Ben, a 39 year old married accountant with two young children, began our session in typical fashion, plopping down on my couch, head down, shoulders slumped, and sighing deeply.
“How are you, Ben?” I asked him. He looked up at the ceiling, sighed again and said, “I really wish my life was different, but nothing ever changes.”
Nothing ever changes.
What a hard place to be, and as challenging as it, it’s a place many clients initially start their work with me because they feel overwhelmed by the idea of even beginning to go after what they want.
However, what if I told you wishing things were different was making you unhappy?
Before you open up another tab looking for the answer to a fulfilling life, hear me out.
Ben was suffering, wanting his life to be different, but clearly he felt hopeless and powerless to create the changes he longed for.
I told Ben that while wishing for things he wants (more money, a body he liked, more friends) may be helpful in the sense that it keeps his wish list of desired changes on the forefront of his mind, without taking action to make them happen, his wishes can do more harm than good.
Welcome to the Wish Trap
Wishes can cause increased feelings of anxiety, depression, disempowerment, and decreased motivation for change.
This is because the very nature of a wish implies that a person does not feel capable of making something happen so he/she has to look to some external source to create the change without his/her participation. A wish without action is like faith without works – it’s dead in the water. You have to actively work to change your thoughts, feelings, behavior, and circumstances in order to turn your wishes into achievable goals.
Now, don’t get me wrong. Life can be really hard sometimes. Turning to a source outside of oneself like God or a higher power can offer the much needed inspiration, strength, and hope to continue on in the face of adversity.
Similarly, a desire for change expressed as a wish can also offer inspiration, strength, and hope. However, this can’t be where the buck stops.
If you’re not feeling fulfilled and you want things to change, by all means wish or pray for what you want.
But to avoid the wish trap (wish for it and it will come), remember that you need to be as proactive as possible in making your wishes come true.
This is the part of the blog post where I am supposed to tell you how to fix your problem and make your wishes come true.
But I’m not going to do that.
I think too many therapists try to give out recommendations before getting to know their clients and their backgrounds enough to be able to understand where they have already been, what they have already tried, and what exactly is standing in the way of them having the things they say they want.
My job is to guide you by helping you name the problem, the obstacles, and the core issues standing between you and a happier, more fulfilling life.
There have been countless studies done on what makes humans happy. This roundup is a particularly good one. But the fact still remains that without taking action towards what you want in some measurable way, you’re going to be left stuck in the Wish Trap waiting for something that won’t happen.
At least, not without you.