“I have learned to seek my happiness by limiting my desires, rather than in attempting to satisfy them.” – John Stuart Mill.
If you have an interest in personal development or not, we all tend to read or hear something about pursuing our dreams and finding ways to make them come true. It is a big part of what makes life so fascinating, thrilling, and hopeful, as well as a wonderful opportunity for the soul to grow. Desiring what we do not now have in our lives is often about pursuing our ambitions, and without dreams, our prospects for a better future, as well as our ability to realise our dreams, may be rather gloomy. Just like the anticipation of Christmas Day and all the associated expectations can be difficult for some children.
However, when those wants turn negative, they can make you sad since you may start comparing them to the life you now lead and conclude that you don’t have as much as what you would like to have. It is what living in the present moment is often about. Oh, and being grateful is another crucial way to embrace each day and step off the hedonic treadmill whereby you are consistently grasping for that which you do not have instead of appreciating that which you do.
Sometimes, when you put all of your energy into focusing on what you want but don’t have and do not maintain an attitude of thankfulness for the present, it can create some frustration and dissatisfaction in the present moment. If you feel that this moment is lacking because you don’t have something or someone in it, then you run the risk of missing the one and only moment you have going for you right now. You might severely slip down the rabbit hole of being unhappy and dissatisfied with your life every day if you look ahead or linger on wants that were satisfied or that are still unfulfilled in the past.
Why should we try to control desire if desire is so important in life? — We want to be in charge of life, or at least our life, so that we can make it more enjoyable or less unpleasant, productive or less destructive.
Desire is viewed in the Hindu tradition as both a life force and a great symbol of sin and a destroyer of knowledge and self-realisation. Similar to this, the second of Buddhism’s Four Noble Truths asserts that lust — defined broadly as greed or craving — is the root of all suffering. Even the Bible begins with a warning about Adam and Eve. Had they not yielded to the temptation to eat from the forbidden tree, we may well now still be living in Eden. I write metaphorically to make my point, of course. Envy, gluttony, greed, and lust — four of the seven deadly sins — can be interpreted to be motivated by desire. Christian practises like fasting, prayer, and confession all aim at working to control or restrain desire, at least in part, as do monastic ideals like poverty, chastity, and communal living. The promise of life beyond death, however, is by far the most clever of all the restraints on earthly desire.
Desire can be used to frame a lot of misery, as many forms of religion attempt to do. If unfulfilled want hurts, then fear and worry, which are wishes about the future, and wrath and grief, which are desires about the past, are similarly painful. The mid-life crisis is considered by many as nothing if not a crisis of want, in which an older person realises that their reality falls short of their youthful aspirations and wishes. If desire is harmful, so are its byproducts.
The accumulation of houses, automobiles, and other riches can rob us of our time and peace of mind, both in their acquisition and maintenance, not to mention in their eventual loss. Fame may quickly become infamy and is at least as compromising as it is rewarding. This should not imply that we should eschew fame or wealth, but rather that we shouldn’t pursue them exclusively or place great stock in them. We are richer in life not just because of what we have, but perhaps more so because of what we lack.
Greed, of course, is an excessive desire. Being hungry, greed hinders us from appreciating everything we currently have, which, while it may seem insignificant, is nonetheless far more than anything our ancestors could have imagined. Greed makes us blind to everything but its objective and reduces life in all its complexity and beauty to an endless search for more.
Stoicism is an excellent philosophy for fighting our innate drive to grasp, accomplish and have more. The Stoic philosopher Seneca, who had personal experience with money, was adamant about the human drive for more. He stated: “It is not the man who has too little, but the man who craves more, that is poor.”
The concept is that true wealth implies you’re content with your life as it is, and that no matter how many possessions you have, they’ll be enough. But because we’re all so fidgety, it’s difficult to cultivate that mindset. When we indulge our desires, we only develop stronger cravings. Working on your desires over time is the best approach to go above this superficial way of living.
I recently witnessed someone driving his brand-new car while I was on my way to teach a course. A Lamborghini Urus was the car. Even though I am not really in to cars, this one is incredibly attractive, and my son who is a fan of cars had talked about this and similar often.
I immediately and initially thought, “I would love to own a car like that.” I then became aware of my thoughts turning to ways to increase my income or whether I should sell some possessions. The human mind operates in this manner. Your mind may minimise your own career and suggest that you change jobs when you observe someone enjoying a fulfilling career. I swiftly interrupted the mental cycle by dismissing my thoughts after becoming aware of it.
In actuality, having more goods won’t necessarily make you happier. In fact, I think that anything more than having enough has the potential to make you unhappy. This is due to the fact that pursuing wishes is a never-ending abyss that can potentially cause problems for you.
Now let’s take a look at some ways you can stop your desires making you unhappy….
