Happy New Year.
A few weeks ago, I watched as my friend’s young daughter, surrounded by a gaggle of her little friends, successfully blew out all the candles on her pink-iced Princess Elsa birthday cake. Along with her proud mother, I smiled as little Freya squeezed her eyes shut, clenched her little fists, and made a wish before blowing out the six candles on the cake. Watching the quiet determination on her face, I was struck by the confidence with which she knew that, having whispered exactly what she wished for beforehand, once those candle lights went out, she would get it.
If you’re reading this, the chances are high that you are not six years old and, unlike Freya, you are possibly looking ahead to the coming year with little confidence that anything much will change in your life. And yet, I’m struck by the fact that whether we realise it or not, we so often act exactly like my little friend. We close our eyes and whisper our wishes and dreams to ourselves – and occasionally to others – in the blithe hope that they will come true without any undue effort on our parts. Sometimes, too, we use ‘I wish…’ as a wistful and envious acknowledgement of what we’d like but what we also secretly think is impossible and can never really happen. ‘I wish I could be more confident about speaking in public…’, ‘I wish I could do a job like that…’, I wish I could fit into that dress…’, ‘I wish….’; well, you fill in the gap.
I’m the first to admit that I can sometimes waste many minutes planning exactly how I will spend my lottery windfall when I can’t remember the last time I actually bought a lottery ticket. The idea that what we desire will happen without us having to do anything about it has everything to do with faith and very little to do with reason.
Wishing… and hoping
And yet, even faith tells us that just sitting on our behinds is not the way it works. ‘What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him?’ In the Bible, James points out that you don’t get to heaven by just wishing – or praying – for it; to be in with a chance, you have to accompany your faith with the hard work of helping others and following Christ’s edicts.
“If wishes were horses, beggars would ride” is an old English proverb originating in the 16th century that illustrates how wishing alone will not suffice, but that we can achieve results only through action.
If the ancients were clear about this, why do we still continue to stick our heads in the proverbial sand and wait for something or someone else that will make our wish come true?
January is always a good month to try something different, so here’s a challenge. As we start this New Year, instead of that dreaded ‘R’ word (okay, it’s ‘resolution’ for those of you who can’t keep up) let’s instead start the year with a wish. What do you wish for that would make your life better? Do you actually know what it is or do you just have some vague notion that you could be happier?
My suggestion is that you start by naming what you want; articulate it loud and clear and make sure it’s specific enough. Why? Because you probably have everything inside you and around you to make your wish come true, if you are sure of what it is. It might be that you wish you were healthier, or it might be that you wish you earned more money. It might be that you wish you could spend more time with your friends or family, or that you wish to have more love and less strife in your life.
And then there’s the next – and most important – bit. Taking action. Unlike Freya, we are old enough to know that wishing alone won’t change anything. So what do you actually have to do? Once you really think about it, taking action could be a lot simpler than you think. Once you stop wishing in a vague and rather unstructured way that your life could be better, you might find that a few changes – not always painless, let’s be honest – can move you closer to fulfilling your wish. Plot the steps that you need to take to get to your end goal and just….start. No drama, no fanfare, no major announcements; just start.
No-one’s promising you that it will be easy; indeed, the effort and sacrifice required to achieve it may tell you that perhaps you didn’t want that wish quite as much as you thought. But if you do, then why not start now?
By naming our wish and planning our strategy, we can all be a little bit like young Freya, but with our eyes wide open instead of squeezed shut. By taking active and conscious steps to blow out the candles of self-doubt, fear and frustration that stand between us and a better life, we too can walk confidently towards our chosen goal, knowing that we did everything it took to make our wish come true.
IMAGE CREDITS: http://www.jeremiahbuabeng.com/