How to define your desires and understand what you want?

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You don’t get exactly what you want; you get it, but you no longer want it;
or you don’t even know what you really want (m / s “Smeshariki”)

The heroine of the famous animated series faced such a problem, and this topic worries many. Recognizing, filtering and fulfilling your desires is a difficult task that not everyone can handle. Many remain at the level of need, others hover in the clouds and, worst of all, most are not sure what they really need.

In order to live the life we ​​love, we must know ourselves deeply . The journey to find ourselves and what we really want is an ongoing process throughout our lives that will help us not only make decisions, but find true happiness and peace. Therefore, in this article we will look for answers to questions that often arise before us when we think about what we want.

Where are desires born?

If you are looking, you will always find something, but not necessarily what you were looking for (J. Tolkien “The Hobbit, or There and Back Again”)

This question is asked not only by us: psychologists, biologists and other scientists for many years have been looking for the location and causes of the birth of desires, motivation for some kind of action. You can get acquainted with various theories that have appeared during this time, and we will try to give a short generalized answer about the origin of desires.

Desire is an inner feeling of the need for the implementation of something, the possession of something. It is a state of mind that is usually associated with a number of different effects: a person with desire tends to act in a certain way, feel in a certain way, and think in a certain way.

In this state, a person:

  • knows who he is, what his possibilities are;
  • understands the context of time and environment, compares himself with them;
  • understands what he wants;
  • realizes why this desire arose and what its fulfillment will give;
  • knows how to get what he wants.

This tells us that a person who knows his desires has a high level of awareness . And already when you understand what you want, you can take the path of self-realization, that is, climb the pyramid of needs. Self-realization and self-actualization are the highest needs according to Maslow ‘s pyramid . This is the disclosure of talents, the realization of desires, the practical application of skills and abilities. Those. For the fulfillment of desires, a person must first realize his needs.

What is the difference between need and desire? That the number of needs is limited. They exist beyond the will of man and are not positive or negative. This feeling of the need for something important for a full existence, and sometimes survival, there cannot be many of them. Meanwhile, desires are a product of the mind, they are endless.

However, they can still be classified. For example, in a study of more than 6,000 people, psychology and psychiatry professor Stephen Reiss found that 16 basic desires drive almost all meaningful behavior. In his book Who Am I? he published the following reasons for motivating our actions:

  • acceptance, the need to be valuable;
  • curiosity, the need to learn;
  • food, the need to eat;
  • family, the need to have and raise children, to be involved in a group;
  • honor, the need to be true to the traditional values ​​of the community;
  • idealism, the need for social justice;
  • independence, the need to have a guaranteed individuality;
  • order, the need for a stable and organized environment;
  • physical activity, the need to always be in action;
  • strength, the need to have a certain ability to influence;
  • romance, the need for sex and beauty;
  • accumulation, the need to possess something;
  • social contact, the need to have relationships with others;
  • status, the need to be socially significant;
  • calmness, the need to feel safe;
  • revenge, the need to win and take a hit [J. Grabmeier, 2020].

This list combines needs and desires, but it will help you first explain your way of thinking and find the reasons for your actions. After all, not everyone is used to paying attention to their own impulses.

Desire appears in us gradually. Psychologists say that “wanting” is a skill that happens naturally. But in the course of growing up, it can develop or be blocked. People are often ready to adapt to those they love, who surrounds them, they know how to listen well to others, but not to themselves. Therefore, everyone should train their skill to “want” – try different things and look at your reaction, learn to be attentive to yourself. Allowing you to think about yourself and your desires is not selfishness, it is a healthy concern [T. Podoprigora, 2019].

On the other hand, it is very important not to slide into the endless realization of one’s own desires one after another. This can lead to dissatisfaction with one’s own life and a break with loved ones. Before proceeding with the fulfillment of a desire, answer the following questions:

  • How does satisfaction of desires affect the quality of my life? My loved ones?
  • What life values ​​reflect my desires?
  • Does my desire have a lasting result?
  • Is there a less costly alternative?
  • What happens if I don’t follow my desire?

Nevertheless, when desires arise, it is worth listening to the opinions of others. But even more attention should be paid to finding larger and truer desires and celebrating their achievements.

