January 29, 2017

The difference between wishing and wanting

I occasionally read so-called “inspirational” blogs. You know, the ones written by people who used to have a BIG problem that threatened to destroy their life (obesity, alcoholism, debt...), but then a wake-up call induced them to slowly, doggedly turn things around and get back to normal. “Getting back to normal” can mean losing 100+ pounds of excess weight. Or successfully getting rid of debt totaling more than $100k. From my perspective, feats like this are absolutely awe-inspiring. I love to read real-life stories about struggling with an inner demon and winning. In these struggles, victory doesn’t come overnight; it takes a huge amount of time, dedication and consistency for the change to a) happen, b) be permanent. Along the way, you also need a ton of faith in yourself and your ability to make the miracle come true. 

Yesterday, I came across a blog post that got me thinking. The blog in question (written in Polish) belongs to an amazing woman who went from weighing 264 pounds and suffering from serious weight-related health problems to being just barely overweight, running half-marathons and training for a marathon. She relates her long fight with compulsive overeating and depression with calm honesty, and it’s a powerful, moving story. She also writes about determination, motivation, about falling off the wagon and getting on again; the nitty-gritty mechanics of making a Big Change.

I admire her.

One statement of hers particularly resonated with me. It concerned people who write to her asking for advice, saying they want to change their lives too, but lack motivation. She writes: “if you claim you’d like to do something, but you lack motivation, that means you don’t actually want to do it.”

It’s the cold, hard truth, even if one is tempted to protest at first. If you’d like to do something, but you lack the motivation, that means you don’t actually WANT to do it, you only WISH YOU COULD.

It’s a question of priorities. Or, even more accurately, of competing desires.

We often say we want something – and we actually DO wish we could have it. The problem is that we simultaneously want something else, and this second desire overrides the first one. Unfortunately, the two somethings are incompatible with each other, so fulfilling the second desire makes you unable to fulfill the first one.

This can be frustrating as hell when you don’t realize what’s going on.

Lots of obese people who say they want to lose weight, but lack motivation, actually WISH they could become thinner, but the pathological drive to eat is stronger.


Lots of people confuse a wish, a dream, a “maybe one day...” with an actual “I need to work on this RIGHT NOW” priority. 

It’s a simple observation, when you think about it, but not at all self-evident. 

So, when you find yourself saying “I want to...” or “I wish I could” over and over, but somehow never get around to DOING anything to achieve that long-term goal:

1)      Don’t mistake wishes for priorities.
2)      Identify the immediate desires that are blocking your wishes from becoming priorities.

Simple? Simple. Easy? Nope! 

Images courtesy of David Castillo Dominici at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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