Have you noticed that most of, if not all the time, you want something? When you're hungry, you want food. When you're full, you want to get comfortable. When you're bored, you want to do something. When you're in pain, you want relief. When you're having fun, you want it to last.
At the end of the day, it's human nature to want things. But at what point does this become detrimental to our well-being?
There are very few moments in our lives when we are fully satisfied, without a single desire. When these moments do arise, they don't last.
Some will argue that wanting things leads us to take action. It leads us on adventures. It propels us to make positive change in our lives and for those around us. But on the other side of that coin is the suffering that results from a constant need for reality to be different.
So what is the line between meaningful action versus constant suffering?
Healthy wanting versus unhealthy wanting
First, let's talk about unhealthy wanting. The wanting that keeps us restless. The wanting that makes us miserable.
We're all familiar with this type of wanting, even if we don't want to admit it.
Just ask yourself the question right now, "Do I want something?"
If I had to guess, something came to mind. And if nothing immediately came to mind, then ask yourself the question in five minutes.
Once you have an answer to that question, pay attention to how your mind and body react to the answer.
Did you start fantasizing about the thing you want? Did your thoughts tell you that the future will be better than the present? Did your body tense up and create a sense of restlessness? Perhaps depression about your current state?
Whatever your answer was, it's likely that the wanting created a sense of unease inside of you.
When your wanting creates a sense of disturbance inside, it means you're not grounded in the present moment. It means you're resisting the reality happening in and around you, and instead are counting on the future to be happier.
This is unhealthy wanting. But with this exercise, you now see how easy it is to detect it within yourself.
Being consciously aware of this pattern while it happens is more than half the battle. Once you're aware, you have the power to let that pattern play out without your involvement.
The wanting still might occur, but you're not caught it in. You're not shackled to it. You're not oblivious to it. Instead, you're watching it happen from a place of clarity and power.
Healthy wanting looks a bit different
Now that we've covered what unhealthy desire looks like, let's examine a healthier alternative.
Say you're experiencing a challenge at work. Your team isn't functioning at the level it should be. You have fantastic coworkers, all very capable and intelligent, but as a whole, the synergy just isn't there.
It's perfectly natural, especially as the leader of the team, to want to create the conditions for your team to succeed. This type of wanting is intelligent. It's using intelligence to improve a current situation.
In this scenario, healthy wanting could lead to positive outcomes.
But this same manager could also drive themself crazy because their team isn't where it should be. They could throw tantrums, criticize other people, or blame themself. At the end of the day, the leader's wanting of a different reality could lead them to suffer.
You see, healthy and unhealthy wanting are two entirely separate things.
Wanting to improve, wanting to explore, wanting to create - these can all be beautiful endeavors, so long as we don't let the wanting take away our ability to appreciate the present moment.
It's perfectly okay to let your desire take you on an adventure. But do not let your desire take you out of the present moment. If that happens, then desire might as well be the end of your life.
Live with substance!