Healthy desire versus unhealthy desire

Many of us live in a constant state of wanting more – whether it’s more money or the latest iPhone, we are always on the hunt for the next best thing. The problem is that we don’t stop to ask ourselves, “Am I chasing these things because it’s what I really want or because society says I should?”

More importantly, what happens when we get what we want? We’re on to the next thing before we’ve had a moment to enjoy it. Despite having so much, there are many people who are never satisfied and spend their lives on a perpetual chase, consumed by it. Talk about a recipe for misery.

Why people become addicted to the chase

Human beings are wired to enjoy the chase. Known as “anticipatory joy,” the brain’s reward system is activated when we are anticipating a desired outcome. However, the rush of getting what you want is often short-lived.

“Many overachieving Ivy Leaguers and CEO’s are on the treadmill of workaholism which is just another chase in disguise,” according to Emma M. Seppälä PhD. “Granted, this kind of chase may pay off and result in external rewards such as validation, fame, power or money. However, it also often comes at a high cost: exhaustion, divorce, and health problems.”

Healthy desire versus unhealthy desire

Desire isn’t wrong; it’s part of human nature. It’s how we process desire that matters.

With any desire, the important thing to keep in mind is removing your attachment to the outcome. As Shakespeare once said, “Expectation is the root of all heartache.”

For example, it’s healthy to want a promotion at work, but it’s unhealthy to want it to the point that you tie your self-worth to it. Think about it: the more you think about the promotion, the more power you’re giving it, and the more important it becomes to you. The danger comes when the desire continues to grow to the point of obsession.

In this situation, a healthier mindset is to let go of the attachment to the outcome. Yes, you want the promotion, but you accept that you may not get it. If you get it, that’s great. But if you don’t, you are also okay with that.

This principle applies to all aspects of our lives. Let’s say you are single and want a relationship, but being in love is all you think about. That’s unhealthy desire, and that type of obsessive energy will most likely ruin any connections you make. Healthy desire would be to want a relationship, but you don’t focus all of your thoughts on it. Having this kind of mentality will not only allow you to bounce back quicker from dating disappointment, but will also make you much happier overall.

In the wise words of Buddha, “You can only lose what you cling to.”

Rose Caiola
Inspired. Rewired.


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