Develop Your Desire Consciously
January 18, 2021
“The root cause of our misery is our desire.”
“Desire is a contract that you make with yourself to be unhappy until you get what you want.”
The first quote is by Gautama Buddha, while the second quote is by the Indian-born Angel Investor and a modern-day thinker Naval Ravikant.
If we are lazy in our thinking, reading these two quotes, we can conclude that our sadness and unhappiness come from having desires, and therefore having desires is terrible. But, this is an utterly flawed view.
Being human means having desires- wanting or wishing for something all the time. We can kill our desires or control our desires only if we are dead. Otherwise, for every living moment, it is the desire that is powering our life.
Our desire is that longing within all of us to be bigger, better than we are right now.
All of us have desires, and when we give shape to them, they become our goals.
Many desires do get fulfilled, and when they do, they are a source of our joy and happiness. You wanted to get into the right college, get a degree, get into a job, earn a good income, be successful, and earn respect. All these desires have materialized in your life, and they are sources of your happiness and fulfillment.
But, the problem is with those desires that you have which have not yet been realized. These unfulfilled desires fester in your mind and become the source of your unhappiness and misery.
Therefore, the problem is not with the desire but the way you process the desire when it remains unfulfilled.
The practical challenge for all of us is, how do we get better at managing our desires?
Internal And External Desires
There are two types of desires. Internal and external.
If you are hungry, you develop a desire for food to satisfy your hunger-This is an example of an internal desire. Another example- You wake up in the morning and see the sun rising in the east. You wonder why it is so. You have a curiosity to learn about why the sun rises in the east. This curiosity to know and understand is an internal desire.
An external desire, on the other hand, gets activated because of your social setting. Your friend buys a BMW, and you feel like you need a Mercedes. This is an example of an external desire. You are at a social gathering, and someone tells you how much benefit she has got from Yoga and Meditation. You feel inspired to learn Yoga and Meditation-This is also a form of external desire.
Our internal desires will always find expression and get fulfilled. There will never be any misery with internal desires. I am sure in every family there is an example of that eight-year-old child who says she wants to become a doctor and grows up to become one. Something external may have triggered the desire, but for that kid, still rooted in innocence, the passion is pure and unadulterated. There is no I have to prove something to someone machismo underpinning that desire.
Our Social Setting Drives Our Desires
The problem is always with external desires. For most of us, our external desires are just an unconscious reaction to our social situation.
“All my friends are very successful. They are CEOs and Entrepreneurs. I have to also be in the same league.“
“That person volunteers with that NGO despite having a busy schedule. She has so much respect. I must also do something similar.“
“Everyone around me has a clear purpose. I am not clear about my purpose. I think there is something wrong with me. I need to figure out what my life purpose is.“
When all your desires are unconscious, driven by your social situation, they can become very troublesome sometimes.
Despite being unconscious, If your external desires overlap with your true nature, they become your internal desires(like the young kid who is clear about wanting to be a doctor). They will materialize sooner or later.
However, if your external desires don’t align with the kind of person you are, they can become a source of your dissatisfaction and misery.
Develop Your Desires Consciously
A smarter approach is to become more conscious and aware of the source of your desires.
Why do you want to become the CEO, buy those three houses, earn the million-dollar bonus, take up meditation, or run the marathon. Question your true motives behind the goals you are creating for yourself. Contemplate what achievement of that goal and desire means for you. How would you feel if you don’t fulfill the desire?
The more you make your desires a conscious outcome of your contemplation, the more you make them internal. Your actions will flow naturally and you will not be overawed by challenges. There will be no misery when you choose your desires consciously. Your internal desires will always find expression.