Another problem is that with the results of numerous studies, answers to questions about the nature of desires are found not only by scientists and ordinary people. For example, marketers have learned to awaken desires through smells, appearance, sensations, tastes. Here you were walking past the store, but here you are already in it and are happy to purchase some kind of product or dream of an expensive purchase. This origin of desires was described by Pauline Brown in Aesthetic Intelligence .

It would seem that a desire arose – fulfill it, but everything is not so simple. After all, even knowing where it can appear, not everyone can determine it, and then correctly implement it. But do not think that the fulfillment of desires is too difficult and harmful. Doing without them is much more dangerous.

Why want something?

To want is not harmful, it is harmful not to want (Folk wisdom)

Desire is the foundation of a successful and purposeful life. It doesn’t matter if you are thinking about a career, a place to live or a partner. Desires make us move and develop, they help a person to survive, despite the ups and downs. This is the basis of all our achievements. And one of the main intangible objects of life. Necessary but invisible.

Life without desire is not life, but a mechanical existence. If it is aimed only at satisfying needs and instincts, then it differs little from the life of animals. A life where desires are present fills existence with meaning.

Wanting is useful for the following reasons:

  • at the moment of the fulfillment of a desire, a person experiences a feeling of joy, happiness;
  • desires motivate to activity;
  • the ability to fulfill desires increases self-esteem.

Make-A-Wish Israel conducted a study to measure how the wish-fulfillment experience affects outcomes for children with critical illnesses. The results revealed a desire not only to increase hope, but also to improve the physical and emotional health of children. Wishes made the impossible possible—helped children replace fear with confidence, sadness with joy, and anxiety with hope.

In turn, blocking desires also has certain consequences:

  • The collapse of self-esteem. Constantly ignoring desires at a deep level can mean that a person simply does not believe that he is worthy of their fulfillment.
  • depression . Constant failure leads to depression. A person gives up, motivation drops.
  • Closure. It is difficult for a person whose desires are not fulfilled to communicate with more fortunate people. Therefore, he most often refuses to communicate, rarely sees friends and relatives [A. Tarasova, 2020] .

This condition can haunt you all your life, but over time, tension grows, and it becomes more and more difficult to contain it, general dissatisfaction with life, uncertainty, failure, meaninglessness, and psychosomatic illnesses appear.

The most deplorable outcome can be an escape to another reality – drugs, alcohol, etc. Although outwardly such people may seem normal, because they are most often pleasant, flexible, executive, comfortable – they are attentive to the opinions and desires of others, they feel the boundaries and rules well.

In addition to the healing and motivating effect, desires can also give a detailed description of a person. They allow you to understand a person, his attitude to life, his character and values. To paraphrase a famous phrase, you can say this: “Tell me your desires, and I will tell you who you are.”

What if you don’t want anything?

Everything will come true, one has only to lose desire … (F. G. Ranevskaya)

We hope that you do not adhere to the opinion of Ms. Ranevskaya and have not decided to give up all your desires. But if you nevertheless caught the state of “I don’t want anything”, then you have serious work to do.

Of course, you can turn to other people’s desires and choose attractive ones or surrender to higher powers and advanced intellects. For example, according to the developers, modern machine learning algorithms that underlie recommender systems are able to predict the desires of a person better than himself. If you want something, but you yourself don’t understand what, it will be enough to go to the online store that you have been using for a long time, and it will tell you [D. Vetrov, 2015] . But such options are based on your past, stereotypes and often manipulation, so they are unlikely to be objective and reflect your real passion.

Unfortunately, the absence of any desire can be caused by apathy or years of life difficulties, a toxic environment, and if you feel powerless, do not be afraid to contact a specialist. According to WHO, 4% of the world’s population now suffers from depression and 75% of them do not receive treatment, which leads to negative consequences [ WHO, 2021 ]. Remember, asking for help is okay. But still, there are a number of actions that you can take on your own to formulate your dreams:

