Wanting or Willing: What is the Difference?

As a flawed human being, I consider myself a work in progress no matter how old I become. Over a lifetime of gaining wisdom in human behaviors, including my own, I have found great value in gaining an understanding of the important differences between “wanting” and “willing” and I share with you, my philosophy.

“The concepts of both wanting to… and willing to… have completely different outcomes.”

What does it mean “to want”

Wanting, is a cognitive process where one is actually “wishing” they could have something or do something. For, example, I really want to lose weight; or, I really want to change jobs; or, I really want to leave this relationship, or _________________________(put yours here).

What does it mean to have the will?

Willing takes on the forward-thriving ability of, “I am going to make real changes in my life,” or “I will do what it takes to become healthy,” or “I am really driven to reach this goal.” When you are willing to do something, you have embraced your emotional and passionate powers no matter the hurdles to achieving the task.

What holds you back?

You have probably noticed, that in some parts of your life, you are very good at having the will of productivity, accomplishment, and self-care. But in other parts of your life, not so much. 

What prevents you from moving from wanting to willing? Most likely, it is avoiding your emotions. For instance, fear (avoiding the fear that holds us back rather than working within your fears); social anxiety (worried sick about what others think or how they will react); being addicted to your (unconscious) deficits thinking, letting shame and guilt run your life and drive your behaviors, and addiction to creating drama.

Nonetheless, having an honorable sense of loyalty to the ones you love, and do not want to hurt, can also prevent you from executing any type of personal will.

Signs that you or someone is not willing

Good intentions make us feel connected, but they can also put barriers up to having the fulfillment and the joy you desire. “I really want to lose weight” or “I really want to change to make you happy” remember, these are just thoughts and wishes. And these thoughts are a façade to the true emotions (what we are avoiding) that are preventing you from taking action to change or reach your goals.

Another important sign that someone is not willing to do something is when you ask them a question and they never give a complete or definitive answer.

Here are some examples: 1) Would you like to go out Friday night? Sure, if you want. 2) Are you going to stick to your diet? I’m gonna try. 3) Are you going to finish your project? Well, I’ve got a lot of stuff going on; or, that is the plan.

What are the Consequences?

There are so many consequences of not being willing. However, the consequences may not outweigh the strength of your fear, anxiety, and behavioral addictions. For instance, if you are not willing to change your unhealthy diet, the consequences will be a heart attack, a stroke, chronic aches and pains (inflammation), and a poor quality of life.

So, do the logical consequences of not taking action (for change or goals) outweigh the strength of your emotions (fear & anxiety) and addictive behaviors? Not usually, and especially not without the support of someone you trust. 

So, how do you move forward to make real change?

  1. First, admit to yourself and commit to what is holding you back (fear, anxiety) – this is not easy. You must be honest and open with yourself.
  2. Pay attention to the excuses that you are making to stay where you are at. Are they helping you?
  3. Confide in someone you trust that will not judge you and will hold a caring and loving space for you. This is called vulnerability and being vulnerable (with the right people) takes strength; vulnerability is not a weakness.
  4. Give (or ask for) definitive answers – yes, I will; or no, I will not. Not only should you require definitive answers from others, but you definitely need to say them to yourself (eg. I am willing to do what it takes including reaching out for help).
  5. Know that being willing is a process. It requires action-taking where insecurities (fear of failure and low self-worth) and emotions (fear, anxiety) can become overpowering. When this happens, start over from no. 1
  6. As always, take small steps. Sudden and grand changes can be overwhelming and trigger intolerable levels of anxiety and fears (and the feeling of being alone in your journey) When this happens, start over from no. 1

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Contact Me

For more information or the schedule a counseling appointment with the author, Catherine Cleveland, please call/text (585) 432-0313 clevelandemotionalhealth@gmail.com

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