Why We Should Stop Saying "I Wish" and Start Saying "I Will"

Not just for geeks - behavioral science matters for innovators too.

by Ajantha Suriyanarayanan, December 12, 2022
i wish vs i will

How do we take our passive ‘wish’ for things to be different in our society and covert it into a ‘will’ that makes things happen? Behavioral sciences can help.

In the past few weeks, two words have been oft recurring in the conversations I've had. “I wish”. 

“I wish I could be this”, “I wish the government would do that”, “I wish my neighbors would keep our building clean”, “I wish my company had a more friendly environment”, “I wish…”. 

I will not I wish

I’ve said it too, many many times. But it felt so passive. Like I was powerless to do something myself. I wanted to say and hear something more active, more engaging. What if, instead of “I wish”, we said “I will”?  

Stop saying I wish start saying I will

‘Wish’ yearns for someone else to cause a positive change. ‘Will’ puts you in control. You are the mercy of few others. You are the boss. You can do what you want to do and influence others positively.

Many of us have really cool ideas and are working to change status quo - as innovators, disruptors, social entrepreneurs or simply curious minds asking “why not?”.

stop saying I wish and start saying I will

The primary challenge for our type is linking our innovative or positive disruptive thoughts to action. Our enthusiasm for ‘doing’ encourages us to jump right into action. Sometimes, we don’t have the time to check whether it is the right action.

In these instances, I’ve appreciated that concepts such as "slow and intentional technology" can act as our inner Yoda, telling us to briefly pause, take a deep breath and ensure that we’re focused not on just ‘doing something’, but on doing the ‘right something’.

stop saying I wish and start saying I will

They tell us to take our time to understand the why of things before we consider the what and the how. This will enable us to determine how our philosophically strong approach can call upon the right efforts backed by the right technology to drive our efforts forward. 

How do we do that? How do we take our passive ‘wish’ for things to be different in our society and magically covert it into a ‘will’ that makes things happen? Here’s where I think the fascinating and not-at-all-geeky field of behavioural sciences can help. 

What is that, you ask? It is the social science considering social, cultural, ethnographic, economic and psychological perspectives to (a) understand why people do what they do, and (b) how one might strategise to impact people’s behaviour. 

By applying a systematic behavioural science-based approach in our efforts to address personal, organizational or societal concerns, we are enabling ourselves to be much more effective with our efforts than taking a shot in the dark. 

stop saying I wish and start saying I will

I think we can make magic happen, one idea at a time.  


About the Author: 

Ajantha Suriyanarayanan is the creator of culture&, and online ideas salon, and collaborator on a recent Berlin Peace Innovation Lab initiative with refugees.