The Danger of Wishful Thinking: Nothing Changes If We Don’t Take Action

“You just have to determine to settle for nothing less than being fully alive, to show up, be who you are, and share your gifts.” ~Gabrielle Roth

A few years ago for the winter solstice my women’s group got together, as we do every week, and held a beautiful ritual to welcome both the darkness and the light. We released what we were ready to let go of in our lives and set our intentions for the New Year. We not only spoke our intentions, we danced them for each other. It was beautiful and powerful.

But a few days later, as I was sitting in meditation with my candle, I heard the voice of my heart tell me, “You aren’t going to make those intentions come true unless you get very specific about how they are going to come about this year. You need to set goals and outline steps and commit to bringing this about in your life. Otherwise, it’s just going to be business as usual.”

I was shown that I needed to set goals in every area of my life and be very specific about what I desire to create in that area and what it will take to get there. Then I needed to commit to the steps and have a process for tracking them and keeping my goals in my awareness.

Since then, I have been deeply engaged in a process of visioning my life, creating goals for the year, and dividing those goals into measurable, achievable steps, and then following through. I now do a whole several-day process at the start of every year around this, with check-ins at the start of each month and week. I’ve developed a whole process to keep me moving toward my heart’s desires in a balanced way.

The process has been amazing and challenging, and quite a learning experience.

Suddenly I am making things happen in my life that I have wanted for a long time and felt that I either could not make time for or had no control over.

In the process I have had to get very real about what is important to me, what I truly desire, and to what I am willing to commit myself, my energy, time, and resources. How much do I want it? And what is in the way inside of me? What has been holding me back?

One of the things I am realizing is that in the past I relied heavily on wishful thinking, waiting for a miracle to take me out of my current predicament and bring me my dreams. I would hope for a miracle while not committing myself to making the things I desire happen.

I still fall into this, because it’s hard to get crystal clear and then take action. It brings us up against our fears, our false beliefs, our laziness or insecurity or doubt. It would be nice if some giant eagle, like in The Lord of the Rings would just swoop in and save the day, and I wouldn’t have to do anything scary or hard.

But the bigger problem was I didn’t feel empowered to create the life I desire, to manifest my dreams. I felt helpless and hopeless, like the best I could do was hope and pray, and maybe these things would show up and maybe they wouldn’t. Hence I would vacillate between periods of great optimism and great despair, because I didn’t feel I had any agency in the situation.

Now I realize this is totally wrong.

The whole craze around The Secret, the Law of Attraction, and manifesting your life has gone overboard with the sense “I can have anything I want.” There is not enough regard for what is in right alignment for us and others and the planet, what is good for all beings. We also overlook what we might need that we don’t know about yet and might at first reject—how sometimes the difficult or unpleasant situations of our lives are exactly what we need for our highest good.

On the other hand, the idea that it is all out of my hands, it is all up to fate and there is nothing I can do about it, is no good either. For one thing, this belief overlooks the fact we are creative beings, powerful creators of our lives, whether for good or ill. We are here to co-create, to cooperate with the flow of Life—sometimes called the Tao—around us and within us. As the artists of our lives, we are here to be active participants in dreaming and creating our lives.

An attitude of surrendering to the flow of life can help us to remember to release the results, the outcome. After you create your vision, this is an important, in fact, crucial step, that is often missed in the whole manifesting craze. But it doesn’t mean you just sit by and do nothing, waiting for your dreams to come true.

Our heart’s desires can bring us into right relationship with the world, to the livingness in and around us. In fact, I believe a true heart’s desire is meant to do just that. Because it summons us to our greatness, to our fullest, most alive being, to our full participation here.

In the past I approached manifestation and the Law of Attraction in a disempowered way. I wrote affirmations and did visualizations, hoping for a miracle, for it to be done for me. Affirmations and visualization can help us bring clarity and joy to our desires. That is tremendous and very powerful. I still use them, sometimes with startlingly positive results.

But there is more required of us. I was forgetting my part in the equation—that I too am part of bringing my dreams to fruition, a big part.

