Desire (pt 2): Going Deeper

Jun 29, 2009   //   by Steve Wooding   //   A Slice of Lemon  //  No Comments

“Apetitus rationi pareat” – “Let desire be ruled by reason.”
[Cicero, Roman author & politician, 1st-century BC]

(1093 words – approx 5-7 mins to read)

Last time we discussed how powerful an emotion Desire can be, how it’s useful when focused appropriately and how, when we allow it to lead us or even consume us, it can transform into something dangerous and debilitating.

I left you with a question, after the “What do you want?” and “What are you prepared to do to get it?” ones, which was:


I do know from personal experience that this second question can be quite a big one to answer, so here’s another way of tackling it, based on what we all do when we think about something we want (remember, I asked you to try this last time – click here for a reminder) – compare our life NOW WITHOUT the object of our desire in it to what we think life will be like WITH it:


When we’re brave enough to explore our answer to that second question, we may find that what we *really* want is not the object of our desire per se, it’s what we believe that possessing that thing, being with that person, is going to help us do, give to us, make us feel or turn us into, that we believe we can’t do, we can’t have or we can’t be without it. Let’s call it our ‘Deeper Desire’.

However, to get to that Deeper Desire we sometimes need to ask the question several times over, like this:

What is it that you want?

“I want a higher paying job.”

What will having a higher paying job do for you?

“It’ll mean I have more money.”

And what will having more money do for you?

“I can buy what I’ve always wanted then – designer clothes, a really nice car, a better house.”

So, what will having those clothes, that car and a better house do for you?

“I’ll feel that I’m a success – I can finally feel good about myself.”

Obviously there are a myriad of different ways in which this conversation could go from one question to the next. However, it’s that flow that ultimately drills down to our individual Deeper Desires, which in this example was to be able to ‘feel good about myself’.

When you take a few moments to think about this though, you’ll realise that what this particular person doing is making their self-esteem at least partially, if not wholly dependent on something external – a high-paying job, designer clothes, expensive car, big house etc. If those things go, for whatever reason, so does a large chunk of self-esteem.

If fact, making any value or belief about ourselves depend on external things creates a similar problem.

Thus we are inevitably led to a very meaningful and fairly inescapable point: although I can’t say that it’s true in every case, more often that not our Deepest Desires are things that we need to learn to stop looking for someone or something else to give us, and instead to turn our attention inwards, to figure out why we haven’t been able to, or learned how to, or don’t believe it’s OK to give that to ourselves yet.

You see it in the teen who decides they need a particular brand of shoes or hairstyle so they fit in with a particular group, when what they truly desire is a sense of belonging. But the best sense of belonging comes when we’re with people who don’t need us to change ourselves to fit in, doesn’t it..?

We see it in the 20- and 30-something singles who’ve decided that to complete their lives they need a relationship, but it’s often driven by a desire to feel that they matter, or that they are ‘normal’, like the rest of their friends. But they often forget that a person who doesn’t feel whole can’t contribute fully to a meaningful relationship because again they’re relying on something external – another person – to fill an internal hole, aren’t they..?

There are so many other examples too: stories of people who won the lottery and then were disappointed because they thought all that money would bring happiness with it, entrepreneurs who made a killing, football players who made it to the top, actors, singers and other celebrities who sought what they thought they desired in fame and fortune, only to find that success in and of itself is empty, and that their issues were just the same and just as personal and, in some cases, fame and fortune only multiplied their problems.

Oh, and just in case you were beginning to think that I’m against fame and fortune and success, I most definitely am not – I’d quite like a lot more of it myself in fact..! (And, of course the next questions is “So Steve, what will having that do for you..?” !)

The point I trust is making its way into your awareness now is this:

Most of our ‘Deepest Desires’ can’t be met by possessing, gaining or achieving.

They are, more often, met on the journey we make to that destination, when we learn things like “If I’m truly comfortable with who I am, I can ‘belong’ anywhere,” “Money can’t bring happiness, but it’s useful for finding more opportunities to create happiness, for myself and others,” “The more I focus on what I DO have, the less what I don’t have seems to matter,” or even “The more I try and fail, the more experience I pick up, and that brings me closer to a success I can maintain.”

Which brings me back to ‘purposeful and appropriate action’ – action that is informed by and focused on our Deepest Desire – the thing we’re *really* seeking, rather than just the original object, and this is action that’s more often focused on working on what’s INSIDE – our attitudes, beliefs, values and principles.

When we work on those, we often find that our surface desires – the things we thought would get us what we really want – either seem easier to obtain, or begin to matter far less.

That’s where reason comes in, to work our way through from the object of our desire to our real, deeper reason for wanting it.

And that’s the challenge I leave you with for now – to work your way through those three questions until you get to what you *really* desire:

  1. What do you want?

  2. What will having that do for you?

    (repeat until you find your Deeper Desire)

  3. What are you prepared to DO to get what you *really* want?

Until next time.

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