May 15, 2021

Hoping, Wishing, and Wanting

Twenty-five years ago I read Neale Donald Walsch’s Conversations with God, a very interesting series of books written as the author sorted out his life and the lives of those around him through dialogs he had with God.

One specific idea I recall was that “wanting” was to be avoided because all it ever left you with was… well …wanting. He considered it a condition of human suffering, constantly wanting and never being satisfied.

At the time it seemed reasonable.

Today, however, I can’t disagree more. Among my coaching clients are individuals who put in the work to get clear about what they want and why they want it and then made it happen. I’m convinced that wanting can actually be the great human driver of transformation and progress. Not the wanting associated with ego (like wanting to drive a Ferrari), which I think is more like a wish than a want.

Wishing in my world has no accountability associated with it. I wish I could play guitar. But I don’t own one and am not interested in putting in the time and effort to practice. It’s a good conversation filler, with little substance.

Likewise, hoping has no rubber meeting the road either. I hope the Cardinals win the World Series in 2021; but it won’t change my life if it doesn’t happen, and virtually nothing I do can affect that outcome.

But who hasn’t seen the locker-room interview with the coach of the small-town team who beat their big-city rivals against all odds when the coach says “My boys just wanted it more!”

I think there is a great deal of confusion between wanting and wishing. Wishing for something is throwing the fate of the outcome to the wind. Maybe it’ll happen and maybe it won’t. And I can live with either outcome.

But let’s say there’s something transformational that I want to change in my world (e.g., income, relationships, profession). I believe that only when I get clear about that and design foundational plans to make it happen does it stand a prayer of actually happening, and that kind of wanting, in my mind, differentiates it from a wish. Wishing and hoping are passive.  Wanting is more active, requiring clarity and application.

Playing guitar then becomes an accomplishable goal when I actually acquire one, seek a professional teacher, and spend an hour or two a day practicing. It moves me from wishing I could play guitar to wanting to play guitar. Why might I make that shift? Because I see some potential benefit to my life. Perhaps I think I might win the heart of the woman of my dreams by playing guitar. Actually, then the real want is the woman of my dreams and playing guitar is but a stepping stone. See how getting clear about what I want can be transformational?

If, however, I just admire this woman from afar and wish I could develop a relationship with her but take no action to win her, then I’ve fallen into Neale Donald Walsch’s identified wanting that will just leave me wanting.

I don’t believe any transformation ever launched without a want. Do all wants result in transformation? I don’t think so. I think they occasionally fail due to lack of clarity in why the want exists. When that why is strong enough, then the want is bolstered and supported to its conclusion. When the why is weak or unclear, then I suspect the want can shrink to a wish.

What do you want? And why do you want it?

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