Wish: What an interesting concept

In 2017 and then 2019 and then again recently, now in 2020, I had some interesting and memorable realizations about the word wish that I want to share with you – because, before 2017, I don’t know if I ever gave the word, or the concept, much thought. 

So, I’m wondering, how much do you think about your wishes? 

How much do you wish for things? 

How often does your brain use that specific word in your thoughts, instead of a different word to express what you mean?

Fill in the Blank Exercise

And just for fun, let’s do 3 “fill in the blanks” here. Finish these sentences: 

  1. I wish I ________________. 
  2. I wish I didn’t ________________ .
  3. I wish I could________________ .

Wishing Sounds Great, right?

We probably all could list common phrases, songs, expressions and ideas about wishing and wishes.  What are your favorites?

Remember how Wesley would tell Buttercup “As You Wish” in the movie The Princess Bride? ..even when she pushed him down a hill?

Remember the disney songs “When you Wish Upon a Star?” and “A dream is a wish your heart makes?”

Do you close your eyes and make a wish when you blow out candles? Or make wishlists for special occasions?

From all of these examples, wishing seems hopeful and optimistic and fun and fulfilling. Let’s just all get what we want by singing and closing our eyes and blowing out candles and thinking and imagining!

The Definition of Wish

So, imagine my surprise when I looked up the dictionary definition, and read that a wish is a strong desire or hope for something that’s not easily attainable. It’s wanting something that cannot or probably will not happen. 

And then, a few other common wish expressions came to mind, like:

“Wishful thinking” – implying that you may be thinking about something that will never be, but that you’ll always want

Or “Be careful what you wish for” –  implying that you might be wishing for the wrong thing and through some type of cosmic irony or punishment, because you wished for the wrong thing, you could get it out of bad luck!

Is Wishing Good or Bad?

So- is wishing good or bad? Is it helpful and hopeful or something to leave us wanting and feeling unlucky?

In 2017, I was working with a coach and she prompted me to notice and think about the difference between a wish and a goal. Back then, I was still much more “corporate” than I am now- and I thought “wishing was a little airy-fairy and wishy-washy.”  (hHmm.. What other cute, rhym-ey words could I think of to describe wishing?)

I had some resistance to her suggestion of thinking about what I wanted in terms of wishes instead of goals. I had a lot of success up to that point in my life by setting goals for myself and then systematically working towards and tracking my progress on those goals – so dropping all that structure to consider something more vague and floaty felt uncomfortable for me. 

But, since I’m a good coaching client, I did the homework.. And I made a wishlist for myself for the next 5 years instead of setting some goals for myself. I put 16 things on that wishlist that I was wishing for myself to happen by 2022. 

Our coaching sessions moved on to other topics. I didn’t go back and revisit that homework assignment again. .. and I may have thought about that exercise of considering wishes instead of goals a few times over the years, but nothing that really pops out to me as significant. 

The Forgotten Wishlist

And recently, I found that list of wishes as I was doing some decluttering – and out of the 16 wishes, from 21/2 years ago, 11 of those are effortlessly true for me today. And another 2 of them are currently ½ true-ish. 

So I’m rounding up.. And here comes the corporate side of me again – that’s a 81% success rate in half of the allotted time! That’s amazing! 

And that blows my mind a little (which was one of my wishes: that I would blow my own mind and continue to do so.. So I guess, now we’re at 14 out of 16 wishes that came true!) 87.5%

Why and How did the Wishes Come True?

Why and How? you may be asking yourself.. (and maybe you’re wondering, well, what were the wishes? – I’ll save that to the end..)

Actually.. I’m also asking myself Why and How I did it right now too, and trying to remember back to think if this was one of those coaching exercises like a “List of 25” where you make a list of 25 things you want, and every other item on the list is something you already have (this exercise is a great trick for the mind, and it’s also a great gratitude exercise too) 

So, assuming that is was that kind of exercise, even if it were the case that I already had 8 out of the 16 things I wished for, that would mean out of the 8 things that I didn’t have yet, I still got 6 out of them – so still 75% success rate in ½ the time!

By the way – I started planning this Wish Post as soon as I realized that high percentage of wish-completion and started making notes without even finishing reading the rest of the homework assignment and my journaling that I had done about the wish-disucssion I had with my coach. But, now, after writing most of this post, I did go back and read the rest of that journaling, I saw something SO HILARIOUS  that I just had to laugh at myself – so I’ll share that with you at the end of this episode too. I wonder if you’ll find it as funny as I did. 

