saying no to negativity is as easy as ABC(DE)
don't let the bad ruin the good

the purpose of a wish


"Many of us spend half of our time wishing for things
we could have if we didn't spend half of our time wishing."

Alexander Woolcott


Do you wish? I do. I wish on stars. I wish on eyelashes. I wish when the clasp of a necklace collides with the charm hanging from the chain. I wish when the numerals on the clock read 11:11. I wish when I pluck a dandelion from the grass and blow its seeds into the wind. I wish when I blow out birthday candles each year. I wish when I say "I wish..." or "I hope..." or "I want..." Without knowing it, without even saying the word "wish," I am wishing. A lot. What am I wishing for? I'm wishing for things I want. I'm wishing for things I don't want. I'm wishing for things for other people. I'm wishing for small things ("Please don't rain today!") and I'm wishing for big things ("Please let there be peace in the world."). I'm wishing, wishing, wishing... but is anything happening? Does anything happen when YOU wish?

My mind is divided when I read the questions I just wrote. Part of me thinks, "Of course nothing happens when you wish. Wishes are just thoughts!" and the other part of me thinks, "Wishes can come true. Sure, we have to take action most of the time, but they do serve a purpose -- to motivate us." The first part of my mind is the old me (the loudest part of me), reminding me that things are negative. It's the part of me that, as a child, wrote countless times in her journal, "Dreams don't come true." (Yes, I know, it's terribly said that I wrote that over and over again and, even sadder, I really believed it back then.) The new me is in the part of my mind that counteracts those negative thoughts and insists that dreams and wishes can come true, but they aren't going to happen without work. To be honest, I think the old me got caught up in the logistics of a wish. After all, it doesn't make much sense to think that you can wish for something (often not even speaking the wish aloud for fear that it won't come true) and it will happen. I can understand how that idea seems less than plausible. However, the new me sees things differently. The new me realizes that, while wishes aren't necessarily logical, they do serve a purpose.



The Purpose of a Wish

Comedian and actor Wanda Sykes said, "If you feel like there's something out there that you're supposed to be doing, if you have a passion for it, then stop wishing and just do it." [Emphasis my own]I couldn't agree with that statement more, which is why I have some difficulty overcoming the idea that wishing isn't a fruitless exercise. What I've come to realize after reading Sykes' quote over and over again is that we have to have that wish in the first place -- that desire to do or have something -- in order to make it happen. A wish is the foundation for action. In my life, when I wish for something -- when I really want it -- I take that wish and turn it into action. Now, I don't always do this and I should do it more often, but a lot of the time I wish for something and then I find a way to get it. Wishing makes me want. Wanting makes me do. Is that the case for everyone? No. Is that the case for every situation? No. But it can be for a lot of situations. It can be a start, a push in the right direction.

"To a resolute mind, wishing to do is the first step toward doing. But if we do not wish to do a thing, it becomes impossible," said Robert Southey. If you don't have a wish in place, how can you ever know what it is that you're working towards? If you don't, for example, say, "I wish to publish a novel," how are you ever going to work towards that goal? If the wish, the desire, is not there, the dream or goal becomes impossible. It is impossible because it is not thought about. It is impossible because it is not desired. The purpose of a wish is to (1) decide what it is that you want and (2) begin contemplating how you might go about getting it. Wishing, by itself, might seem silly and childish but, when coupled with action, it is actually very useful.



Why We Need Wishes

Wishes are actually pretty important if you think about it. Notice how many people pause before blowing out their birthday candles. Why the pause? They're thinking. They're thinking about what they will wish for because, deep down, they know that wish says something about who they are and what they want. I agree with George Eliot, who said, "It seems to me that we can never give up longing and wishing with we are thoroughly alive." While we are here on this earth, living and breathing and doing and being, it's pretty hard not to wish. It's hard not to want things, to dream about things. For everyone these wishes are different. Everyone is unique in what s/he wishes for, but the idea behind the wish is the same. We want something other than what we have. A longing, a wish, can be a problem. It can, at times, consume us. However, we have the power to control this. We have the power to take a wish and use it to our advantage.

