Your will is a generator of magic.
Last time, after writing about the Magician and their symbols, I felt as if something was missing. Will is fundamental in creating the life we want; we know we cannot achieve anything without actually doing something to get closer to our goal. And yet, how many times have we taken a walk, eaten a cookie, watched a tv series, done anything else apart from the very thing we wanted to do? How many times have we thought afterwards, why am I so flaky/unfocused/disorganized/PERFECT?!?
Truth is, no one works the same way. What we usually learn about will from our parents, friends, or the Internet, is just a restricted set of ideas that don’t necessarily work for everyone.
When I started writing my first stories, one popular piece of advice was writing first thing in the morning. Your mind is fresher, you haven’t been influenced by others’ speech yet, you’ll have the house for yourself… it all sounded quite logical, and I agreed with it. But it just didn’t work. My mind may be as rested as I want, but I can’t write two coherent sentences until two hours after I woke up. I read and write both in Italian and English too, which means that, when I want to work, I have to mentally switch between the two and possibly read a few pages in that language to make that switch, before I can properly interact with the world.
Even when we look at great thinkers and artists, we find wildly different patterns. Carl Gustav Jung used to work in Zurich for a few weeks and then retire in complete solitude to his tower in Bollingen, where he would work on his theories for the same amount of time. Time journalist Walter Isaacson wrote an 864-page tome while still working for the magazine by dedicating himself to the book whenever he had some free time, even just twenty minutes. Even the wake-up times are different – Balzac woke up at 1 a.m., Bukowski almost twelve hours later!
Finally, not everyone can devote the same amount or period of time to a pursuit because of their living conditions. Being able to wake up early in the morning every day is almost impossible if you juggle two jobs to survive, or if you have an illness that leaves you with little energy.
Let’s go wand-shopping!
We all do have an inner magician with a wand, ready to channel our energy for the next creation. But, if you have ever read or watched Harry Potter like me, you know that not all wands are the same.
Each wand is made of two components – one magical substance, used as the core, and a specific kind of wood. Both parts have their own talents and weaknesses, and it is their combination that makes a wand suited to some work (and person!) instead of others. An ash wand with unicorn hair won’t ever leave its owner. Blackthorn looks for warriors, dogwood for tricksters. If you are pursuing a career in the Dark Arts, don’t ask applewood for collaboration, unless there is a dragon heartstring inside. (And even then, you shouldn’t count on that.)
Will too is made of different components. Some are good at planning timetables for their days to suit their projects. Some can work at any time or place because they’re good at focusing, while others need rituals to achieve that same level of concentration. Some spend a whole night studying, others do the same work little by little.
To do our magic, then, we have to know what makes up our inner wand. Much like knowing the wood and core of your wand will help you choose the right courses at Hogwarts, so knowing how your will works will help you choose the best strategy to achieve your goals.
In The Act of Will, Roberto Assagioli describes seven different qualities of will. No one is better than the others – each of them has their own traits and requirements, their own way of doing magic.
|Energy||Strong and intense, this wood is not afraid of big obstacles or tasks. When you have to make a great effort to achieve something - this is when you want to ask energy for help. However, most people think this is the only wood available for wands; this is incorrect, as sometimes not even energy suffice and we have to resort to other woods to cast a spell. Moreover, it requires great discernment: without values to guide it, a wand made only of energy is prone to be domineering and oppressing.|
|Discipline||Close cousin of energy, both in temperament and reputation. We think of it as suppressing and inhibiting the user’s life in exchange for its power, but actually, it’s good at balancing and modulating. Want to eat some cake? Cool! Discipline will gladly remind you when it’s time to stop before you get a tummy ache. Writing a novel? Magnificent? Discipline will help you create and stick to a schedule based on your needs and that will make you develop your skills without killing yourself.|
|Concentration||This wood works like a lens in focusing the user’s attention. It’s a great addition to energy, because it directs its strength towards a specific objective, and in some cases it can even achieve what energy alone cannot. (For example, when you have to study a book – you can muster all the energy you want and study all night, but if you don’t stay focused you won’t learn.) Concentration works well for those who are looking for a meditation practice as well.|
|Determination||All about resolution and swiftness, this wood is often thought as the most suited for impulsive types. However, it actually works best for deliberating and finding clarity when a decision must be taken. Determination is good at uncovering hidden motifs and understanding when it’s time to ponder and when instead to just do it.|
|Perseverance||Key qualities of this wood include constant effort, tenacity, patience, and resistance. When you are working on a long-term vision, and every obstacle feels like a mountain, ask perseverance for help. It will shop you that even a little step is still a step, and that, as Ovid wrote, “dripping water hollows out stone, not through force but through persistence.”|
|Initiative||If you see uncertainty in life as an incentive to experiment, this wood will help the risk-taker and thrill-seeker in you. Beware! It doesn’t like the mindless pursuit of danger, whether it’s material or not, but rather the pursuit of values and goals that require courage to be achieved.|
|Organization||This wood suits best those who know how to use and direct their talents, as well as those we are good at planning and executing. It will help you think both short- and long-term and build a structure that can adapt itself to change without altering the original direction.|
If you have said, “hey! that’s me!” to one or more of these woods, now you should have an idea of the two-three key components of your inner wand. It’s also useful to know if you felt one wood was particularly distant from your character. You can use this knowledge to avoid relying on that quality in the future, or you can choose to exercise it a little. All these qualities can be cultivated over time and, even though it would be difficult to achieve mastery of one that is poorly present, you can still hope to achieve that “good-enough” level that allows you to use it in certain kinds of work. Exercising, for example, nurtures energy, while habits do well for discipline, concentration, and organization.
What about the core?
While each wand is different, there is a common foundation to all of them. First, a powerful will needs steady, grounded users; they have to accept and take responsibility for their own life, instead of letting external circumstances toss them around.
Second, a powerful will is based in a deep, ever-evolving knowledge, both of oneself and the world.
“But it is not enough that the will should be merely strong; such a will is liable to errors and excesses which may lead the individual astray and bring about dangerous reactions. […] Thus we frequently see people of strong will misusing their precious instrument by violent clashes or exaggerated efforts; they use methods which are too harsh and aggressive, resulting in inner and external conflicts and in nervous and psychological troubles. Instead, by using more skillful and harmonious ways, based on a sound knowledge of the constitution and functioning of the psyche, they could make headway more easily; they could handle the opposing forces so as to utilize them constructively, thus attaining the desired ends with a minimum of effort.” – Roberto Assagioli, The Training of the Will
And last, a powerful will requires values. A strong, skillful will can overpower others and destroy people, communities, worlds. Only when we realize that we are part of something bigger than each of us – once we realize the interconnectedness and wonder of all life – can we hope to use our will for the common good. Voldemort is an example of what happens when a strong will is not guided by love and compassion – he did great things, yes, but terrible.
In the first book, Ollivander said to Harry Potter: “The wand chooses the wizard.” We are born with a wand, which can change over time and develop its power. But in the end, it’s how we use it that will decide how powerful its magic will be.
I’m curious to know about your wands! What is yours made of?
Do you have thoughts or doubts bothering you? Do you just want to vent? Ask Box is the place where you can drop your questions about life, the universe and everything. My inbox is always open – email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.