Genius Catalyst: Desire vs. Mood

By Michael Neill

"Do I want to?" is not the same as "Do I feel like it?". "The only tyrant I will follow is the still, small voice withn."
– Mahatma Gandhi

In "You Can Have What You Want," I identified three keys to recognizing that you are living an inspired life:

1. You are doing what you love         and want to do.

2. You feel guided.

3. Things seem to unfold as if by design.

I then suggest that in order to get to this point, there are really only two things you need to do-consistently ask yourself "What would I love to do today?" and whenever possible, do it.

While this simple (but by no means easy) formula has led my clients, students and me into ever higher realms of both inner and outer success, I have also noticed that those people who resist following their own joyful guidance as a way of being in the world have many variations of one basic concern: "If I just did what I wanted all day long, I'd never get anything 'important' done."

At first, I wrestled with this one. Although I knew from experience that it isn't true in practice, I could see that intheory, it seems as though it should be true. After all, not many people wake up in the morning thinking "You know what I'd love to do today? I'd love to do the laundry and feed the kids before taking the car into the garage on my way to a job I'm only doing because it pays the bills! Whooo-hooo!!!!"

What often resolves this apparent conflict is when I explain the difference between navigating by desire and navigating by mood.

Navigating by desire means you base your decisions about what to do or not do on the question "Do I want to?" If the answer is 'yes," you do your best to move forward; if the answer is 'no', you do your best to stand pat.

Navigating by mood, on the other hand, is when you attempt to base your decisions on the answer to the question "Do I feel like it?" If you don't feel like doing something, you put it off until later; if you do feel like it, you move forward.

While at first these two ways of making decisions seem similar, they take people in two completely different directions. Since our moods are often tied up in old habits and patterns of thinking, following them tends to just create more of the "same old, same old" in our lives. Somehow, we just don't get around to making those changes we know we'd love to make, and things that seem like they'll take too much effort are put off until the last minute or don't get done at all.

Your wanting, however, is a living, breathing, fluid process.

Each time you do what you want (or don't do what you don't want to do), your actions seem effortless and inspired ideas become almost commonplace. Over time, it becomes easier and easier to read and follow your inner compass. Life gets a lot simpler, and the pursuit of success becomes a lot more fun.


This week, before deciding on any course of action, ask yourself "do I want to?" Wherever possible, allow your answer to influence your decision and guide your choices.

Do this irrespective of whether or not you're "in the mood"-if you do, you'll notice that your mood begins to change "all by itself."

Have fun, learn heaps, and thanks for playing!

Michael Neill is a life coach and author. Hear him Thursdays at 11am on HayHouse Radio or visit his website, (c) 2007.

This article was originally published on December 3, 2007.