THE BLOG

'If You Don't Ask, You Don't Get'

07/22/2013 01:47 pm ET | Updated Sep 21, 2013

If you don't go after what you want, you'll never have it. If you don't ask, the answer's always no. If you don't step forward, you're always in the same place. -- Nora Roberts

I love the aforementioned quote by Nora Roberts because it makes it clear that we have a role to play in creating the life we desire, which includes an action some of us tend to avoid -- stepping out there and asking for what we want. The type of "asking" to which I am referring, can't come from a sense of fear, entitlement, arrogance, pushiness, lack, need or greed. In other words, it does not come from a belief that others can, should or will fill our empty bucket -- because we know that is our job -- not theirs. It comes from just the opposite mindset. The type of "asking" I am talking about comes from a deep sense of certitude based in a bold self-confidence and gently wrapped in sincere humbleness, rather than a take-no-prisoners mentality. At the same time, however, this kind of asking never ends with a question mark -- which implies uncertainty or doubt, but rather with an exclamation point, which denotes a certainty that acceptance of the request is already granted even before it is asked. Suffice it to say, the intention, attitude and belief behind the action of asking is of vital importance.

As usual, my resident teacher "Master MacDoodle, the Mighty Mystical Super Poodle," appeared right on cue this week, demonstrating how this action looks in real time. Yesterday afternoon, Diane and I were sitting in the back yard enjoying a cold drink, when out of the blue Mac appeared, pushed his way (all 80 pounds of him) between us and dropped a wet, slimy, well-chewed tennis ball directly in my lap. I gently took the ball and set it down on the ground and continued my conversation with Diane. As quickly as I put the ball down, he picked it up, this time dropping it in Diane's lap. This ritual went on for about five minutes, at which time I finally succumbed to his passionate mission to dominate the moment, and went to play fetch with him. The message was clear -- he was asking for what he wanted and he wasn't the least bit shy about making his request known. There was no question mark at the end of his request -- it was a definite exclamation point!

While Mac has been doing this with his tennis balls, tug-a-rope and other toys for several years now, the lesson I received wasn't just about him getting what he wanted -- it was a lesson for all of us. There is no area of our life where the, "if you don't ask, you don't get" principle does not apply -- and it's not always about asking for "things." As an example, perhaps it's about asking that special person out for the first time... or asking for that long overdue promotion at work. Perhaps it's about asking the person you are speaking with on the phone to slow down or speak louder so you can actually hear and understand what they are saying. The list of where we can apply the "if you don't ask, you don't get" principle could go on forever. Perhaps there is no more important place to ask than in our most intimate relationships. If we are not able to convey what we want and need in our relationships they will be out of balance. Too often, we mistakenly assume that those we are in a relationship with should somehow know what we want without our asking -- as if they were psychic. Eventually, this lack of communication leads to disappointment, resentment and distancing in the relationship. A willingness to ask is crucial. Regardless of what area in our lives we are talking about, as a rule of thumb, if we don't ask, we don't get. If we take an honest look at our lives, we'll see the wisdom and truth of this.

For many of us, asking others for what we want scares the wits out of us, because it forces us out of the box of our comfort zone (that imaginary place where we have some illusionary semblance of being in control), and into the realm of uncertainty -- where we are absolutely out of control and thus, subject to the possibility of rejection. Let's face it, nobody likes to be told "no." As a result, and because the fear of rejection is so strong, there is a tendency for some of us is to sit back, lay low, stay quiet and thus, stay stuck in the box. The key is to remember if we don't ask, the answer will always be an automatic no.

Asking for what we want is an art form, which requires three things: clear communication, high involvement and low attachment. In other words, it requires a delicate combination of being fearlessly articulate, highly involved in the manner and moment in which we make our request, but with a very low attachment to the outcome -- which includes not taking the rejection personally when it happens -- and it will happen from time to time. Mac obviously doesn't always wait for me to initiate our play time, and when he brings the ball or tug-a-rope to me, I don't always drop what I am doing just to accommodate his desires. The thing I notice, is that he doesn't take it personally. He doesn't retreat and pout -- he regroups and waits patiently for the next time there is an opening, which invariably comes when I least expect it, and then he playfully pounces -- and I have to admit, his persistence pays off. It's hard to repeatedly say no to an 80-pound bouncing ball of fur who is always offering me an opportunity to learn by his example. If the principle of "if you don't ask, you don't get," works this well in a dog's life, perhaps there is a lesson here for us as well. The practice is to remember if we don't ask, the answer is already no. Now that is something juicy to chew on -- and thankfully, it's something far more savory than a tennis ball.

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