How to wish properly as an adult human


Let’s talk about … wishing.

I’ve been meaning to write about wishing for a few weeks now, but things keep coming up. Work. Emotions. Distracting new series on Netflix. And, quite possibly, the discomfort I feel in my relationship to wishing.

There is a lot of stuff around at the moment about manifestation; that mystic-universe-give-me-what-I-want type fiddle. And I am not signed up.

Like many people, my folks taught me that things will not just happen because you want them to. You have to go out and make them happen! You gotta get off your butt and kick down that door and stride in and work really hard and then you might get a little bit of what you want.

Wishing? Manifestation? Pshaw and possibly even pfft to that.


There are a lot of things wrong with that way of seeing the world.

There’s a lot of right to it, of course: it means you get things done, get organised and do end up scoring some fantastic shit for your life. It’s what Nietzsche called the will to power, which he suggested all lifeforms have, inherently. Bravo!

The wrong bits are that we believe we must, or are even predisposed to, push and force and hunt down what we want, rather than sitting back and absorbing and letting some of that stuff come to us.

This is where wishing comes in.

Wishing did not make sense to me as a kid. Why wish, and ask some random star/birthday cake/eyelash to grant what you want, when you could just get out there and get it yourself? That star isn’t going to get me good exam results. That cake isn’t going to make sure I go on holiday this year.

“The output I want isn’t going to be achieved by the input from some icing crumbs or far-off ball of gas,” I thought (in more eight-year-old words).

The child me felt like she could control the output through only her input, so wishing didn’t make sense.

The older me realises I can only control the input. There is no controlling the output.

There is no controlling the output of whether we get what we want or not because there are too many variables we can’t manage. Life is like the most hokey chemistry experiment where the only stable factor, for now, is that you are the one wearing the safety spectacles. Everything else is completely out of your control.

You can try and do everything to get what you want. But even when you push harder, even when you exert that will to power more fiercely, you’re still only one variable. You can completely control the input, and often it’s essential you do – but you cannot control the environment.

And it’s absolutely exhausting doing that all the time. Trying to control everything makes you sick.You are trying to put everything in this experiment called life in the right place and time and frequency and you’ve only got two hands. Something has to give.

Here’s what my therapist said about the whole effort exertion thing:

“When you stop pushing, you find your hands are free.”

Imagine rolling a boulder along a straight road. You’re pushing it, hard, and it’s a tremendous effort. Suddenly, you decide to take your hands off. And look, it’s rolling all by itself!

That is what life is. It’s a boulder rolling down a road and whether you push it or not it’s going to carry on going. By letting go of the effort, you now have your hands free.

What will you do with them? Maybe tweak the boulder’s path a little. Maybe read some more. Maybe look back at where the boulder came from and have a think about that. Maybe rest them on the boulder and just feel it moving.

So this is what wishing does. It teaches us we are one variable in a science experiment. Teaches us we don’t have to push the boulder all the time. Teaches us to let it the fuck go. Because you might actually get what you want, or at least, what you really needed, when you do that.

A wish is about giving up control of the output. A wish is pure input. 

That means wishes aren’t lazy, like the child me thought. They are the most pointed and deep-soul-felt input. They are input without the huffing and puffing of pushing the boulder. Wishing sets your hands free to do … anything else. Everything else. But without forgetting that initial, bright-white input.

I’m currently reading Alan Watts’ Nature, Man and Woman and wanted to finish with this quotation which revealed itself to me in the midst of thinking about wishing.

“… the heart is beating, the breath is moving, and all the senses are perceiving. A whole world of experience is coming to the organism [the human] of itself, without the slightest forcing … It is true that [this experience] may not be what was expected, but the expected is always liable to be forced rather than spontaneous. … In this open and ungrasping mode of awareness the beloved, the other, is not possessed but is rather received into oneself with all the richness and splendor of the unpremeditated surprise.”

I wish for you to stop pushing.
I wish for your hands to be free to do more.
I wish for you to receive love and wonder.
I wish, for you, the unpremeditated surprise of life.


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