Why do we need wishes? We need them to motivate us, to spur us on into action. We need them to define who we are and what we want from ourselves, our lives, and the people around us. Wishes, as I'm sure you know, aren't very present-focused. When we're wishing, we're thinking about what we want to have/do/be in the future, not what we have or are right now. For this reason, I look at wishes with a raised eyebrow. Are they causing us to live in a moment that is not real? Are they causing us to look to something else, something we think will be better, as a solution for what we are faced with right now?

This issue has come up a lot for me lately. As I was carefully applying mascara the other day, an eyelash fell on to my cheek. I pinched it off my skin and looked closely at it resting on my fingertip. I put my lips together and was about to blow it -- wish and all -- when I stopped and thought to myself, "What's the point of this? What is this really doing for me? What happens, really, when I send that wish off into the world (along with my eyelash, which, let's be serious, is kinda gross when you think about it)?" The first answer that came to my mind for all three of those questions was, "Nothing." There is no point, I don't get any immediate benefit from wishing, and nothing happens when I wish. So why do I do it?

I do it because I need it (that, and I'm pretty much in the habit of it at this point in my life.) I need to believe that I can wish for things, and, even more so, I need to believe that I have the power to make my wishes come true. When I wish for something, I believe that it's something I can work towards. I can remember, years ago, looking up at a blue-black sky in winter, shivering and crying and feeling sorry for myself. I can remember spotting a star winking at me from far, far away and I remember closing my eyes, tear-wet eyelashes resting on my cheeks, and saying aloud, "I wish I could be happy. I wish I could just be happy someday." In that moment, that cold, dark, sad moment, that's all I wanted -- to be happy.

I didn't realize it at the time, but it was a wish I would someday make come true for myself. Along the way things and people and places (oh, California, how I miss you!) have made me happy, but ultimately it was me who made that wish come true. It was me who grabbed my life by the front of its shirt and said, "Hey you! You better get it together! You better snap out of it!" I was the one who wished for happiness and I was the one who made that wish come true. I probably didn't realize it then, but that act of wishing put into perspective what was important to me. That wish set the stage for what I really wanted in my life -- happiness. I needed that wish to drive my actions. I needed that wish to tell me what it was that I really needed.


Wishes To Watch Out For

"Let us take things as we find them. Let us not attempt to distort them into what they are not. We cannot make facts. All our wishing cannot change them. We must use them," said John Henry Newman. After lots of mentions from readers, I've finally started reading Loving What Is by Bryon Katie and though I'm just at the beginning of the book, it's definitely drawing my attention to the statement Newman makes here: wishing will not change things. Wishing, on its own, is pretty pointless. The wish has to have a purpose, it has to push you, in order for it to come true. Some wishes are not realistic. Some wishes, you know deep down inside, in your heart, won't ever come true. You cannot wish someone back from the dead. You cannot wish to recover from a permanent injury. (Okay, you can wish for these things, but it's not productive to do so.) Wishing for things that are unrealistic is dangerous. It messes with your mind and gives you a false sense of hope.

These are the wishes -- the wishes you know can't come true -- that are the wishes to watch out for. When I find myself wishing to go back to the past, I know I'm in a danger zone. There is no going back. When I say, "I wish I hadn't done that," I am wishing for something that has already happened to un-happen and we all know that's not the case. However, if I make a mistake and say, "I wish I could make it better," that's a different story because there is a chance that I can make the situation better. In that case, the wish is something that I might have control over. That is a real wish. The other kinds of wishes are the ones we cannot control, and there are a lot of those.

It's important to remember that, while we cannot control everything in life, we can control how we think about it. We can change "I wish he wasn't so sad" to "I wish there was something I could do to make him feel better." We can change "I wish someone would publish my book" to "I wish I could find a way to get published." In both cases we're taking control when we change the wish. We can't change what other people say or do or think, but we can change what we say and do and think. We have the ability to wish how we want to wish. No one in the world can tell you what you can and cannot wish about, but you should think about your wishes. Are they pushing you in a positive direction? Are they giving you hope? Are they realistic?

