The Cycle of Love to Action

with thanks to Miss Amy Red for pointing me to the article that inspired this post

It’s a very simple formula:

Desire –> Wish –> Will

courtesy EcoVirtual via Flickr CC
but it’s got some tricky bits. It’s also, to keep on with our theme of the Quantified Self this week, rather difficult to measure accurately. Here’s a few of the reasons why:


The act of love begins with desire. This is often unexpected and can last for years as simply a vague feeling deep inside. “Deep” because desires have no rules, are often conflicting with each other or the desires of those around us. We may see others who are shamed for desires, variations of “What kind of person would want that?” swirling around us from pre-verbal stages. We are taught, in good old fashioned Judeo-Christian work ethic cultures, that our desires are at best subservient to our duty and only worthy of attention after the our assigned tasks are completed.

Desires are also frightening.They can change, and often that makes us scared that we, ourselves, are changing. This is why meditation and Quantified Self tools can be terrifying – the self that we know, whether through direct unfiltered experience or through crunching the data, may not be the self we expect. It may not be the self that others know, either.

Eek! But desires are also pretty hard to suppress for any length of time, and before you know it, they’ve morphed into something more concrete:


A wish is desire made word, a change verbalized and expressed. Some might think them harmless, because they are ephemeral, they are not real. Wish for a million dollars, wish and blow out a candle, it is no more real than the smoke wafting up in the dark.

That is missing the point, though, because the wish is an incarnation of the most powerful force in the ‘verse: an idea. An idea given form by words can bring down kingdoms, demolish empires and distract a two-year old from a skinned knee. Even impossible wishes often turn out not to be so impossible after all, and we personal-development types are put to sleep with lullabyes of people whose wishes trumped reality.

Unfortunately the desires expressed by wishes can still carry with them the stigma of shame, made even moreso by your temerity in giving those shameful desires voice. You desire sexual fulfillment, and now you’ve actually wished to have sex with someone? Filthy-minded deviant! If you’re lucky, this kind of shame only comes from external sources; you can build the walls of faith and integrity and self-esteem and let your wishes withstand their assault.

Woe betide if your shame comes from somewhere inside yourself. Just as desires may conflict, so do wishes. There is no crueler judge than the one inside of you, and they may put down the wishes and declare them unworthy, imprisoning them behind bars of shouldn’t and proper and right

Wishes, though, are funny in that they only go away when they get resolved – either by coming true, or by being supplanted by an even greater wish. If all you do is push it aside, it will become your own private Solzenitsyn, spawning quiet little fictions and fantasies that will haunt your sleep and distract your awake.

The only way to free them is through an act of


This is when the words of your wish are turned into action. In the best case it is through an intended execution of steps, a plan of attack which will mitigate and fulfill the desire, vague though it was, and allow the wish to Pinocchioize into a Real Joy.

Of course, if you’ve been repressing the wish the desire will simply build up inside. It takes a lot of energy to ignore that pressure, to quiet the wishes and distract yourself from the wants slowly evolving into needs. Some have managed it their entire lives, maintaining a delicately balanced control until finally the the wish simply sputters into a little glowing pile of regret. For others, though, the pressure builds to the point of no return, exploding into unintended action and unexpected consequences.

Wars have been fought over less, and our greatest literature is filled with tales of I couldn’t help myself and He had it comin’ and There was no other way. It forms a mythos around the acts of passion so that we can vicariously  experience the exquisite release of wish come true.

It’s a simple formula of emotional energy – emodynamics, if you like – that your will is strongest when it is in alignment with your wishes and desires. For those lucky souls there is nothing that can stop them from achieving their dreams. It takes an exhausting amount of energy when the will opposes desire. Even those who are very good at it discover just how futile that fight can be.

Eventually, something’s gotta give. The good news is that the pleasure of that  moment of planned or unplanned action is exquisite. When desire moves through wish and will and manifests, there is only one word for that feeling: joy.

A simple formula, really. Why do we make it so damn hard?




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