  • Allow yourself to be lazy. Despite all the prejudice and ambiguity of views on inaction, pause, let yourself exhale, sleep and analyze your condition.
  • Do a digital detox. Our brain does not rest at all during our Internet surfing, but everything also continues to work. According to some studies, social networks can contribute to the development of depression, because. people there are more likely to face negativity and manipulation. Also, posts about other people’s achievements can greatly shake a person’s self-esteem and lead to the development of FOMO . And many experts say: in order to hear yourself, you need silent days.
  • Increase your physical activity and go outside for fresh air. A worthy filling of the freed time after giving up social networks is to take sports or walks in the fresh air. At this time, your brain will be able to process the thoughts that have been blocking so far.
  • Respond to even the smallest desires. Start small and satisfy those needs that previously seemed ridiculous, childish, not worthy of attention. When performing them, listen to your state and look for answers to the questions “Do I like this?”, “What did not allow me to do this?”, “What else do I want?”
  • Praise yourself for every victory. People are accustomed to expecting praise from others, but not from themselves. And it is customary to celebrate only big victories, but the path to a big goal consists of small steps that no one notices. Therefore, make it a rule to praise yourself even for minor victories. So you will motivate yourself to new achievements and evoke new desires in yourself [RSV Blog, 2021] .

The first and main step is to get out of the state of absence of any desires. When they come back to you, no matter how small, too extensive or unrealistic, you can already celebrate the victory and move on to the process of processing them.

How to understand what you want?

– Kuzya: Oh, I’m sick of it. Want something. I don’t know what myself …
– Cat: Belt-I-I … (m / f “Kuzya Brownie”)

And now we’ve crossed the line. Now we already seem to want something, but even the question of a birthday present puts us in a stupor. What can we say about life goals.

Such a state can catch up with us at the turning points of life, often with a wide life experience and even with a sufficient number of achievements. One has already closed, and the new one has not appeared yet. At such moments, relatives may not take your condition seriously and regard it as an element of broad prosperity (what to give to a person who already has everything?) And there is uncertainty caused by finding your own path. But this does not mean at all that you cannot have desires.

This means that you need to start analyzing:

  • Start with the simplest and at the same time the most difficult – start tracking and being aware of your feelings , every day. It is important to listen to each emotion and find its cause.
  • Remember your hobbies, favorite activities, analyze strengths and weaknesses. To do this, give answers to three questions and find the intersection zone : what do you like to do, what energizes, stimulates, relaxes, gives pleasure? what can you do, what can you learn? what is expected of you, demanded, for which they approve and praise?
  • Face your worries and fears face to face. Answer your questions: who forbids you to live as you want? in whose voice does the inner critic speak and limit you? whose life are you living? and at what point did it start, did it all go wrong? Not the most pleasant questions, but they can push you to understand the reasons for what is happening [I. Kavunova, 2021] .

This analysis should not be postponed and delayed, because this is only the first step. After identifying the answers, you will have a rather laborious process – changing your attitude or environment, finding new hobbies or returning to a past passion, abandoning restrictions, and much more. Do not worry, the answers will come, despite the complexity of the path ahead. The main thing is to be honest with yourself.

And then you will be waiting for the construction of the future. Questions will arise before you: what will inspire me to get up every day with a desire and anticipation? What will I do every day with interest and desire?

And to improve the search efficiency, we recommend doing the exercise:

Imagine that you have everything. You have so much money that you can provide a rich life for you and your loved ones for several generations. You have many houses, in many different countries. You have a whole fleet of vehicles: all brands of cars, yachts, planes, helicopters. You have visited and lived in all countries of the world. They helped financially all their relatives and relatives that they live in luxury, just like you. You have already given so much money to charity that nothing is required of you. You have tried all the entertainment and even their extreme types. What will inspire you in this situation? Do not be afraid of the initial emptiness in your head, now you are breaking boundaries. Try this condition on yourself, imagine yourself in an ideal house, with millions of bills. All possibilities are in front of you! What will you choose?

If allowing yourself to dream is still difficult, you can build on the questions in What to Dream About by Barbara Sher:

  • What do I do most often, if you look at my life globally?
  • What have I liked to do in the past?
  • What do I not like to do?
  • What am I dreaming about, fantasizing, who am I in my fantasies?
  • What am I afraid of?

And now you write out all your desires in a row without evaluation. Start with a hundred points. After the twentieth paragraph, it will seem to you that there is nothing more to wish for. But you go on. Don’t think, don’t meditate. Things should come to automatism when you start writing your desires without the participation of your mind.

