With your basic needs covered, how do you know what you really want?
Many of us are occasionally immersed in a fight with different competing desires: enjoy our dream job far from home or stay home in a less appealing job, be sleep or get up early to work out, pizza or salad.
How can we decide what to pursue and what to leave behind?
In the 20th century, René Girard stated that human desire is collective or social, not individual. The idea is simple: after basic needs are satisfied, people start wanting what other people want. These other people become a radar for desires. Sometimes becoming a big source of conflicts because they’re competing for the same.
We can see this in how marketers make us want their products: they don’t simply show us the product they want us to buy; they show us other people wanting the same. Take iPhone launch in 2007 as an example.
Therefore, we sometimes desire things not because we really want to but through imitation. Desires defined as an appetite for things that you perceive good, without thinking (if they are actually good or not).
That appetite for things is what Tomas Aquinas called “will”. And when people yearn for something, they strive for it. Desire only stops when they come to possess what they want; therefore, desire doesn’t bring peace of mind because, by definition, they want something they feel they lack.
If some desires come from the collective, from what others expect from us or from what it’s said we should want, is our will hacked? If so, we could be walking a path that doesn’t lead us to where we really want. Is really there where we want to put our energy?
Having a better understanding of your wants and desires, let you take more control over them. Self-consciousness is the first step.
There are things people believe true without questioning. There are many examples: what success looks like, where they should live, what kind of job they should have… Beliefs that make them look around and want what those others have that fit what they believe they should have. But, is it really true?
Understanding what you really want and why requires self-examination: time, attention and focus.
This process can lead us to make some tough decisions about our careers and personal lives, but it’s worth it. At the end of the day, we are responsible for our happiness, and this has a lot to do with being honest about what we really want.