So here are the basic steps I have discovered to co-create with life:

1. Define.

First, you get very clear about what it is that you desire to create in your life. You name it. You visualize it with all of your senses. You feel it in your being. In feeling it, you make sure you really want it, and it isn’t just something you think you should want.

You get clear and real about the details. You define. If I want to publish my writing in literary magazines, I need to have a clear idea what that means: I’d like to publish in five magazines by the end of this year, for example.

2. Commit.

I wasn’t really doing this step before. You change the wishing and wanting to a commitment. “I commit to publishing my writing in five magazines this year.”

I find in changing my desire to a commitment, feelings and resistance may arise. There may be fear or doubt in my ability. There may be a belief that nothing good ever happens for me, or that magazines are not publishing good work anymore.

These doubts, fears and beliefs point to work I need to do in myself, to clear out what is in the way inside of me that keeps my desire away from me. This is my job, to feel the feelings and beliefs that hold me back, and work on them, remove the obstacles.

3. Declare.

You state your commitment to friends. You make it known. You seek accountability and support. This is another step we love to avoid, because declaring our commitment puts us in the hot seat.

And you ask for help where you will need it to make this dream a reality. There might be others that can help you with the steps. Don’t try to do it alone. That’s another mistake I often make.

4. Visit with your dreams daily.

You re-affirm your dream and your commitment to it daily. Keep it in your consciousness. As you do, create space for silence, so you can hear where you are being led, what steps you need to take.

As you go about your day, stay open to guidance and opportunities to help you realize your dreams. If you aren’t paying attention to the opportunities, you are going to make it a whole lot more difficult to reach your desire.

The road to get there may go through some unusual routes that you had not planned or never conceived of. The road may take you to a completely different outcome, like: It turns out I’m not meant to be a writer, I’m meant to be a singer! How wonderful!  

If you are too fixated on how you think you should get there or even where you should arrive, you may be missing the beautiful openings that Life is granting you.

5. Act.

As you visit with your dreams, remember it is up to you to take steps, to act. Miracles and synchronicities often appear on the path of dreams, but first we have to show up by taking action in a repeated, committed way.

You take actions congruent with your desire. You make your life congruent with what you wish to create.

If I want to publish in five magazines, I need to write and I need to submit work on a regular basis. I need to make a schedule and have commitments to make this happen, not just vaguely decide I’ll do it “sometime.”

Otherwise, all the dreaming and wishing and hoping, all the affirmations in the world aren’t going to make this happen for me.

And I need to take the unexpected openings that arise, as long as they feel right to me, as long as I feel that “yes” inside. So when someone suddenly says to me, “I’m starting a new magazine, and I need material to publish,” I give them something I have written, because I recognize the opportunity Life is handing me.

6. Surrender.

This is a very important step many people miss. You hand it over to the flow of Life, trusting that the highest and best for you will be done in this situation, even if it looks nothing like what you asked for. You let it go.

Even though you continue to conduct your life congruent with your desire—until you receive information/feeling/sensing that it is no longer right for you—and even though you keep your dream alive in your awareness, you still release the results.

If I keep writing and sending out my work, and it does not get published anywhere this year, I trust in the process, and most of all, I remember to enjoy the process. The process is everything, or nearly everything, because the process is my life happening now.

So it’s not enough to engage in wishful thinking and magical practices. You have to go out and change your life, take action. Be the creative force in your life. Make your behavior congruent with your desire. Be accountable, be empowered, ask for help, and then release the results.

No one is going to do it for you if you don’t care enough to make it happen in your life. That was the big surprise I didn’t want to realize. But it has made a world of difference.

About Maxima Kahn

Maxima Kahn is a poet, creative life coach and teacher. She teaches heart-centered artists and dreamers how to unleash their unique gifts and create lives of passion, purpose and deep play. She blogs about creativity and artful, soulful living at BrilliantPlayground.com.You can download a copy of her e-book, The 6 Essential Ingredients of a Thriving Creative Life at https://brilliantplayground.com/6essentials/.

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