The other day my 9 year old was saying that he wished it weren’t a Sunday because that meant that school is tomorrow. And this got me thinking about the difference between wishing and wanting and how it applies to our communication and our approach to life in general, and I had this realization:
Wishing is passive
Wanting is active
When we wish for things to be different than they are, we are playing in a fantasy world where things could magically be different from what they are. We are in essence like children who feel as though the world is out of our control, and all we have available to us is the passive desire for change. There is no way to act on a wish because the nature of it is one of helplessness. Hence the old nursery rhyme, “If wishes were horses, then beggars would ride,” which shows the uselessness of wishing yourself out of a situation.
(Because horses don’t just magically appear, right?)
Rather than saying “I wish,” try saying “I want” and see how it changes your approach to a situation or a problem.
“I wish I were a mountain climber” versus “I want to climb a mountain.” (Okay, I changed it a little to make my point.)
“I wish people would listen to me” versus “I want people to listen to me.”
“I wish I were a writer” versus “I want to be a writer.”
The fundamental difference here is that, while wishing is passive and implies a certain level of helplessness, wanting is a statement of desire, and invites action. When someone wishes for something, we are not necessarily compelled to try to understand how to get that thing. We usually just give ourselves up to the impossibility of it.
(Unless, you know, you’re a cricket…)
A good test of our desire and our interest is to change the word “wish” to the word “want” and see how that might change the situation. If you take away the magic of wishing and change it to wanting, does it change your perspective on the situation? Wishing that people were different is different than wanting them to be different. We may want them to change, but we can understand that we have no control over that. That might change our focus to what we can control, namely our reaction to them.
In the end, the goal of this exercise is to learn how to be more active in our own life and in dealing with our problems. The better we are at articulating what we want (rather than what we wish) the more effective we will become at making that thing become a reality.
Besides, you know what they say, “be careful what you wish for…”
(Okay, weird My Little Pony humor. Apologies.)