Desire and want can be barriers to happiness

Desire and want are riven through so much of our thought, speech and action. Listen to someone speak and you will hear quite quickly an expression of need, sometimes negatively and sometimes positively. It’s ingrained in our consciousness but perhaps unsurprisingly it also flags up an aspect of our way of being that doesn’t necessarily always serve us. In fact they can make us miserable.

In coaching, for example, it is often a very effective question to ask, “What do you want?” It can invite someone who is feeling unclear to explore their desires and can bring out what is really motivating them and the statements and actions that they most need to make. Knowing what you want is very useful. You’ve probably got a clearer idea where you are going and what you want to accomplish. You know what to ask for. It helps in communication since it invites honesty and directness. “Tell it straight” is a powerful communication enhancer, if a bit challenging for the less direct amongst us, especially if done without attitude. Then people know where they stand and can respond appropriately. Organisations are often structured arrangements for the meeting of needs, such as the requirements of stakeholders, customers, managers and so on.

Yet desire and want are also about what is missing, about lack. Stating a want can also be a statement that you don’t have which can draw more lack to you, for those familiar with this way of thinking. It’s not surprising. Humanity has such a massive history of hunger, poverty and deprivation and so it’s in the blueprint. Deficit need is a well-known aspect of psychological difficulty for many of us, the unmet need for, for example, love and affection. Our consumer society is geared to the repeated desire for and satisfaction of material need, usually then replaced by some other need.

Not surprisingly too, Eastern spiritual traditions caution against attachment to desire. One great interrupter of spiritual practice is some thought process related to desire and wanting. Those who meditate regularly will know this all too well. In the midst of some gradual deepening of inner calm can come thoughts like “I need to put the oven on,” “My partner wants me to do something for him/her,” “I’m supposed to be leaving the house in half an hour,” “I want some more money,” “I wish she/he would appreciate me more.” Yes, it’s just about anything. However, the persistent ones will be about an ongoing or regular issue that occurs in our life.

It’s worth noticing what these desire-related issues are that keep cropping up. Then we know what we’re dealing with. Then we can also know more accurately what to “name” from a mindfulness perspective, and let go of. We can notice when they are hovering around in the background. We can tell when we’re feeling some hurt of upset what’s got triggered and what it is that is really nagging away at us.

Then remember. It’s not who we are, and let go, breathe, be still. We are so much more than our desires.

Desire is the great interrupter of evenness and equipoise, of inner stillness and contentment. Thus the ability to distinguish when desire is present and is an aspect that doesn’t serve us is very important.

I give coaching to help people accomplish what they want and also let go of unhealthy or self-defeating desire. To learn more, click here.