A wise woman once told me, “The most you’ll ever get is what you ask for.” I have used that as a guide for the last 30 years. I call asking for help “my superpower.” It has served me well.
Is it really true that you’ll never get more than you ask for? I’m not sure anymore. As I wrote a few weeks ago, sometimes the world seems to come to our aid without our asking. Maybe all you have to do is trust, but that only applies to the universe and God and folks like that. When it comes to other people, it seems you almost always have to ask.
The reason is that people don’t know what you want unless you tell them. The universe might know you better than you know yourself, but the people you live and work with don’t.
Your world can become a lot bigger when you start asking for help. Whether it’s travel or career, or love or managing diabetes, maybe the most you will get really is what you ask for.
I find people will go out of their way to help you if they think you need it. Sometimes they try too hard and get in your way, like when someone rushes to hold open a door for my wheelchair and winds up standing in the doorway so I can’t get through.
But they do try — people are desperate to help. They just don’t know how.
The problem is that most of us are afraid to ask. As Scott Coulter wrote here, we may feel that asking for help makes us weak. We shouldn’t need anyone else. Or we don’t want to impose, or we don’t want to be in their debt, or we don’t want to give up control.
Scott explained why those perfectly normal ideas are harmful, and I did too in this blog entry from 2007.
But another reason for not asking is that we may not know what we want. We might think we shouldn’t want it, or that it’s not important. We may be afraid of what we want and not want anyone else to see our desires. Perhaps these fears may stop the world from coming to our aid.
So we wind up waiting around for the people in our lives to pick up on our needs. And when they don’t, we conclude that they don’t love us enough. Our needs aren’t met, and we feel unloved besides! We need to ask.
Here’s an exercise I haven’t seen in any self-help book. Make a list of things you could use help with. Anything from cooking dinners to dealing with the IRS to having someone rub the knots out of your shoulders. Really, anything at all — go wild in your imagination. If $10,000 would help, put that on the list.
Then, each night, pick one thing to ask for the next day. Identify who you will ask and how you will ask them. Maybe practice asking, so you will be less anxious when you ask in real life. “Could you please take my grocery bags up the stairs?” “Could you play that music through headphones so I don’t have to hear it?” “Could you come with me to the doctor and write down what she says?”
Maybe start with some easy things and work up. Of course, you’ll have to do things for others as well, but probably that will be good for you, too.
The most you will ever get is what you ask for. By not asking for help, we may hold ourselves back from better lives. What holds you back from asking?