How Are Willing and Willful Similar and Different?

Recognizing the difference between willing and willful is important to conscious reality creation

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Recognizing the difference between willing and willful is important.

Each of these ideas has its own time and place. But when they are misused, they can be detrimental to anything you might be attempting to create.

What are willing and willful, and how do they differ? gives us this:

Willing (adjective)

  • disposed or consenting; inclined
  • cheerfully consenting or ready
  • done, given, borne, used, etc., with cheerful readiness

Willful (adjective)

  • deliberate, voluntary, or intentional
  • unreasonably stubborn or headstrong; self-willed

Willingness is the presentation of inclination and consent; willfulness is the presentation of an intentional act, but also can be stubborn and headstrong.

Willfulness can be good in the face of difficult odds, but it can also be too much, and as such, unhealthy.

While willingness is a consenting readiness, it can also, unchecked, leave you being a doormat under someone else’s boots.

This is where mindfulness comes in to play. When you choose to be aware of whether you are being willful or willing, you can better accomplish pretty much anything you set out to do.

Consciousness creates reality. It does not do so from a vacuum, there is no magic formula, and it is seldom instantaneous, let alone a quick process. But anything that we desire to have in our lives takes thought, feeling, and intentional action. In order to get from what you have to what you desire to have, you need to be willing to make choices. You may have to be willful when you encounter obstacles and twists in the path you choose to take to get you there.

Willing and willful can work separately or together

Willing is akin to desiring, but with somewhat less focus. While I believe that the word want implies lack, and desire implies abundance, willing tends to fall between these. Willing, under a positive intent, can both open doors, and prepare us for a potentially long and uncertain journey.

Willful can be both want and desire. When it is focused as intentional, it is the personification of abundance and desire. But, when it crosses into being unreasonable, it tends to turn to lack, scarcity and want.

How do you know when willful goes too far?

Tenacity in achieving a desired goal is a necessity to conscious reality creation, and to getting where you aim to go. But when it is obvious that the goal is not all that useful, and may do more harm than good, you’ve likely reached that point where willful is a negative.

Sorry, but I am going to get political here. Trump is willfully insisting on building his wall, despite Congress not allotting him the funds, and numerous people pointing out that it will do nothing in the face of solving any of the actual problems in the immigration system. He is so stubborn and headstrong about this wall of his that he has declared a non-emergency national emergency to try to bypass the system.

This is a perfect example of willfulness not serving anyone.

It is good in many instances to stand up for yourself willfully, and not accept obstacles or issues in the process of your journey as defeat. But it is also important to know when you are fighting a lost cause, and hurting yourself and possibly others because of it.

How do you know when willing goes too far?

Let’s use the same political example above. Despite recognizing how damaging and unnecessary Trump’s wall will be, many members of Congress will willingly go along with the President’s whim. They are being doormats for his increasingly unhinged policies, and do not seem to care if what they do will harm or help anybody but themselves.

On a more personal level, you have to be wary of yourself becoming a doormat. Often when we are willing to see how much work and effort will be needed to get from where we are now to where we desire to be, we may allow ourselves to make sacrifices in the name of being willing to do whatever it takes.

I know society believes in a certain nobility in sacrifice. But sacrifice submits to lack and scarcity, not abundance. Sacrifice means you do not believe there is enough, so you go without. Sacrifice is not the same as compromise, though often these get mixed up.

When you are willing to sacrifice for the goal, for another, for an ideal, it is important to be aware of if it is REALLY a sacrifice, or if it is a compromise.

How will you know? By how it makes you feel. Sacrifice tends to feel bad and cause resentment, whereas compromise feels good a can cause understanding.

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Willing and willful are on the same side of the coin

Willing and willful are two aspects of the same tenet. The opposite side of the coin is averse and unmindful. Inclination and intent vs disinclination and unplanned.

In other words, this is the difference between making a choice to live life, versus letting life live you. You decide who and what you desire to be, instead of going along with whatever happens along the way, and making choices to achieve a life you most aspire to live.

When we are aware and mindful of our thoughts, our feelings, and our intentional actions that come from these, we can choose the best options to let us experience life to its fullest. No quick-fix, no easy way, but practicing intent when being willing and/or willful can take us just about anywhere we aim to go.

Are you cheerfully consenting when willing and intentional when willful in living the fullest possible life you can?

Originally published at on March 13, 2019.

Written by

I am a practitioner of mindfulness, positivity, philosophy, & conscious reality creation. I love to inspire, open minds, & entertain.

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