Wanting vs Willing: Why Most Behavior Change Fails
“What we’re not changing, we are choosing.”
“What is to give light must endure burning.”
Suppose you want something. Or you think you do, until you find out what it takes to make it real. Or you kinda try to get it, and it’s harder than you thought. Then…maybe not so much.
This is where most of us get stuck in the cycle of creating real change. It’s why gyms are packed each January, and thin out by April. How many of your New Years resolutions lead to real, lasting change?
The ability to create real change relies (in part) on knowing the difference between wanting change, and being willing to do what it takes to make that change.
When it comes to desire for change, our ambition (eyes on the prize) can be bigger than our stomach (true willingness to make it happen).
Wanting is a powerful ally, but only as a motivation to get us going. To take us the distance, we need to be willing.
Wanting: The sense we lack something.
Some energies and behaviors associated with wanting:
Defined by deficiency, desire, “hot”, grasping, motivating, fast moving, can blur decision making, urgent, seeking relief from some lack, scarcity-based, usually in relation to external circumstances happening “to me”. Needing something to be different or to happen to us, focused on a result we don’t have, griping or complaining, favors ideas over actions, short on details and follow through, talking the talk.
Willing: The commitment to getting it.
Some energies and behaviors associated with willing:
Defined by volition, commitment, “cooler”, grounded, made from clear choice, consenting, surrender to the challenge, not resisting the difficulty. Patient, consistent, disciplined, trusting, focused on ‘the next right step’, making sacrifice and real action. Coming from within us, intrinsic volition, sticking to it, following through, walking the walk.
Do you recognize any of these patterns in your own habits and desires?
To find out if you’re ready for a change or not, it boils down to this question:
Do you WANT something bad enough to be WILLING to make it happen?
The truth is, with the hard stuff that matters, 80%* of the time we are wanting, but not willing. (*Based on my experience, not real social science statistics. I see this a lot.)
When want meets will, it completes a circuit, and energy flows. We begin to take more consistent, decisive action. Where does your want meet your will?
We feel it when we can’t be with our wanting any longer, and we’re galvanized to action. We might not feel ready, (we rarely do!), but we know we can’t stay stuck.
Want to apply this, right now?
Think of all the changes you’d like to make in your life. Make a list with two columns: things you’re truly willing to do, and those you want, but might not honestly be willing or ready to begin.
Be uncomfortably, brutally honest. Don’t judge yourself, either. There is not room for shame when we’re sincere about change. There is nowhere to begin but where we are.
Now that you have an honest list, you can asses more clearly what you really need to begin the hard work of change. What’s the most important thing still in the ‘wanting’ column? How can you shift to be willing?
If you pause to reflect on what it means to shift any item from the wanting to willing list, you’re that much closer to truly creating change. You won’t set yourself up for disappointment by mistaking what you want for what you’re willing to do.
Get real, get grounded, and get willing.
With commitment, desire becomes devotion.