The Perfect Response to “I want…”

The Perfect Response to “I want…”

“Being heard is more than a basic human need. It’s the key to connecting with our inner greatness and unleashing our full potential.”—Sandy Blackard

You will often hear me say that what you like and what you love is who you are at any moment. What you want comes from there and determines the right level of challenge for your growth.

What you want not only guides you on your path, but it is the source of your motivation.

My simple formula for motivation is:
want + possible = action

When you know what you want and believe it’s possible, you almost can’t stop yourself from taking action. If either one is missing from your awareness, taking action is incredibly difficult.

That’s why hearing and validating what your child wants is a really big deal, whether they can have what they want or not. Their real-world self-motivation now and in the future depends on knowing that what they want matters and that somehow, someway, somewhere, some time, it’s possible.

That makes this statement the perfect response to your child (or yourself). When you hear, “I want…,” respond with: “Of course you do!”

Imagine how it would feel to even just say that to yourself when you want some peace and quiet—“Of course you do!”…or when you want a vacation—“Of course you do!” It feels good to be heard, right? The same is true for your child.

Then if you can and want to grant their request, great. If not, continue from there with SAY WHAT YOU SEE® to let them know that what they want matters. Explore with them all the details of what they like or love about the thing they want, state the boundary in a matter-of-fact way, then go into problem-solving. If there is no solution that works right now either turn the problem-solving over to them with, “Must be something you can do,” explore their options for later (even as far off as when they grow up), or grant their wishes in fantasy.

Real-Life Example:

Child Got What She Wanted—Snow!This is a picture of my daughter Colleen when she was little. Just look at that face—it radiates joy. She LOVES snow but grew up in a part of Texas where ice was more likely than snow. Every winter she wanted snow more than anything, and since we didn’t have the money to travel north, we had to just wait and see. Some years we had snow, and some years we didn’t.

Her love of snow shows up in one of the stories I tell in my workshops to show that kids think differently than we do. She had to be about six when her ball went over the back fence into a neighbor’s yard, because she made a sign that said, “Ball back please.” The ball must have come back because a little while later I looked out the window and saw her standing in the backyard holding a sign up to the sky. This one said, “Snow please.”

This was the kid who always wanted impossible things like a ride in Santa’s sleigh and the ability to fly like a bird on her own power (airplanes didn’t count). At the time I couldn’t imagine how setting impossible challenges could contribute to her growth. It just seemed to create a series of deep disappointments, which I later realized was the point. Innately she knew she needed to be able to handle her feelings of disappointment to be able to pursue her biggest real-world dream which was to become a famous artist. Many would say that is also an impossible dream, but not Colleen.

I don’t remember exactly what I said to validate her wants and keep possibilities open even in impossible situations, but I’m sure I swallowed hard, since disappointment was a personal issue for me, and used my Language of Listening® skills as best I could. When she wanted to ride in Santa’s sleigh, my response probably sounded a lot like this:

SWYS: “You want to ride in Santa’s sleigh. Of course you do! That would be so cool! Flying over the rooftops and looking down at the lights. Imagine your friends’ surprise if they looked up and saw you way up there waving back at them! That would be so fun.”


Colleen: “Yea, I want to do that! Can I?”


CAN DO: “I have no idea how that works, but you can put it on your wish list.”


When no ride happened, I would’ve validated her feelings of disappointment something like this:


SWYS: “Oh, man! No ride again this year, and you really wanted one!”


CAN DO: “Must be something you can do.”

If she needed to keep the disappointment challenge going to practice keeping “impossible” wants alive, she would’ve replied, “I can put it on my list for next year,” which is exactly what she did year after year. And it worked because even now when she looks up at the sky on Christmas Eve she imagines with delight what it would be like to go sailing through the air in a sleigh. The same thing is true for her wish to fly like a bird. The wants stayed and the disappointment left.

Colleen in her art studioThe real-world pay-off for following her wants and overcoming disappointment has been huge. This girl who loves the snow chose the northeast for college then moved to New York City where she’s been diligently working to accomplish her real-world dream of becoming a famous artist. She knows what she wants and truly believes anything is possible. With no fear of disappointment, she really is unstoppable. And it shows: she has a studio in Brooklyn, shows and sells her work regularly, and was published in Drawing magazine.

Colleen Gets What She Wants—GrantBut something even more impossible happened: Colleen received a prestigious Pollock-Krasner grant given to “individual visual artists of established ability.” It provided her with a year of financial support so she can focus on her art. Our jaws hit the ground, but she knew she would get that grant someday; if not this year, then the next. She’d just keep it on her list. Again, disappointment wasn’t an issue.

Want + possible = action. Start practicing the validation of “I want…” with “Of course you do!” and let me know what happens and where it takes your child and you.


  1. Sandra Busta |

    Sandy, What a powerful strategy for all of us! Thank you!

    • Sandra, so nice to hear from you! So glad you found it helpful.

  2. Diane Gamble |

    That’s beautiful. Congratulations to Colleen

    • Diane, you recognized the beauty. I’ll pass your congratulations on to Colleen. Thank you!

  3. Deborah Hale |

    This is a beautiful story and a powerful teaching. Merry Christmas!

    • Deborah, it’s so validating to see the personal growth premises we know to be true actually play out. Thank you, and Merry Christmas to you, too!

  4. Julia |

    I love having inspiring geniuses as friends 🙂

    So motivating! Thanks for another great read, Miss Sandy. You always make everything seem so simple 🙂

    • Julia, that is quite a compliment coming from you! Thank you. And I would say the same about you and your beautiful writing, photography, and artwork. You make enjoying life seem so simple.

  5. Dorine |

    Thank you so much! I will take this advice to heart and encourage my beautifull 7 year old girl, who is so full of dreams and knows what she wants when she sees it. I have told her “no you can’t have that” so many times, but I don’t like that. Not because I want her to have everything, but because I want het to believe that everything is possible, no mather how crazy it may sound to others. I want to encourage her wanting things, even if we won’t give her all. I was looking for a way to help her open doors for herselve instead of closing them for her all the time. So thank you. This is just what we needed. Love, Dorine

  6. Dorine, what a beautiful description of your daughter: “full of dreams and knows what she wants when she sees it.” Sounds like the same is true of you–the dream of who she can be, who you can be for her, and knowing this was exactly what you’ve been looking for. So glad to be able to help!

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