Home All What Do You Wish For?

Through speaking and writing, Sean Doyle, JD, MAPP '07, explores the poetry and science of well-being. Whether it's the work place, parenting, community, home, or hardship, Sean invites us to inject more hope, affection, and meaning into the world. Check out his chapbook, On Being Human. Another book is underway. Watch its progress and let publishers know you're interested via the book page on his website. Full bio. Sean's articles are here.

What is Your Wish?

With the New Year upon us, I am going to break with the standard protocol of this site and ask you a question. If you had one wish for the world, your family or yourself, what would it be?

Go ahead and pause for a moment and think how you would answer.


Stop for a minute and ask yourself – If you had one wish for the world, your family or yourself, what would it be?

Now, write it down.

Ally Give to the PoorWishes touch on so many aspects of positive psychology. They play a role in appreciative inquiry, hope, resilience, savoring, purpose and goal setting just to name a few. That is because wishes tell us something about what it means to be human. They frame for us our vision of what is important – both those things that are “big I” Important that give us meaning and purpose, as well as the little pleasures and comforts that ease and aide us in our enjoyment of life. Wishes help us define a vision of what is possible and show us what life could be.

While they are not the same thing as hope, our wishes have a hand in the motivation, passion and clear goals that make our hopes possible. When times are hard, sometimes wishes offer the comfort we need.

Of course, we are not always good at guessing what we want, or what will make us happy. As a result, sometimes we wish for the “wrong” things. But this too says something about who we are, and what it means to be human as we go about stammering and stumbling through life. Ultimately our wishes connect us to one another. No matter where you are from, or where you are going, when we hear the wishes of others, so often we realize that we are not alone in our dreams.

When documentary artist Liisa Ogburn asked 63 first graders this question, they told us they wanted people to brave all the time. They wish people were nice and always shared. The first graders tell us that they do not want people to lie or use bad words, and that they wish we would love one another. They want everyone to have a home and to be healthy. In the video, my daughter Ally, wishes that we would all give to the poor people. You can watch what they have to say here.

University of Virginia psychologist Jonathan Haidt writes about the elevation and awe we feel from observing others in acts of moral beauty. We are educated, sophisticated people. We study psychological journals, know what is meant by Fredrickson and Losada when they talk about “chaotic attractors”, and we even read PPND! Yet when I hear that the wish of a six year old child is that we all do our best, or that people would never give up, I feel inspired and elevated.

My wish is that each of us look for and notice the goodness and beauty that is all around us in every moment, and that we vigorously celebrate that treasure with one another.

So . . . what do you wish for the world, your family or yourself?

Jeff Sherrer of Sherrer & Sherrer Attorneys has generously donated the cost of professionally printing a first edition of this poster. Please contact Liisa Ogburn if you would like to get a copy by donating to the school’s PTA cultural arts program.

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Don 30 December 2008 - 1:10 pm

For just one day, I wish the world could be at peace and harmony. No war, no killing, and no hunger. I wish we all can do more for the children.

For my family, I wish they will always be happy regardless of circumstances and that they always be thoughtful of others.

For myself, as always, I wish for better health and that I will be around to enjoy the seeds I planted today.

Christine Hill 30 December 2008 - 1:12 pm

I would wish that, as individuals, people could learn how to lose their fears and insecurities. On a personal level, I’ve never seen a more destructive force or dynamic.

Donna Carter 30 December 2008 - 1:28 pm

This year has been both rewarding and tragic for me as I lost my Mother while we were on a long, overdue family vacation in The Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The reward is that I was able to spend her last 24 hours with her. And the tragedy is that I watched as she took her last breath on this earth.

The reason I’m sharing this is because my past wishes have now been softened with simple and innocent wishes to celebrate our lives today and stop wishing for trivial things that merely offer limited satisfaction.

I wish everyone would follow the motto in life to ‘Pay It Foward’. There are so many ways we can contribute to our society by simply being nicer and happier indivuals. Find a way to bring a smile to someone, or food to a hungry person, or help slow someone down that’s traveling through life too fast and not enjoying it.

Senia 30 December 2008 - 2:02 pm

I wish people would be less on their computers and more going for walks and hikes together. I would love that a lot.

Louis Alloro 30 December 2008 - 6:15 pm

I wish more people would realize that we’re all in this boat together . . .

waynej 30 December 2008 - 7:12 pm

I wish people would stop wishing and start doing and being

Rachael Wooten 30 December 2008 - 10:19 pm

I wish everyone in the world could have a felt experience of the unbounded love in the universe that flows constantly through people, animals, and all aspects of the natural world. And from knowing they’re loved, would feel they belong to all that is.

Audrey Forshey 31 December 2008 - 10:20 am

I wish that the “average” person in our country would realize that their life is “above average” as compared to others in this world. When they understand how blessed they really are, they could stop whining and start helping those who really need help.

Jenny 31 December 2008 - 5:02 pm

I wish that we can all reach that place in our soul where understanding and compassion live. May our journey into 2009, another year of amazing life lead us to see goodness, beauty and peace.

Jeff 31 December 2008 - 7:09 pm

I wish that motivation’s applied science was more developed. Coaches especially would benefit from this knowledge. Seligman put 150 or so interventions through double-blind outcome studies, why not motivational interventions?

