Gather ‘round. Get cozy. Ground down and open up. Today, we’re diving into language, and the role it plays in shaping who we are.
Chassidic thought teaches us that our thoughts become words. Those words in turn become actions. If that’s the case, shouldn’t we be selective with the thoughts we think and the words we choose?
Training your brain to think positively takes practice and skill, as does choosing the words we speak. These are practices that I struggle with every day, but that is a discussion for another time. What I want to discuss today is how these practices—and other awesome, attainable goals that always seem just out of reach—require a choice.
Let’s play a game. Do you know the difference between wanting something and choosing something?
Want: A desire to possess or do (something); wish for.
Choice: To decide on a course of action.
The difference between the two seems stark, right? And yet, they’ve become interchangeable in our language, and thus, in our actions.
We’re a culture of want. We want jobs. We want friends. We want happiness, success, and freedom. We want BIG lives with BIG meaning. Desire is necessary for movement. It’s the first spark of inspiration, the initial click of a new idea. Desires are healthy. But is wishful thinking enough? Does wanting something always lead to the next step?
Wishful thinking isn’t a goal. It’s a fantastical longing, and it’s a safe choice. When you tell yourself that you want something, you’re placing that desire off into the future, somewhere in a perfect time and space when you’re ready to take action.
Do we have what it takes to choose our desires, enough to turn them into action?
Choosing something requires a proactive leap, an active role in building a life you want. Wanting is passive. It’s great, but it won’t get you very far.
Life requires hard work. Our biggest wishes and dreams, should we follow through with them, lead us on a path of effort, change, failure, and no certain outcome.
A life of a Chassid is one of proactive choice.
I often think back to the Chassidic proverbs I learned as a child, long before I had the wherewithal to recognize the sheer depth of each lesson. Out of 12 Torah passages I was taught as a child, there was always one I struggled with the most:
“If someone says: ‘I have worked hard but I have not been successful,’ don’t believe him. If someone says: ‘I have not worked hard and I have been successful,’ don’t believe him. If someone says: ‘I have worked hard and I have been successful,’ believe him!”
What does this mean for us, as choosing individuals? We’re meant to work hard. Making a choice is the difference between sitting still and getting to work. Do you want success? Do you want a BIG life with BIG meaning? Get ready to make a choice. It’s that simple, and that complicated.
Change the way you speak. Stop waiting for your desires to fall towards you from the sky. Make the choice to take action. Use your words to propel you, not hinder you. All it takes is one active choice.
The Rolling Stones said it best: “You can’t always get what you want.”
…but if you work hard, you’ll usually get what you choose.