness of what you could do to produce it, and you still don't wind up with what you want?

Enter the world of vectors and vector addition. I'm pretty sure my mathematics and physics professors never imagined I would be doing to vectors what I am about to do!

Anyway, let's start with vectors. What is a vector you might be asking?

Simply stated, a vector is a line indicating a force moving in a direction and the length of the line indicates both direction and relative force (a longer line is more force than a shorter line). Now that I have completely butchered vectors, let's start to use them.

Imagine points on a compass to start. Just get North, South, East and West in your mind and you will have enough to work on. Now let's imagine one of your beliefs about money and it is pointing due North, and it is just one unit long.

Now let's imagine that another of your beliefs or goals about money is pointing directly East and that it is five units long.

Finally, let's imagine one more belief about money and it is pointing due South, and it is four units long.

If we could pretend that each of these "forces" were being applied simultaneously to the same spot on a tennis ball (and for those physicists in the audience, please do lighten up - give us a friction free environment with no other competing forces like gravity, etc). What direction would the tennis ball move? North? South? East?

None of the above! Enter vector addition. If you were to "add" these three vectors together, you might get something like the diagonal line below:


So the tennis ball winds up moving in a direction that doesn't look like any of the other three vectors. It's pretty much the same way with beliefs.

You can hold one belief about money (It takes long, hard work to make money), which contrasts with another (It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of the needle, than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven), which may conflict with yet another belief, or even with a goal (I want be wealthy).

(Note: a comment last week pointed out that the camel-needle belief is true. Here's an interesting question to consider: What does "Eye of the Needle" actually mean? In ancient times, cities were contained within walls as a means of protection. Gates existed for access and were normally closed at night to prevent the bad guys from getting in. However, good guys sometimes arrived at night in caravans of camels. Since it was too risky to open the gate, many gates had smaller gates within them, often called 'the eye." It is said, although to my knowledge not proven, that Jerusalem once had a gate called "Needle." It also had an "Eye" or smaller gate. It was easier for a camel to pass through the Eye of the Needle for two reasons - camels were beasts of burden, carrying possessions. In order to pass through the Eye, the possessions had to be taken off their backs; in addition, camels had to get on their knees and crawl through the Eye. Unlike rich people, camels didn't mind giving up the possessions, nor did they mind getting on their knees (metaphor for humility). So, indeed, it is true. You just have to know (rather than believe) what the story is really about.)

If you "add" these three together, you may wind up with something that looks quite different from any one belief or goal. That could look like working hard, working long and not having much to show for the effort, other than stress and fatigue. Sound familiar?

So where are we, then? How do we explain the various conflicts in life, and the mixed results so many of us experience? It could be that part of the problem is lack of clarity on desired outcomes. Or it could be lack of focus on the desired outcome. Clarity and focus, though, probably aren't enough. You need to add in some awareness, some response-ability, and perhaps some communication. And on top of that, you may have to consider various inner conflicts and beliefs about what is possible or what is OK.

Whew! Getting to the fulfillment and quality of life experience you seek could be challenging! It is, and it isn't.

As you keep looking at the various moving parts we have been discussing (awareness, choice, response-ability, etc), you will begin to see connections and sooner or later it will become simple. And then you will bump into the paradox that simple and easy don't necessarily go together. In fact, simple rarely is easy.

Stay tuned! More to come.

I'd love to hear from you. Please do leave a comment here or drop me an email at Russell (at)


If you want more information on how you can apply this kind of reframing to your life and to your job, about a few simple steps that may wind up transforming your life, please download a free chapter from my book, Workarounds That Work. You'll be glad you did.

Russell Bishop is an educational psychologist, author, executive coach and management consultant based in Santa Barbara, Calif. You can learn more about my work by visiting my website at You can contact me by e-mail at Russell (at)