The more I think about wishing, the more I realize that it can be useful. It has been for me. When I wish for things, I realize that I really want them. When I realize what I want, I can be proactive and go after my desires. What about you? What do you think about wishes? Are you like the old me, saying "dreams never come true," or are you like the me I am now, who realizes that wishes can come true because we have the power to make them come true? It's hard for me, at times, not to think that wishes are frivolous things, things belonging to eight-year-old girls and Disney movies, not to someone like me. But then I think about a life without wishes and I realize that isn't a life I want to be living. Wishes may be future-focused, but, when I wish, I'm realizing, in that moment, what it is that's truly important to me. Wishes, oddly enough, keep me in the present, thinking hopefully, positively, about the future.

What do wishes mean to you?
Do you think they are silly, childish?
Do you think they serve a purpose?


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

Hooray! I'm the first to comment =)

First - I am SO glad you are ready Byron Katie - she is awesome beyond words!

Wishing - Unless you do something, wishes stay wishes and you don't move your life in the direction of your wish, your passion, your dream, your goal. Daisaku Ikeda says "heart felt prayer (or wishing) must be followed by heart felt action." If we are to live the life of our dreams then we must be willing to do the do. No one is going to do my mental pushups for me. If I want to be a wildly successful writer or the creator of an integrative yoga program for breast cancer patients and survivors, then I have to do the do. I have to write and write and write. I have to cultivate and grow my readership and loyal following. I have to become connected with other writers, agents, and publishers. I have to work on my 500 hour level yoga certification. I have to study the yoga sutras. I have to study the anatomy of breast cancer and the causes of this disease (for me, it was stress) I have to teach yoga and be there for my students. If it is to be, it is up to me.


I agree that there is wishing that is idle or passive. At the same time, for people that put stock in words, and what they mean, when they say something out loud, and go so far as to write it down, the odds go up considerably that the wish turns into a dream or goal -- and it happens!

I think you're on the right track. Wishes are our way of letting the universe know what we want, and a way for us to focus on what we want. Of course (just like you pointed out), we still have to work to make those wishes come true. But just the act of wishing acts like a road map, or a compass to get us pointed in the right direction. Without being conscious of what we want, we can't move towards that goal. It's like that old saying about if you don't know what you want, you're sure to get it, or if you don't know where you're going, you're sure to get there.

Having a wish is the first step. Like the old musical, South Pacific, says: "You got to have a dream. If you don't have a dream, how you gonna have a dream come true?"

Wishing is the first step. Yes, many other steps are required after the wishing, but they can't be started without the wish.

In other news, every time you say something about California, The Red Hot Chilli Peppers song "Dani, California" starts playing in my head :)

Wishing is so vital to happiness in life. Your post is so great, and your intro is so beautifully written. I think many of us grow up and become so "adult" that we lose that inner child in us that has wishes, dreams, and we lose that creative freedom. When we can reconnect with those things again, magical things can happen.

And Byron Katie is simply amazing. Be sure to watch her videos on YouTube. If you have stress or anxiety or fear in your life, be sure to learn her simple and effective "The Work" method on thinking. It really can change your life. It basically says...we are not our thoughts.

Thanks again for the fantastic post, I'm a big fan!


I believe that we all need to embrace our inner child - the 8 yr old who wishes and dreams. I've noticed that with aging, a lot of people stick to the safe pathways - they give up wishing and dreaming and just accept the present as it is and the future as it will "surely" be. But the truth is, by wishing you're putting something out into the universe. You're putting a thought out there, whether it's a positive or a negative thought depends entirely on you, but it doesn't just disappear. That wish, I believe, stays in your subconscious, and is recieved by the energy around us. Wishing can, most definately motivate you, and the wish can manifest so subtly you don't even notice it came true, all because it stayed with your subconscious. I really believe wishes are more powerful than we think, and so I definately agree with thinking about the wish you're wishing and how you're putting it out there. I also think it's important to share your wishes, your dreams, with those around you - when it's communicated with others, it's more likely that you'll be accountable for it, and the others will remember on some level and could just open a door for you.

Peggy - Me too! So far the book is great and I'm very excited that I'm finally getting to it. I love that quote about wishing and how it must be followed by action. I think that pretty much sums up what I was trying to get at in this post! :)

Whitney - There's definitely a big difference between idle wishing and wishes that actually push us towards a dream. It's important to consider the difference between the two when we're wishing for something.

