Willing as You Will

Wanting to want something.

It’s relatively rare to genuinely enjoy things people typically consider boring – like math, exercise, social work.

For most people this is ‘work’, or being ‘productive’. For some, it’s play.

‘Pleasure’ is usually associated with ‘unproductivity’, if not ‘guilt’ – booze but not broccoli, TV but not MS Excel.

Those who enjoy ‘productive’ things like studying, coding, investing seem to take to it naturally.

If you’re not born with it, can you bring yourself to enjoy something that’s ‘good’ for you? Enjoying something is good in itself, but this is about ‘goodness’ apart from the enjoyment.

Is it genuine? Or is it something you ‘train’ yourself to do, forcing yourself to like something because you think it’s good for you?

It’s an old question, not an easy one, going back to the free will argument.

“A man can do as he wills, but not will as he wills.”

Arthur Schopenhauer

Schopenhauer seems to imply that a man can do what he desires, but he is not free to choose what he desires.

Simply put – a man can do what he wants, but not choose what he wants.

If Schopenhauer’s right, then there’s nothing you can do to change the desires you already have.

If you do happen to try something new and like it, such as hockey, it’s because that desire was already embedded in you somewhere – you didn’t ‘choose’ to like it, nor could you choose to dislike it.

So tough luck in case you’re trying to develop a liking for something and take it up – you might be able to make it a habit, but you won’t be able to make yourself enjoy it.

If Schopenhauer’s wrong, then it is possible to ‘will’ yourself to like something.

Willing doesn’t mean telling yourself how good exercising or studying is for you and trying to convince yourself you want to do it.

You come across all sorts of tricks for this, from rewarding yourself with treats or scoring yourself with points or announcing your intentions to people to create social pressure on yourself.

That’s just a cross between disciplining and brainwashing. It might be necessary sometimes, whether it’s good or bad, but it’s not what choosing your desires, or ‘willing as you will’ is about.

Choosing your desires is about genuinely liking something for itself – no points, no rewards, nothing, although it probably begins with a separate motive in mind.

Maybe you wanted to grow up to become like a particular famous lawyer or investor, and for that reason ‘chose’ to like law or trading.

If you’ve really managed to ‘choose’ to like it, you’ll actually enjoy studying your subject without that end goal always in your mind.

There wouldn’t be any difference between a genuinely ‘chosen’ desire and a desire you didn’t choose.

In other words, if you think about the good things you like to do, you can’t tell if you ‘chose’ them or not.

It probably only applies to good things – there aren’t too many reasons someone would ‘want’ to like junk food, while there might be many reasons to want to like exercising.

Genuine Likes

If it is possible to choose your desires, is it really something you’d want to do? To program yourself like a robot with desired attributes?

Even now, you can question whether you genuinely like something you do or you’ve just ‘chosen’ to.

Although, if you are deriving pleasure from it, perhaps it doesn’t even matter, and you probably can’t differentiate between the two.

I think the truth is somewhere in the middle. You can’t choose all your desires, but you can choose some of them.

You just happen to really like or dislike some things, with little you can do about it. Others you take up, and perhaps, over time, end up liking them.

Ruining Fun

The easiest way to ruin something fun is to do it just because it’s good for you.

Calvin and Hobbes on Twitter: "https://t.co/SI0BNw4NUC" / Twitter
Calvin & Hobbes

It’s when you put the ‘goodness’ before the fun.

Tell someone running is a good way to lose weight and they need to run, and it’s harder for them to like it than if you just suggested going for a run.

That’s what happens when you try to choose a desire without actually liking it – trying to make yourself want something only because you think it’s good for you.

You’re wanting not the thing itself, but what it’ll get you – not wanting to run, but wanting to lose weight – and accepting to run because it gets you there.

To be able to choose what you want, you still have to want it for itself rather than what it gets you.


No name


Sweta Tripathi

I really like the way you keep emphasising on being your true raw self ….although many people these days use this cliche “be yourself” but you make us understand what exactly is being in your skin means…
Thanks sir , May god gives u alot of energy so that you could write alot and alot till your old age and to us readers too so that we could your work (reading too requires energy after all)…


Sometimes u don’t like the immediate action of what you do but when you are head over heels in love with the outcome. Which drives you to keep learning or doing and boom eventually u discover the interest in it!!!!.


Sir, are you happy being a civil servant?


Very insightful post sir…

I genuinely like all your posts and I’ve read both books…

Your views are such that it keeps me thinking a lot….and I literally like it….

I request sir….please if you can write a post about,”‘work in not work”….

You’ve mentioned it in one of your posts….🙏

This is going in my mind for quiet long….

Please write on it…. I’ll be very pleased….

Thank you….


Waiting for the day when you’ll run short of ideas , so that I can eliminate the desire to invest my time in reading a new article from this site.

Alas! It’s always something interesting and relatable.True that we can’t really choose our desire/natural area of interest .

They choose us and we stick to it :p


Sir, please make a post on study techniques, how you should approach a book when prepare for exam,how to revise,note making,how to understand etc.


Sir, I appreciate your blogs and articles and I too desire to become an Ias, right now, I have just given my 12th exams, could u suggest some tips for me?

No name

Is there any Codified dress code for an officer to be appeard before Court of law, As patna HC honourable judges are taking serious contempt for dress code so many of the officers are bemused, how to dress up ,
I couldn’t find any act or law so if you are aware or if you have knowlegde probably provided in somewhere which you have read so let me know please
If there is not existing Codified dress code then writ petition should be filed, how any officer should dress up, this is how an officer can’t be humiliated.
i came across an article stating an officer met PM in formal dress then got contempt notices so how it works ?
is there any session , you all are provided for such disciplinary grooming ???


Sir,please make a post on how do you approach a text, what study techniques you use


Pratyush, Can you write something about “Existentialism” in particular. Like you previously wrote titled – “What does it really mean to be a Stoic?” A similar post of “What does it really mean to be an Existentialist” would be an interesting piece to read.


Willingness is a stance that a person can take when they are presented with a difficult emotion. Most of what will happen to you depends on the choices you make and their consequences in the future and you bear consequences only when you’re willing to choose what you love!

It’s puzzling , but that’s my purview.


To be able to choose what you want, you still have to want it for itself rather than what it gets you.

How to do this? how to not merely bear what is necessary but love it?


Hi Hemant bhai, one of the probable answer can be last paragraph. Dividing want into two – wanting to do it for fun & wanting to do as it is good for me. It can be related to Nishkama Karma as well. Finally it all comes down to attitude we take towards things.

Second, Amor Fati – going beyond bearing it to love it. It is dissociating happiness from something external. Whatever happens externally, happiness or state of mind will be independent of it. To love it for me is to remain happy in myself. When I will do it, I will love the outcome as well. As I will not be upset, will not resent the outcome, happiness will spread to the thing’s.