Five Wishes

Five Wishes: How Answering One Simple Question Can Make Your Dreams Come True
By Gay Hendricks
Novato, CA: New World Library, 2007
Review by Carl McColman

Sigh. I think I must suffer from new age overload. Books that promise to “make your dreams come true” but then prattle on about letting go of “limiting beliefs” and using present-tense affirmations are hardly news. So why am I reviewing this slender little volume? Basically, because despite its use of new age language and concepts, it is based on a pretty solid principle: to live the life of your dreams, you gotta figure out what isn’t working in your life, and then turn all that inside out and create goals out of your dissatisfactions.

It’s simple, so simple that it verges on the brilliant. Imagine yourself lying on your deathbed, whether that final event will come next month or not for another 60 years. Ask your future/dying self, “Was my life a complete success?” If you’re like me and Gay Hendricks and I suspect 99% of us, you’ll say no, not a complete success. So then you list five reasons why your future self might be less than satisfied with the whole of your life. Once those disappointments have been articulated, then your job is to turn them inside out: making them into present-day wishes, to help guide you as you live out your remaining days.

Okay, so this is goal-setting 101. But I like the book because, even though I’ve done goal-setting since I was in my 20s, I’ve never thought of it in terms of creating ideal circumstances that would basically help me to die peacefully. That’s a powerful axis around which to build your objectives. It’s too easy to create goals that are driven by the desire to please mom and dad, or to look good in front of our friends, or to satisfy our appetite for more money, fame, real estate, whatever. Hendricks’ little deathbed parable cuts through all of that and basically says, “When you are dying, what will really matter to you then? Those are the concerns you need to be addressing as you set your life goals.”

Hendricks describes his own five goals and offers an inspirational tale of how setting those goals set into motion the efforts to achieve them. One of his goals was explicitly spiritual in nature, which of course scores points with me. He and I don’t see entirely eye-t0-eye when it comes to theology — his is a spirituality organized around “feeling God” — but since goal attainment in our society can so easily devolve into a Santa Claus gimme list, I’m glad he was clear that the best goals have a spiritual heart to them.

Back to nitpicking about the title: setting goals will not make your dreams come true. Persevering in your resolve to organize your life choices and commitments around achieving the goals is more along the lines of what it will take. Hendricks does pay a bit of attention to the necessity of taking “action steps” to bring your wishes to fruition. My point is simply that reading this book and following its exercises will help you get started on your road to creating dreams-come-true. Other books, like Barbara Sher’s Wishcraft, provide better guidance for backing up the dreaming with the necessary sweat equity to get the job done. Even so, Five Wishes is a gentle and inspirational book. If you’re trying to find your life’s north star, this could be a helpful tool along the way.

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