mwotw willingness vs wantingness

Willingness vs. Wantingness

“Who wants to go first?” someone asked.

Seven people sat in awkward silence, waiting for someone else to volunteer.




“Who’s willing to go first?” I amended.

Within 10 seconds, someone piped up. 


Willingness and wantingness have a funny relationship.

Sometimes, willingness is vast, and wantingness is more contained.

For example, there are lots of things I’m WILLING to do if someone needs or wants me to, that I wouldn’t say I have a WANTINGNESS for. 

Do I want to bring my mom her glass of water from the other room?

Not especially. 

But I’m willing to.

Do I WANT to leave the concert because my friend is getting tired?

No, but I’m willing to.

Do I WANT to take my turn doing the dishes?

No, but I’m willing to.

In circumstances where THE THING springs from an external desire, my willingness rides on a momentum other than my own wanting.

Then sometimes it’s just the reverse.

I WANT to lose 10 pounds, but am I WILLING to?

The evidence around me says I’m not.

I’m not willing to stop eating sweets.

I’m not willing to make more time to exercise.

I’m not willing to count calories.

Right now, survey says, this thing has WANTINGNESS but not WILLINGNESS.

Other examples:

I want to double my income… but I’m not willing to figure out how or to work more hours.

I want to get enough sleep every night… but sometimes I’m not willing to go to bed earlier or skip reading the novel I’m into.


It seems to me like willingness is the more powerful of these two friends.

Yet if you pay attention to your language, I suspect you ask a lot of questions about wanting, and very few about willing.

What if you flipped it around?

Next time you’d like someone to do something for you, don’t ask them if they want to.

Ask them if they’re willing to.

Try it. See what happens.

If you’re willing, of course…

Desirously yours,


PS –  Would you be willing to forward this email to someone you think might enjoy being on this email list? If you received this email as a forward, would you be willing to sign up and find out if you enjoy getting these magic words every week?

This post was originally sent as an email to the Magic Words of the Week newsletter list. Every week, I share reflections on a word, quote, or phrase I think will help you thrive in your life’s work.

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