Our Desires Are Endless

This is the sixth of seven key understandings.


Having everything we want won’t make us totally happy forever.  The constantly changing world can’t bring constant, permanent happiness.  We may have what we want but it can’t last forever or continue to satisfy us forever.

Not only is the world constantly changing; our own desires are constantly changing.  It is in the nature of the human mind that it does not remain satisfied for long.  Some things may bring us a lot of pleasure for quite a long time, but we are always wanting something better or something new.  So the pursuit of pleasure doesn’t lead to lasting happiness.

Often desires themselves, rather than their not being met, are the problem.  Many desires are a normal healthy part of life.  But some desires are for things that are not conducive to wellbeing.  Some desires distort the way we see reality and the way we live.  We lose our perspective on what is truly important.

We often pursue things – possessions, pleasure, power, fame, experiences – believing they will make us happy, only to find the reality of them to be illusory or fleeting, or not what we thought they would be.  We may have just been pursuing a mirage or a fantasy we created in our mind – perhaps just a projection of our hopes and fears.

Relentless modern advertising stirs up our desires.  It appeals to our greed, our vanity, our insecurities.  It feeds the ILLUSION that getting everything we want will make us happy.  Many products are actually detrimental to our wellbeing but that won’t be mentioned in the advertising.  Lottery advertising is perhaps the most extreme, promising a life where all our desires can be fulfilled; implying that lack of money is all that is holding us back from being happy.

All desire is FUTURE orientated – when we get the object of our desire, we will be happy.  Meanwhile in the present we can feel discontented, lacking, dissatisfied, impatient.

When there is a difference between what we have and what we want, or between where we are and where we want to be, there is discontentment and unhappiness.  If it’s constantly there, we are constantly discontented or constantly craving.  We are always being pulled away from our inner peace and contentment – away from the stable centre of our being.  No amount of fulfilling our desires can substitute for being at peace with ourselves.

Even normal healthy desires can easily turn into cravings, obsessions and greed.  Being selfishly greedy and wanting more all the time actually causes our unhappiness.  It becomes a type of addiction that goes unrecognised.  Greed also often causes us to be unconcerned for the wellbeing of others.

We can make our lives and the lives of others better, but we don’t need to have everything.  To chase everything we want would be endless and futile.  We can’t make everything perfect.

We do have a RESPONSIBILITY to support ourselves and provide for our material needs.  But an endless desire for more and more money and material possessions can mean working long hours and neglecting family and friends and missing the simpler joys of life.

We can seek a way of earning a living that is ethically sound and that harms no one.  Becoming wealthy is fine if our wealth is acquired in socially and environmentally responsible ways and if our wealth is used in ways beneficial to all.

There are healthy desires and motivations that are conducive to genuine happiness for ourselves and others.  We can reflect on which ones will lead to us being truly happy – which ones will contribute to our wellbeing and to the wellbeing of others.  Which ones are motivated by wisdom and love?

We can start by discerning the difference between our NEEDS and our WANTS.  We can give priority to our needs and the needs of others.  Our needs are those things that everyone, everywhere, has always needed, and that everyone, everywhere in the future will always continue to need, in order to be healthy and happy.

The list of fundamental human needs is relatively short: food, clothing, shelter, love/connection, safety/protection, education, health care.  Our fundamental psychological needs have been identified as autonomy, competence and relatedness.  Autonomy means having personal independence and control of our own life; competence means having abilities; relatedness means connections such as family and friends.

In contrast, the list of human wants or desires is endless and constantly changes from person to person, from place to place, from one era to another and from one generation to another.

Individually, we can seek to discern which of our personal desires are mere whims, in contrast to desires which come from a deeper part of ourselves – from our need to pursue our own particular vision of our life’s possibilities.

We can exercise PATIENCE – we don’t have to have it all now.  We can come to understand that sometimes we can forgo something now for something greater over time.

We can try to avoid being caught up in greed and its consequences and instead choose to live simply.  We can spend more time enjoying and appreciating the things we have, rather than endlessly desiring more things.  We can come to recognise that there are non-monetary ways of being rich such as having an abundance of good friends.  We can come to see that we are fortunate in so many ways and that we have a lot to be grateful for.

GRATITUDE focuses on what we have rather than what we lack.  Then it doesn’t seem so important to have more.  Expressing our gratitude to others builds positive connections and strengthens humility rather than arrogance.  Expressing gratitude also brings us pleasure.  Our gratitude can extend to nature and the whole web of interconnectedness of which we are part.  Being grateful for what we have includes recognising that others are less fortunate, and this can arouse our compassion and a desire to help others.

If we practise GENEROSITY we will find we have much to give.  We can give of our time and our energy and our kindness as well as materially.  Generosity takes us out of our selfishness and expands our world.  We can enjoy SHARING what we have.

We can come to see that ultimately our happiness depends on our ATTITUDE rather than the external conditions of our lives.  We can learn to be content and at peace within ourselves.

Then we can put our energies into what is truly fulfilling – particularly placing greater emphasis on our relationships, contributing to the community, fostering wellbeing within ourselves, and building personal skills and abilities that endure.  We can explore our creative capacity to generate happiness in non-material ways.

Copyright © 2008-2017 John Frederick Gray



  • Our desires are endless.
  • We need to discern the difference between our needs and our wants.
  • The constantly changing world can’t bring constant, permanent happiness.
  • Our happiness depends on our mental attitude and not on our external conditions.

Some quotes about DESIRE

If we go down deep into ourselves we will find that we possess exactly what we desire.    – Simone Weil

It is your right to be happy and yet you create your own unhappiness by wanting things. Wanting is the source of perpetual restlessness. If you do not get the thing you wanted, you are disappointed. And if you get it, you want more and more of it and become unhappy.
– Meher Baba (famous for saying: “Don’t worry – be happy!”)

Enjoy the little things, for one day you may look back and realize they were the big things.     – Robert Brault

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