We are driven by our desires, urges and wants. Our mind says “I want that” and we just go for it, without any skepticism about that command.
But how can you know you really want something?
Let me give you an example:
Like many couples, Lucie and I were excited about the arrival of Chloe, and about having a kid in general (before Lucie got pregnant). We said things like “We want a baby” or “We can’t wait to be parents”.
And yet, we had almost no idea about what we were in for. Sure, we knew on a conceptual level that there would be some sleepless nights or something, but as far as stress and challenge went, that was about all we expected.
We didn’t know about reflux. We didn’t know about 5hrs+ of doctor’s appointments per week. We didn’t know about the panic of when a baby stops breathing for no reason. We didn’t know about the hassle of winter’s negative-degree temperatures and the restrictions of COVID on taking Chloe for a walk. We didn’t know what only sleeping 3hrs per night for 4 months feels like.
And a million other problems large and small that we didn’t see coming.
When we said “We want a baby” we didn’t mean we wanted (or expected) all that other stuff that comes with it that for some reason no parent warns you about.
So did we really know what we wanted? No. We just thought we did. We desired a fantasy that any parent will tell you is a complete fiction and miles away from reality.
Don’t get me wrong; I have no regrets and I love being a dad. I’d sign up for this all over again even with what I know now about how ridiculously difficult it is to raise a child with the western “The parents do everything without support” culture/mentality.
But the lesson here is that we so often crave something without any real understanding of what it is we’re going for.
From the small things, like allowing your instant-gratification impulse to urge you into a Netflix binge, to the large things like spending dozens of hours per week trying to achieve “financial freedom”, we so often pursue goals and desires without ever really stopping to think about what we’re doing or why we’re doing it.
How do you feel after a Netflix binge? Are you proud of yourself? Do you feel that you spent your time meaningfully? Did you even really pay attention during the binge?
And for those of you pursuing wealth or popularity, do you even know what it’s like to be there? Why do rich and famous celebrities regularly experience chaos and crisis if they’ve achieved something that should make them happy?
As many philosophers before me have warned us: treat your desires with skepticism and doubt.
It’s like expecting to enjoy a food you’ve never tasted before – how could you possibly be sure that the flavour is to your liking prior to eating it?
What you think you want is usually just a fantasy, and the real thing – once achieved – will disappoint and disillusion you.
I know dozens of rich guys who still get depressed and insecure about money. I know dozens of guys who are well-loved and popular and yet suffer from severe social confidence issues. And I now know dozens of parents who are suffering from sleep-deprivation and awful relationship issues due to having a kid they weren’t ready for.
The alternative? Work with what is real and present rather than pursuing a future-focused, outcome-dependent fiction.
What does this mean? It means living by your values.
You won’t get high from being honest. You won’t necessarily see a massive increase in your wealth from a single act of courage. You won’t be loved by everyone for taking responsibility for your life. You often won’t feel like living with integrity.
And yet valued-living is real. You know what is right, here and now, according to your own code of principles. There is no future outcome to jerk off to, hoping it’s as good as it sounds. Valued-living creates confidence in the moment, though it doesn’t always feel like it.
You won’t feel like exercising because it’s a hassle with no immediate rewards, but you’ll love being a healthy person.
You won’t feel like being honest with a potential client because you might lose the sale, but you’ll love having a business that’s authentic and trusted and you can just be yourself.
You won’t feel like courageously confronting your partner because you know they’ll lose their shit, but you’ll love the freedom of being in a completely transparent relationship.
Ignore what you think you want, and instead focus on listening to that inner voice of your core values tell you what is the RIGHT thing to do, right NOW, even if you don’t want to do it.
And of course, if you want to figure out how to live with integrity, get in touch.