Jay - I love how you described the act of wishing as a road map. That's such a great, visual way of putting it and I completely agree with that sentiment. Wishing is the first step, as you said, and it's necessary to lead us to those steps that follow. "Dani California" used to be my ringtone for years and years. My favorite line from the song is, "She's a lover, baby, and a fighter." :) I like to think of that idea, the ability to be both tough and loving.

Dayne - Thank you! I'm so glad you liked the intro. I definitely feel like a lot of adults lose the believe that they can wish for things. It seems childlike, but it's really not. It's the first step in achieving a goal or a dream. I'll definitely have to check out Bryon on YouTube. I'm so glad I'm finally reading her work!

I really like this, and it's something I've been thinking about as well. Even the little wishes that we make can influence our lives, just by having been thought of briefly I think. When I was very little, I stirred the Christmas pudding and made a wish, and the next year, it transpired that my Dad thought it would be useful (that's right) if we had a pony. So even some eight year old's wishes do come true, and I learnt a lot from that pony.
Now, I work hard to make my wishes come true, because I'm the only person who can. I think we often wish for things we hope will come to us without hard work, like winning the lottery and such, but you're right when you say our wishes guide us. If we wish to be able to work on a tropical island looking after turtles, maybe that oughta guide us to doing a marine biology degree!
Great article :)

You're on track here. Wishful thinking will not make it so.

But.....everything we do in life is created twice. First, in our minds. Then we can create it out in the world.

Wishing, daydreaming, brainstorming....they can all give us clues into what we desire. But then it's all about what we do from there. Even your wishes to return to the past. What is it about that past that you REALLY are longing for? What qualities do you feel were in your life then that you feel aren't now? And can you go about creating those (in an even better way now)?

All the best!

I think wishes have multiple meanings. Sometimes they are an expression of a playful part of ourselves (as in when we think a dream for ourselves and wish it to be true). Other times, wishes seem to mask complaints--because they are resisting what IS. Regardless of their meaning, we should listen to our most persistent wishes because they are a call to action--a call to make a dream come true, or a call to change a pattern from the past as you move forward in life. Thanks, Dani!

Interesting ideas. I think you make some great points here about the wishes that are realistic and the ones that are unrealistic as well. I think where most people get caught up is in wishing and not doing anything. I once upon a time wished I could have an income stream from some entrepreneurial effort, but didn't take action. Wishes+ Action seem to equal an outcome. Great post.

Ia - You've made a great point in your comment. Too many adults forget about wishing and the benefits of it. Not only does it encourage us to think about what we want, it can also encourage us to act on those thoughts. Likewise, it's putting something out into the universe which could potentially come back to us.

Amelia - Thanks for your great comments, and the inspiring story about the pony! I'm pretty sure that was my wish at age eight too and I'm so glad yours came true. That made me think about how it's for a reason that some wishes don't come true. For example, I never got the pony I wanted, but I think my life turned out just fine without one.

Deb - That's a great point about how we create everything twice. We have the power in our minds to wish for what we want to wish for and seek in reality. I love the questions you brought up in your comment. Such great ones to ponder!

Jodi - I agree that wishes can have multiple meanings and I also agree with what you've written about listening to our most persistent wishes. If we continually want something to happen (like I did, back when I was wishing for happiness), we should focus on that and do what we can to make that wish a reality.

Srinivas - Great statement: Wishes + Action = Outcome. That's completely true and if more people followed through with the action part they'd be surprised how many wishes could actual come true!

I got goosebumps from reading the post title, Danni. :) I wish because I think they are affirmations. They are the beginnings of a self-fulfilling prophecy. :)

Hi Dani,
We all have wishes and they give us a purpose to live for.If we didn't have wishes life would have been a boring one for sure.They give us courage to go after our desires.And when our wishes are accompanied by the actions life pushes towards the perfection.
Thanks for the thoughtful article Dani!

Meream - I love what you wrote about wishes in your comment: "the beginnings of a self-fulfilling prophecy." So true and such a great and interesting way to think about wishes!

Vikum - You're welcome! You make a great point that life would be boring without wishes. They are the foundation for our actions, for taking our desires and making them into realities, and life would be no fun without them.

