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Distinction: Wanting vs Wishing For

Getting clear on the things you want to create versus the things you wish will happen.

Jeremiah Rogers
Jeremiah Rogers
2 min read
Distinction: Wanting vs Wishing For

We frequently tell ourselves that we want an outcome while at the same failing to take any reasonable actions to create it. This can lead to long term dissatisfaction and a gradual loss of integrity.

It’s hard to tell yourself that you want something for years and not get it. Eventually you may lose faith that the voice in your head even knows what he or she is talking about.

"All they do is say they want things and the things never show up!"

What could better is to distinguish between the things you want versus the things you wish for.

One idea is to define “want” as:

  1. You have defined the outcome so clearly that someone else could know when you have achieved it.
  2. You are taking regular and consistent actions to create the outcome.
  3. When your actions fail to produce the outcome, you adjust your actions and try again.

You could define “wish for” as:

  1. You would be happy if the outcome came into your life, but you are not going to do the work to systematically create it.

For me, there was once a long list of things I “wanted”: I wanted children, I wanted a bigger apartment, I wanted to get married, I wanted to spend more time with my friends and I wanted more friends.

One day I sat down and wrote in my journal “Why don’t I have all of the things I want?”

That day instead of stewing on the question I just answered it: it turned out that I did not want these things at all. For most, I was hopeful to get them someday but was doing nothing to create them. For others, I was surprised to find that I would not even be happy if they had shown up. They were not even wishes. They were not desired at all and I had been lying to myself.

When you say that “want” something it can be worth considering:

  • If you want it then what are you doing to create it?
  • If you are not creating it, is it a wish? — i.e. Would you be truly happy if it arrived?
  • If it is not even a wish, what has been the value in telling yourself that you want it? (Perhaps you have said that you want it so you will fit in with society?)

And finally:

  • What are the things that you truly want?
  • When will you start to create those things?

Getting tight on the distinction between wanting and wishing for can increase your integrity over time. You will start to believe that you can create what you desire, and your sense of agency over your existence will grow.