Now it seems that there will be a huge number of options, but, most likely, they will all relate to one area (perhaps the most forbidden one for you until now). In any case, make this list and note in it what is already possible to accomplish, what excites you the most, and what seems completely unrealizable. Separate the material from the intangible, understand who will help you influence their achievement. Based on this list, you can already start setting goals and achieving them.

What if you want too much?

Lip is not a fool (Mom)

One of the consequences of changing the way of thinking or removing restrictions can be an increased number of desires. In general, this is not bad (especially if you are ready to cover your needs yourself), but constantly fulfilling them can exhaust you, dull the joy of fulfilling them and lead to dissatisfaction with life.

So let’s get started with your list. After reading the desires, start crossing them out without hesitation. It’s like you’re giving up on them. If you don’t feel anything inside, then it was a false desire suggested by your mind. If you feel discomfort in your body at the thought of giving up desire or feel a violent protest inside you, then you are lucky – you have found true desire. After going through all the points, write down all the points of true desires on a separate sheet.

In addition to working with feelings, we can start a more objective approach and start from our priorities and values. This is also important for determining desires if the list is still not obvious. To do this, you can use one of the psychological methods: Must-test or Schwartz value questionnaire or analyze your average week and understand what you spend the most time on, whether this ratio of efforts, time and results suits you. It is important to keep in mind that answers change over time, so you need to repeat the steps at some intervals.

Once your values ​​and priorities are in place, align your list with your life goals. Those of the desires that do not respond to any of them should be postponed for some time. If it is still difficult to refuse something from the list, apply Descartes’ square to such items . This will help you understand whether your life will change after the fulfillment of a desire or the rejection of it.

In fact, wanting a lot is a normal state, you should not be afraid or avoid it. If you feel the strength in yourself to implement all the points and are happy with every victory, then do not cross out anything and live a varied life!

What if these desires are not yours?

Actually, I would much more like to have a dog than a wife (m / f “Kid and Carlson”)

Another reason why you should seriously work with the wish list is the presence of other people’s motives in it. You may think that the item is exactly yours, but when you implement it, you will not get the proper pleasure.

Here is what psychologist Mikhail Labkovsky says about the reasons for this state : “Why does a person not know what he wants? How can you not know at all? Yes, easily. We will have to talk about childhood again, when parents impose their will on 10-, 12-, 15-, and sometimes 40-year-old children. Rather, they are simply not interested in what the child wants there. Cottage cheese, cereal or scrambled eggs, for example, for breakfast? A teenager may not be asked what he himself wants to become … This, in principle, does not matter for some parents who themselves know what is best.

By the way, this may be another reason why you cannot formulate your desires. You are simply not used to having and formulating them, everything was decided for you by others. We recommend checking your list with the following methods:

  • Control by emotions and energy: the true goal is so attractive that it causes an emotional upsurge and itself gives energy to move and overcome obstacles on the way to it, and does not drive you into laziness and apathy.
  • Control by internal prohibitions and phobias: the true goal does not require overcoming them, or there are workarounds that allow it to be achieved without this overcoming.
  • True desires do not lead to the loss of inner integrity. If there is a contradiction, an internal conflict, when one part of the personality wants something, and the other does not, then this is an essential sign of the falsity of the goal.
  • Acceptance of reverses. The realization of any desire carries both positive and negative aspects. One of the signs of true desire is the awareness and acceptance of these reverse sides, while for false purposes they are often ignored or even completely repressed.

Even those goals that pass such a test can be imposed or ill-formulated, which changes their context and outcome. Therefore, it is worth applying the “5 whys” technique to them to find the primary reasons, and “SMART” to specify what you want.

It is worth remembering that in order to maintain your motivation, your wish list must be constantly reviewed and replenished. And, of course, to fulfill (at least part of it), because, quoting the cartoon “The Princess and the Frog”: “You can’t ask a star to fulfill a wish and do nothing at the same time.”

It so happened that in this article only one motivating quote about desires was used, the rest are about the search and restrictions that are often imposed on us by others. Unfortunately, often these are the words we hear in relation to our dreams and goals. We advise you to learn to understand yourself better and listen to yourself more often, using the experience of others, but not being guided only by it. And then only ticks will appear opposite the items in the wish list! And we also ask you to participate in a short survey:


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