First of all remind yourself of all your blessing and then tell someone about them too. Rather than keeping things to oneself, this approach can be advantageous. The emotion of appreciation rarely endures when you just consider the things for which you are grateful. But you also make other people feel good when you express your gratitude for the relationships you have, whether they are personal, romantic, or professional. You can express your gratitude to others for anything else in your life as well. Because they cherish what they already have, people who are appreciative typically don’t want to change anything.
Moreover, practising gratitude acts as a powerful antidote to the discontent that unchecked desires can bring. When you cultivate gratitude, your focus shifts from what you lack to appreciating what you have, fostering a sense of contentment and reducing the urgency of your desires. This mindful awareness of your blessings in the present moment lessens the negative impacts of constant craving and comparison with others. By triggering positive emotions, building resilience, and promoting inner fulfilment, gratitude becomes a shield against the unhappiness that uncontrolled desires can generate. It encourages moderation, long-term satisfaction, and improved relationships, ultimately reshaping your perspective on desires and their influence on your overall well-being.
Read this excellent article for more on this topic: The Science of Gratitude and How to Express it.
2.Do activities that make you happy
Although it may seem obvious, how frequently do you engage in activities that you dislike? If you work a job you don’t like, you spend most of your time there. Not a predicament you want to be in. Make adjustments to your life for inner fulfilment. Take pleasure in what you do. That is not to say that you should pursue pleasure. When you perform a task properly, you can experience inner gratification as well. whatever the work may be.
Engaging in activities that bring you joy and fulfilment serves as a powerful strategy to counteract the negative effects of unfulfilled desires on your happiness. These enjoyable pursuits act as positive distractions, redirecting your focus away from desires that may lead to discontent. By triggering positive emotions, fostering a sense of achievement, and creating a state of flow, these activities help cultivate a balanced emotional state and reduce the influence of unmet desires. Additionally, pursuing your passions and interests enhances your overall well-being, elevating your self-esteem and offering a sense of purpose that can diminish the impact of fleeting desires. Through these means, embracing activities you love empowers you to find happiness in the present moment, independent of whether your desires are immediately fulfilled.
3.Try simple living
Everyone of us adapts to anything. As your lifestyle improves, you grow accustomed to it and anything less than it will feel like pain. Never using the hedonic treadmill is the greatest way to avoid it. No matter how much money you have, live simply.
A simple lifestyle often involves owning fewer possessions and placing less emphasis on material wealth. This shift reduces the importance of external objects in your pursuit of happiness, diminishing the impact of unfulfilled desires for material things.
Simplifying your life also encourages introspection and a clearer understanding of your core values. When you align your actions with what truly matters to you, your desires become more intentional and focused, reducing the likelihood of chasing after things that don’t genuinely contribute to your well-being.
Embracing simplicity often means stepping away from the constant comparisons fuelled by consumerism. When you’re less focused on keeping up with others, your desires become more centred on your personal aspirations, decreasing the negative feelings associated with unmet societal standards.
Finally, complexity often contributes to stress. By simplifying your life, you can reduce the clutter and chaos that can accompany excessive desires. A less stressful environment allows for better emotional regulation and less susceptibility to the negative impact of desires on your happiness.
You might find this article enjoyable too: 10 Ways to Adopt Minimalist Living.
We may create a nice existence for ourselves where we don’t even need to leave the house to enjoy it. You are able to work from home. You can exercise at your home. If it’s cold out, you can dial up the heat. Any food you desire may be ordered. However, comfort makes you supple. And life is difficult. Therefore, it is best to be a hard person. Take the stairs, keep on with your goals even in bad weather, travel sparingly, walk where you can, and so on. Never choose the option that is simple. Yes, it is beneficial to save time. However, when you go too far in that direction, you forego something else that is more significant: Your inner fortitude.
Embracing bravery encourages mindful decision-making. When you’re brave enough to pause and reflect before acting on a desire, you give yourself the opportunity to make choices that are truly in your best interest, reducing the potential for regret and unhappiness.
Being brave involves facing your desires with a critical and introspective eye. By honestly evaluating whether your desires align with your values, needs, and long-term goals, you can avoid pursuing fleeting desires that might lead to unhappiness.
Moreover, it also allows you to confront the fear of missing out that often accompanies desires. When you’re courageous enough to make choices that prioritise your well-being over societal pressures or trends, you free yourself from the constant pursuit of external validation and avoid potential sources of unhappiness.
Most importantly, embracing bravery fosters self-confidence. When you’re brave enough to face challenges and make intentional choices, you strengthen your sense of self-worth and become less dependant on external validations or desires to define your happiness.
Happiness is not necessarily a result of anything outside of oneself. It can result from leading a fulfilling life. You have a restless life if you constantly aspire for more. That is hardly a happy existence. You realise you already have everything you need to be happy when you take some time to slow down and really pay attention to the things that make you feel good within.
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