That and I wish for more wishes.

Kathryn Britton 31 December 2008 - 7:40 pm


You are well educated in your fairy tales!

Happy New Year — may it be full of new motivation.


Jeff 31 December 2008 - 9:23 pm

Happy New Year to you, Kathryn. Its been a great year, hasn’t it?

Kathryn Britton 1 January 2009 - 12:43 pm

Yes indeed, for PPND, 2008 was a great year with interesting discussions, new readers joining faithful ones like you, new authors joining the original set, guest authors, book reviews, image maps, and various experiments with ways to make the site more useful and appealing. We owe a lot to readers like you who pitch in, ask questions, challenge over-generalizations, praise, and tell stories. Thank you! Kathryn

maria 1 January 2009 - 1:42 pm

My wish is our eyes and hearts will be open to the opportunity to share our blessings with others.

Jeff 1 January 2009 - 1:42 pm

Yes! There have been sweeping changes to the number and diversity of opinions on the site. Not to say that there weren’t a good assortment to begin with, but it is nice to see all kinds of ideas mixing.

I’ve heard that PP is just Granny’s kitchen table advice. I don’t think that’s true. Even if there were no new PP ideas under the sun, the authors here can put together the old ones in exciting ways; maybe more effective for some individuals?

Whenever I see innovation I see a problem being solved. If the old stuff works, why innovate? Take mindfulness which has been talked about extensively here. It works. Why make flourishing harder than it needs be. With the rich resources you all have put together, the reader can pull out whatever pigments she needs to paint a tailored vision of *flourishing-in-context*. Thank you.

Ellen 2 January 2009 - 9:24 am

Forgiveness…I wish in the new year that forgiveness would be in my heart and those of my family. That the understanding of blame, only holds us farther apart. I believe that if a person can come to forgiveness than empowerment can be a place of heeling. May all those on earth be the recipiant of forgiveness…

Iris Marie Bloom 2 January 2009 - 1:55 pm

For me, 2008 was a quiet contemplative time after my mother’s death last December 27. One of my great joys all year (enacting Senia’s wish!) was walking in nature, with others, with my dog, and alone. I am in love with so many trees, bodies of water, creatures, and birds — from the tiniest warbler to the great blue heron — while enjoying renewed and new friendships. In 2009 I move toward a deeper commitment to protecting nature in this time of global crisis, while cultivating tenderness towards all life forms. I wish the same for all of us: on the personal front, that we keep it tender and keep it simple. On the intellectual and social action front, I hope we may cross-pollinate Positive Psychology with Ecopsychology, and back it up with compassion in action.

Abby 2 January 2009 - 5:13 pm

I don’t have one wish but i do have multiple wishes which are that every person has a home and my other wish is that everyone has a great new year

Peyton 2 January 2009 - 5:48 pm

Mine is a more selfish wish…I wish health and safety for my family. It would be nice if everyone’s family enjoyed good health and safety too.

Laurie 3 January 2009 - 2:08 pm

My wish is that children like Ally 🙂 share their wishes with one another and work to make them reality!

John Yeager 5 January 2009 - 3:59 pm

Hi Sean: Your post motivated me to look at the notion of “wishing” and its relationship to willing. My next PPND post will discuss this.

Thanks for stimulating the thought process!


Chris Hofelt 6 January 2009 - 9:09 pm

My wish is that we could all recognize the divine spark, in others and in ourselves.

In addition, I would not mind a red rider BB gun with a thing in the stock that tells time.

Oh, and I would also wish for more wishes. 😉

Kenn Barron 7 January 2009 - 12:54 pm

Yes our children have a way of “reminding” us what the best wishes are.

My daughter has a painting hanging in her room with the following words etched across the top… “Everything grows better with love in the air”.

Around the age of 4 or 5, she simplified that saying by just calling it L.I.T.A. (aka, love in the air).

And I would wish that we all spread a little more LITA each day.

Bethany 7 January 2009 - 7:41 pm

I wish that there was peace on Earth.
I wish countries would stop fighting wars with each other.
I wish the world would come together as a big circle of friendship, and begin to share the things in this world in harmony and peace.

Barry Elias 15 February 2009 - 9:19 am

December 30, 2008

Dear Mr. Doyle:

Thank you for “A Powerful Wish” in the December 30, 2008 posting with Positive Psychology News Daily.

The poster involving Ms. Liisa Ogburn in quite moving.

Barry Elias

Christie 28 November 2010 - 9:36 pm

Hey Professor Sean,

This was very interesting. I was wondering how you thought about making an article about what someone wishes for? Also I really thought the sentences “Ultimately our wishes connect us to one another. No matter where you are from, or where you are going, when we hear the wishes of others, so often we realize that we are not alone in our dreams” were pretty intersting to think about. Thanks for sharing this.

Christie Collins

zack 18 May 2011 - 3:40 pm

I wish we lived in a world where everything was provided to us without having to submit to labor, where money was no more, and no hierarchy existed. I think living in such an enrichening environment will see great reductions if not completely eradicate poverty, crime, obesity, mental disorders, abhorrent behavior and an increase in intellect, innovation, compassion, quality of life, as well as a longer life expectancy. Watch zeitgeist moving forward or zeitgeist addendum to get a better idea of how money is what is causing most of the problems in the world today.


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