Hi Dani,
Wishing...I think it's good. Especially if it's followed up by action. And maybe even when it isn't - because truthfully sometime we might wish for something we change our mind on, but still because of that wish, lead us into new directions. Dani, keep on wishing - I think it's also what gives us hope for what can be. And that's good too. It's good for me...

Lance - You're completely right. Wishing is good, even when our wishes don't always come true. I'm going to keep on wishing! :)

Hi Dani,

Great article! Maybe the distance between wishing and having is thinking. When we stop believing our thoughts (as Byron Katie suggests), we are no longer thinking about wishes...there is inspiration and there is action, and no thinking, wishing, motivation or discipline is required.


wishes for me are little reminders of what is important to me. I wish for safety for all animals, health for my family, that I can provide for my loved ones, that I will someday write my book...These things and more are all things that are relevant to me and my life. Whether or not my wishes come true, they remind me where my priorities lie. Very seldom do I wish for more money or a nicer house.
They don't matter to me if I don't have the former.

Oh this is beautiful. Of course we need to wish. It's part of the human nature. Like you said, wishes can push us to take action, without a wish, there's no desire, and no action.
Loved this post, like always :)

Wishes are the legs of my dreams. They keep me putting one step in front of the other and moving in the direction of where I want to go. In my life, wishes are realities not yet fulfilled.

I enjoyed this post and can relate to so many of the things you shared. And I'm very glad that you also dealt with those "dangerous wishes." Bravo, Dani!

Amazing that you post about this today. I am reading a book right now called "Wishing: How to fulfill your heart's desire" by Elizabeth Harper. She believes there are 7 principles to creating the perfect wish:
1. Intention
2. Focus
3. Wanting it with all your heart
4. Ask once (believe it to conceive it).
5. Have an attitude of gratitude.
6. Wish-tell (deciding to share your wish)
7. Let it go (hand it over faithfully to the universe)

Honestly, I picked up this book because I was doubting the power of wishes. Lately, I have wished for many things and nothing happens. So then I have to ask, are they selfish wishes? Or maybe the universe just has something better up it's sleeve....I guess I just have to wait and find out.

Kaushik - Thanks for sharing your insights on this topic. What you've said about wishing, action, and intention makes a lot of sense. Thanks for offering some great additions to the post.

Shannanigans - I love how you identified with wishes as ways to think about the things that are important to you. I feel the same way that you do about wishes and, in fact, many of my wishes are the same as yours!

Rosa - Thank you! I'm so glad you liked the post. I agree what we need wishes to move us into action, though we must make sure these are the right kinds of wishes.

Chania Girl - Beautifully said! "Wishes are the legs of my dreams" - so well put! And I love how you addresses wishes as desires not yet fulfilled. That's a very positive way to look at it. It's so important to have wishes, but, as I mentioned, we have to consider what kinds of wishes we're making.

Caroline - What an odd coincidence!! I've never heard of that book but it sounds so interesting. Thank you for writing about those 7 things here. It definitely gives me more to think about in terms of wishing and what it really means. My guess is that the Universe has something better planned for you...Good things will happen. Keep wishing!

I have wishes all the time - I believe they are the seeds of my dreams. That said, they do serve a purpose.

Great article!
It amazes me how you constantly have all this inspiration for new posts!

I agree with you on the wishing part, I do it myself so much, but in reality it is better to take all that energy and time you spend wishing to take action to achieve that what you wish for:)

Thanks for sharing:)

Wishing, for me, is setting an intention - much as you described. I also began experiencing magic, though, when I was able to release more and more of my negative (limited) thinking and open up to the idea that we can have anything. Truly, there are no limits in this life except our minds. I could tell you stories, Dani!

For now, I wish you and everyone in this beautiful blogging community the fulfillment of their fondest desires. That's my wish for today.

With love,

Suzen - If wishes are the seeds of your dreams, they most certainly serve a purpose! Anything that brings us closer to achieving our dreams has to be useful.

Diggy - I love writing and my brain's just a mess of ideas so it's not hard for me to get it all out in a post. If only I had more time or my fingers typed even faster than they do! I agree that it's great to wish but it's more important to take action.

Megan - That's a great way to think about wishing - as setting an intention. Thank you for sharing your lovely wish in your comment! :)

The comments to this entry are closed.