What do you want?
I often find myself asking this seemingly simple question of my clients and finding that for many, if not most, it is difficult, sometimes impossible to answer. This got me thinking about wanting, what is it, where does it come from, how do we know, what gets in the way, and how do we get what we want when we do figure it out. How do we get from here to there, somewhere, anywhere?
Let’s look for a moment at a line from the Pinocchio song we all know so well: “when you wish upon a star, makes no difference who you are, anything your heart desires will come to you…”
(psst. if this photo looks like a black box to you, zoom in and look a little closer)
When I think of wishes, it conjures images of my 4 your old self blowing out birthday candles and my 16-year-old self laying in the Sinai Desert with a field of stars as a blanket. Wishes live in the heavens, they are light as feathers, full of sparkle and sweet as cotton candy. Wishes are color filled hopes and dreams. Wishes are bubbles, floating on the air and disappearing into unseen magical places in the universe. Expansive and light they are wisps of energy. How inspiring and hopeful is that? Sign me up for wishing! ...But wait a minute, what about the wisdom contained in the adage “be careful what you wish for”?
Here’s what I propose, let’s start by reframing this adage to say “make sure you really want what you wish for”.
I have noticed that the default answer to this question of what you want, is often phrased as a wish born from the idea of the opposite of what is. “I wish my boss wasn’t a jerk or my house was in a better part of town or bigger or more affordable…” Or to articulate a want that is socially acceptable or expected – “I wish I would get the promotion I deserve or should have by now”. Ask a burned out corporate executive what they want and the quick retort is “ I wish I could quit or retire”, the ultimate opposite of what is. Is this really the want or might the actual want be something like: working less or differently or somewhere else or with different people or doing a different kind of job? And finally, if I had a nickel (or dollar for inflation) for every time I heard or said, "I wish I had more time"! This kind of wishing and wanting isn't solid or grounded or guided, it can be uninspired and uninspiring. So it floats out there untethered and not knowing what to do.
I believe when we’re not living in the want, where we are living is typically in the should, have to, the practical, the expected and the fearful - the default mode. This can feel like the easiest path and we tell ourselves really convincing stories to support our position but it leads to “I don’t know how I got here” and “I don’t know who I am” and ultimately “I don’t know what I want, I just wish it were different”. And we find our energy gone, like we’ve been slowly bleeding out. And in this mode even our wishes lose their sparkle.
Say the word – WANT – out loud; say I WANT. What do you feel? To me it feels solid, grounded, known, serious and weighty. It has gravitas. In the Pinocchio song it is called desire. Desire points to energy coming from somewhere deep, deep inside you. Wanting is born of the freedom to dream, claiming a white sheet of paper, from an inner knowing. It is fiery, active, and powerful. True wanting is burning with energy and passion. It is born of caring about something and admitting what you really care about. And it asks us to show up, to commit, and to get to work.
Imagine a very young child with a piece of paper and finger paints. They don’t ask what they should draw, and they don’t wish they “know how to paint.” They likely want the paper to be blue of yellow or red or all the colors and they just make it so. They lose themselves in the act and call the result a masterpiece. I bet you all have the visual of the childlike grin from ear to ear, the mess, and the wonderful creation that is celebrated and is proudly hung on the nearest refrigerator. This is the stuff born or pure wanting.
Wanting is a creative enterprise. Sure there often has to be some stop doing or not having in the process of living in the want. But want takes an energetic stance in creation and when we can really tap into it, it can tell us what to do next. And we can do those things with energy and a full heart, and I would argue with joyous full immersion, the kind that seems to suspend and even expand time and space.
Make no mistake, wishes can be powerful. Born of us but living outside us, we release them into the universe, where they might just have magical powers within the quantum realm in which they flow. As many of you know, I believe this. And I believe there is an important first step that begins with truly tapping into your authentic wanting and continues with aligned action. True, grounded, honest, creative wanting puts you in action. Want is the arrow that points you where to go with conviction and inner knowing, use it to jump into action and then go ahead, blow out the candles and sprinkle your want with the magic of a sparkling wish.
I’ll leave you some lyrics from one of my favorite artists and an invitation:
If wishes were changes We'd all live in roses And there wouldn't be children Who cried in their sleep
from the song "If Wishes Were Changes"
An invitation: Take a clean sheet of paper and make a want list. Only when it feels completely authentically true to you, light a candle and turn your want list into a wish list. Release your wishes with your full heart and blow out the candle releasing the sparks of energy into the universe. Then, get to work and make your wants come true.
©photo by Lynne Harris Bernstein
Ghent, NY 2022