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Want vs Wish

Updated: Sep 28, 2022

In life we often say “I really wish I could” and then something else follows, or “I really want to do X but Y” any many times there are good reasons why X and Y negate each other. However, more often than not, when Y is not an insurmountable circumstance of fate or fortune, the truth is we do not “want” to do something we “wish” we could do something.

Let's take drawing for example. I'm sure we have a few artists here somewhere. Many people say “I wish I could draw” and that is pretty accurate, they wish they could. If a genie in a lamp granted them the skill they would surely take it. They however don't really WANT to be able to draw, unless they are putting in the time learning that skill. If they wanted to be able to draw, they would, over time, gain at least a passing proficiency in the art of.... art!

When we find ourselves saying “I wish” or “I want” over and over we really need to ask what the hurdles are in preventing us from doing something. Wishing to fly is just that, a wish, there are insurmountable circumstances that prevent you from taking flight through will alone. Likewise sometimes life circumstances prevent reasonably achieving a skill. I very much doubt I will ever lay hands on an ancient relic in the Vatican no matter how much I may want to, how many connections I may make, how much money or time I may divert to the goal, or other factors. Sometimes a goal is just something you can't achieve. As a note, I have no great wish or want to get a relic from the Vatican.

Looking at the hurdles in the wish or want, how much of those hurdles are a part of our own design and choices? We have to really ask that. What would we be giving up? A bit of self honesty tells us what is important to us.

There is a difference between a “wish” for something, a longing for something, and a true want. Likewise, there is a hierarchy of wants in our lives, and we have to be honest. Rather than approaching the situation of wanting to be or do something and treating self imposed hurdles as permanent obstacles, we must instead recognize them for what they are.

After recognition of a self imposed hurdle, we can then ask the all important question. “Do I want this MORE than what I want in this other way?” That is an important question, and it's a hard one. It means a lot of self honesty. If the answer is yes, then the other thing takes second place. Sometimes that means time with our families, relaxation time, or even educational pursuits in other areas. If the answer is no, we may move to the next hurdle and see if that can be overcome, using some of that time that hurdle makes up by reducing the importance of it.

When you run out of hurdles though, it's important to have self honesty. It means saying “I long for this, but I do not want it” it means saying “I have a great respect for this, I am inspired by this, but I do not want it.” There is no shame in this.

I know many a mystic, many a martial artist, and many other people who have often said “I wish I could _____ but I have family obligations.” Maybe that was studying abroad with other mystics, or fighting in tournaments. Maybe it was starting a dojo, or maybe it was pushing themselves a bit further than before. They often get hung up on that blank space, not moving on to the next hurdle. For those that move on to all the hurdles, they get hung up and resentful of the things they actually want and love, not realizing that they have made a choice to want those things more, to love those things more, and to embrace the joy of what they have chosen. There is no shame in saying “I want ____ more than ____.” It doesn't make you less of a person, but it tells you where your priorities are.

The trap we must all avoid is letting ourselves believe we want a thing we do not actually want. Only that self honesty of looking at each hurdle will help us find that real truth. That lie of “I want this” instead of “I'm inspired by” or “I enjoy the aesthetics of” something we do not want crushes our sense of self and sense of peace. It keeps us out of the moment, out of action, and robs us of some of our mental reserve and energies.

Meditation on this can help us find peace with who we are, but it can also help us forge who we are to become.

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