Your True Desires

How can you trust if what you really want is real and worthy of you?

The start of my journey into healthy productivity was to know myself.

I needed to understand what I really wanted.

It has always been challenging identifying what a true desire is.

So much of desire, through conventional and social media, is literally manufactured.

We are told from an early age what to desire. From our families, communities, and the media at large.

How do you know what is a legitimate desire?  

Does enjoyment have anything to do with it?

If you are doing work that you care about, are you always going to enjoy it?

The answer is no. To look at how you feel about the work is not always the most reliable indicator of whether the work is worthy of you. You are not looking for enjoyment all of the time, because that is not possible when it comes to work. There is a reason they call it work.

"If you love what you do, you'll never work a day in your life. Untrue. You are going to work your a** off." - Tom Bilyeu, entrepreneur

We need to look a little bit further than just base feelings when you do any type of work. I like to ask myself if the desire behind certain work is true or false and do I feel empowered or not?

True or False?

One way to approach desire is to think about it in terms of true or false.

A false desire is generally something you think you want, but ultimately it is grossly unfulfilling.

Take for example, the strong desire to have a large, beautiful house.

Let's say you get it. Over time, novelty and achievement wear off. You get stuck with the responsibilities - including a mortgage, maintenance, and management of an asset.

You can build a story around it. This is the place of your dreams. Where your children will grow up and call home. But even your story won't keep pace with the reality that this is a false desire.

The idea of having a large house is part of the American dream of home ownership and success.  The story that you tell yourself is that you have really made it. It is a desire that is manufactured and marketed to the point that you don't question it.

In Ryan Holiday's Stillness is the Key, the concept of what is good enough in a lifetime is explored. The ability to listen to one's true desires, independent of what the environment is pushing us to do, is integral in freedom and fulfillment. Drawing on wisdom from the Stoics, one way to determine if the desire is True or False is to ask yourself how will I feel after I get what I want?

The first step in knowing yourself is to accurately identify True versus False desires

What happens next is a great thought exercise. Odds are that you will want more. This is because of something called the hedonic adaptation.

Even with the less than superficial desires, it is worth playing out what happens next? If you are wise to yourself, you'll know that no matter what it is, you will not feel as if its enough.

A circulated story in productivity circles is that of two authors at a billionaire's mansion-party. The first author asked the second how he felt that their host made more money in one day than either of them made in a lifetime. The author responded that he has something the billionaire will never have. The knowledge that he has enough.

Empowered or not?

Another way to figure out if the desire is worth pursuing is to ask yourself if it makes you feel more alive? Does it make you feel more like you?

I find it very empowering to pursue the things that are truly aligned with what I find interesting and idiosyncratic. Waiting for things to happen to me or someone else dictating what I should do with my time is such a waste of a life.

To pursue things that are empowering is in of itself an act of self-care.

A core concept in Stillness is the Key is also central to healthy productivity: protect your body, mind, and spirit by slowing down. Embracing limits is a wonderful thing to do while you are thinking of your impossible dreams. Getting comfortable with that irony is necessary in productivity.

A different take?

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