Wish Completion Rate 

Were all of these wishes just going to be granted anyhow- regardless of if I had made the wishlist or not? (I think so, and not because of an outside force, but because, most likely, I had unconsciously set myself on that trajectory already)

So – it’s possible that when given the assignment to make a list of my wishes, instead of a list of my goals, I wrote down things that I didn’t have yet, but that I was pretty sure I was on the way to getting (at least in my subconscious.. I don’t think I would have purposefully cheated on a coaching exercise). And that’s so interesting to note, right? 

Resistance to Wishing

Apparently I had some resistance to thinking about wishing (since I was much more comfortable with the idea of setting goals)- but I didn’t have much resistance to the items that I wished for- because so many of them came true!

I 100% believe THAT is the key right there! 

How do you get what you want? By having absolutely ZERO resistance to whatever it is that you want.And, as we just learned from the definition of a wish- using the word wish implies there is some resistance – some lack of belief in attainability or possibility. 

Since we’re talking about resistance- let’s do a resistance check right here – have I lost you? Or are you totally on board with what I’m saying? 

Do you think “wishing” for something signifies a lack of belief? Does wishing equal some subtle or subconscious resistance?

The Downside to Wishing

My initial thoughts when I saw that high Wish Completion Percentage was “Huh, I guess wishing actually works!” Look at that..” But, then as I started digging in and thinking about it, I started re-thinking and doubting that initial hunch. 

Let’s pivot to a year ago when the word “WISH” popped into my awareness again- but in a different way. 

When I was getting my coaching certification in 2019, part of our work was to be coached on a live call by our colleagues, then have our facilitator point out improvements, or issues, and give us feedback. I was the playing the role of the client (not really playing, we always used real examples and situations while we were being coached- and it was always very helpful). 

The situation that I was getting coached on  was that I “I wished I wasn’t in a situation that I was currently in- by choice I might add. The situation was I had made this commitment (and I’m using that word very loosely, it was a commitment in my mind, but may not have been an expectation by anyone else) and I wished I wasn’t in the commitment. I didn’t like it. I felt confined by it and I wanted out. 

The thought I got coaching on was something like “I wish I wasn’t doing this.”

And the coach facilitator gave the feedback to my colleague after the coaching session that my use of the word “wish” was problematic or tricky (she probably didn’t use those words – this is how I’m remembering it). 

Wishing Can Be Tricky

I was so SURPRISED to hear that my wishing could be problematic or tricky. In this scenario – by me using the word “wish” I was implying to myself that I didn’t have control or input in this situation- even though, of course, I completely did! I could have broken “the commitment” at any time, even if it meant “letting people down.” I was using the word “wish” because I thought what I wanted was impossible or unattainable for me- but it was totally in my control. 

And using the word wish – in my own thoughts- daily- and in that coaching session.. shows me now (in 2020) that I was creating resistance for myself with that word. With the thought that I wanted something (I wished for something) that seemed unlikely, or outside of my control. 

Is wishing helpful or harmful?

From the first part of the story, I’d say wishing is helpful because making that wishlist “helped” me to get 16 out of 18 things I wanted for myself in my life. .. but.. Maybe this isn’t a case of cause and effect. 

Maybe this is an example of correlation, but not causation. Have you heard of this logical fallacy? It’s used in statistics too- the translation of the latin of the fallacy is  “with this, therefore because of this”

It’s not necessarily true, just because 2 events, or variables happened doesn’t mean “therefore.” So, I’m not drawing the conclusion that writing the wishlist caused the wishes to come true. 

From the second story- about me being coached on wishing for something, we can see that by me using the sweet, innocent expression that “I wished things were different” I was hiding my own true thoughts from myself and abdicating my power away from myself. 

I was basically thinking: “I want things to be different than they are, but they’re not, oh well – nothing to do with me.” See how unhelpful that was? It had everything to do with me! 

And I was pretending like a different situation – the one I wanted- would be nice to have, but wouldn’t be possible. Not very helpful. 

Wishing isn’t Very Helpful

So far, I think I’m convincing myself, and maybe you.. That wishing isn’t very helpful (or doesn’t seem to be helpful based on just these 2 examples I’m sharing. – which admittedly, is a very small sample size). 

Remember how I told you this all started with a coaching exercise where I wrote out that 5-year wishlist? So, after I got so excited about the high wish completion percentage, I went back to see what I else had written about wishing and kept reading. 

