Limit Empty Desires, Distractions, and Habits
Apologies to donkeys – the carrot on the stick is a metaphor for humans to consider their illusory happiness! To humans: without a doubt, your life is made of patterns. Look at each one closely. Leave no pattern unchecked. Ask yourself, what good does it bring? Go slow, don’t be harsh. Consider the following two beautiful quotes. Do the implications rock you? If not, read them again. If they still don’t hit hard, be patient. Read on…
“Could the young but realize how soon they will become mere walking bundles of habits, they would give more heed to their conduct while in the plastic state.”
– William James
“We are what we repeatedly do.”
Ask: Why Am I Doing This?
As explored separately, mindfulness can bring incredible clarity into a person’s life. (If you have not explored mindfulness, there are enormous synergies here, I highly suggest you dive in). For brief moments, we can step away from the never-ending movie that’s playing in our minds. With this new superpower, we can then start to ask the question nearly every moment of our lives… how am I feeling? why do I feel this way? why am I doing what I am doing?
The changes that can stem from these questions are life altering.
Dissecting Desire and Distraction
Imagine three slices of time:
Point A: an average minute in your life
Point B: you eating ice cream
Point C: abrupt return to an average minute in your life
Zero against ice cream. Huge fan. But here is an honest question for you… how do you feel at point C compared to point A? Are you happier? If yes, wait an hour. Are you still happier? Do you feel your life has changed for the better? Or was the bliss of eating ice cream undeniably temporary? If you feel you are permanently happier at point C, I don’t believe you, and you can stop reading and go eat ice cream forever 🙂
Take this same experiment, and replace ice cream with anything else that brings you temporary pleasure or distraction. A glass of wine. A cigarette. A reality TV show. Orgasm. Getting drunk. Scrolling a social media feed.
“Whoa! why are you hating on fun?”
“Whoa! sex is an expression of love / basic human needs”
“Whoa! sometimes I just need a break…”
Chill 🙂 I am not hating on fun or preaching ascetism 🙂 ! (Everything in moderation, as they say.) I am simply pointing out that sometimes, these cravings can be totally empty. Sometimes, they accomplish absolutely nothing besides fleeting pleasure or escape, with no lasting positive effect on our wellbeing. In addition, all of the energy and frustration we spend on them can ironically drive us crazy! Sometimes we can’t satisfy the craving, and that is terribly frustrating. If we can satisfy it, we are often the identical person at point C than we were at point A.
Only You Can Judge Desires and Habits
The purpose of this is not to say whether your specific desires and habits are worthwhile or not. You are the only person who can ever do that. It’s merely to inspire you to start the process, rather than just ride the ride. Self inquiry takes time and reflection. We truly are “creatures of habit”, so it seems important then, that our collection of habits are meaningful to us.
You Have Great Power!
It’s not easy to make a habit, and it’s not easy to break one. But you have more power than you might realize, to explore your habit loops. To become extremely curious about the psychological processes and cravings that keep you inside of them.
A brilliant person to start with, is Dr. Jud Brewer.
Listen to a great conversation here
Check out his website for more information and resources.
If you have any questions please post them on any article - I'll follow up quickly - usually the same day. Happy to brainstorm and would love to hear about your challenges and journey.