Here’s what I thought about Wishing in 2017:

  • Can be ANYTHING! It doesn’t have to have any basis in reality, it doesn’t have to be attainable
  • Either I get my wish or I don’t (there’s no % of wish completed)
  • “Be careful what you wish for” – this means maybe you could get part of your wish- but not all of it, not the good part
  • Sometimes I “wish” to get out of something or escape (“I wish I didn’t have to do this” or “I wish this was over already.”)
  • A wish is magical (like Disney, fairy tales, a genie)
  • A wish can be impulsive- just spur of the moment 
  • A wish is granted by someone else
  • A wish comes true just because it does- not due to work or effort or strategy
  • A wish can be specific or vague
  • A wish isn’t serious- there’s no such thing as a “Business Wish” or a “Savings Wish”
  • The phrase “wishy-washy” comes to mind
  • Don’t tell your wish or it won’t come true- keep it a secret!
  • “Wishful thinking” – makes me feel like it’s not likely to happen.. it’s just a daydream
  • When I was in High School I used to make a clothing wishlist for myself of all the cool clothes I wanted that I saw in magazines or saw other people wearing- I think I did end up getting a lot of those clothes

And then I finished that wishlist exercise by writing: “This has been a very insightful exercise. I see some bias in my thinking- and it’s probably just from 15 years in a corporate setting.. plus my skeptical, evidence seeking neural pathways.. BUT!!.. I am curious how I can embrace more wishing!”

Wow! I find that so funny that 2 ½ years ago I was like “no one would ever try to calculate the percentage of which wishes came true.. And the future me was like “oh yeah? Hand me my calculator!”

I also think it’s so fascinating that when my coach assigned me the work of brainstorming about wishes, I came up with those thoughts about Disney and wishy-washy and wishful thinking and being too “corporate” .. and those were the same thoughts I came up with again now (for the first time, I thought!) when I started thinking about wishing again. That’s the part that made me laugh out loud at myself! 

What my Mom Thinks about Wishing

And, what’s super interesting to me is that I told my Mom I was working on this episode and asked her what she thinks about ‘Wishing”

And she offered (almost verbatim) some of the same ideas I came up with – just off the top of her head.. So my brain considered these 3 thoughts:

  1. If my mom thinks this too, then everyone must be thinking this- it must be universal and obvious (and maybe I shouldn’t do an episode about it)
  2. If my mom thinks this too, then I must be exactly right. 
  3. I am definitely my mother’s daughter since we both came up with the same ideas. 

Did you come up with a different thought about why my Mom and I had the same opinions about wishes?

One of the reasons why I decided to go ahead with this topic was because probably everyone in the world doesn’t agree with me and my mom- for example, my coach who offered me the assignment probably has a different perspective – and maybe you do too!

What Realized about Wishing

Have I embraced more wishing? Maybe I have. I’m kind of excited about that 75% success rate.. (but I actually have a different theory on that to share with you in next week’s episode). And, on the other hand, I’m not sure, the only other time that the word “wish” really had a meaningful appearance for me was when our coach facilitator pointed out that me using it was tricky. 

And the whole point in me sharing these memories and realizations with you is to give you a little awareness if you find yourself wishing for things. 

I’m calling your attention to the specific words you use in your thinking- and what you make those words mean in different contexts.

Am I saying we should never wish and that wishing is always unhelpful, or even harmful – no, not at all! Like I said, I still want to explore how a skeptical wishlist resulted in at least a 75% success rate. 

And next week I want to share those theories with you about how to get whatever you want – so maybe that success rate is actually pretty low, if I believe I can get whatever I want (which I basically do believe). 

Notice When You Wish

What I am saying about wishing is that you can notice when you say it, when you think you’re wishing for something and when you believe that something is just a wish.

I’m not suggesting that you need to get super granular and notice every time you use the verb or the noun – in every day speaking, especially when it’s a regular expression – like Wishing someone a Happy Birthday.. Or how I mentioned at the beginning of this episode- “I wish this was a 2-way conversation..”

But notice when you find yourself wishing for something instead of, or even alongside of working towards something, or creating something. 

By wishing, are you abdicating any of your power? By wishing, are you suggesting to yourself that what you want is unattainable or not likely possible?

Would you want to rephrase any of your wishes into more powerful, more personally responsible phrases?

So, instead of “I wish I could stop snacking all the time” you could say “I don’t snack anymore.”

Or instead of saying “I wish I was more patient” you could say “I’m a patient person.” (maybe add a usually or most of the time on there if you need to make it more believable for yourself). 

And instead of saying “I wish I had a better relationship” you could say “I’m making my relationship better.” (or even, here are all the reasons why my relationship is great!) 

There are so many ways to rephrase your wishes!

What do You Think?

And now I want to know what you think? Are you reconsidering wishing? (or were you even a wisher in the first place?) 

Was all of this already obvious to you? Or, can you now think of some things you may be consistently wishing for.. That, now you can just decide for yourself? Share your thoughts and reactions with me! I can’t wait to read them