Satisfaction is the Death of Desire

This is short, but it is as important as anything I’ve written.

You want to be happy, right? This took me almost 30 years to learn.

In my 20s I complained about life, even after major accomplishments, and Christine asked, “Is anything ever going to make you happy? Why can’t you just be happy with what you’ve accomplished?”

I replied, “No. I can’t afford to be happy, because this isn’t good enough. I can do better.”

She shook her head and walked away leaving me indignant and confused. I couldn’t afford to be happy, because happiness is dangerous. Happiness leads to complacency and laziness.

I was sure I was right, but I was wrong.

Like many aggressive goal oriented people, I was confused about the meaning of the word happiness.

I confused satisfaction with happiness. They aren’t the same thing, no matter what your dictionary tells you.

You can be happy and insatiable.

Somehow, when we were kids, we began to believe we needed our desires satiated to be happy, but we don’t, and this mind set cheats us out of many happy moments. This confusion leads to obesity and a swarm of other addictions. We believe we must eat until we are happy, so we eat too much, because we confuse happiness with satisfaction and most of us will never be satisfied. It is natural to be insatiable, because it drives us upward and onward. We are insatiable creatures. Our demand for more fuels the great creation we are experiencing. In our confusion we chase happiness through the satisfaction of our desires, but the moment of satisfaction is fleeting, and thus, so is our happiness.

So the desire to be more, to have more, and to create more is natural and should be insatiable. Since satisfaction is the death of desire, it is also the death of creativity. So be happy and grateful now, but forget about satisfaction, it isn’t even desirable.

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14 thoughts on “Satisfaction is the Death of Desire”

  1. :) – a very philosophic post, I’ve read it for two times and I want to say that to be happy it’s not so hard! It doesn’t depend on how many things we own or what we are doing! It depends on what we are feeling! We must learn to be happy without thinking on what is happening around us. Just what feelings do you have inside you! Think about it!

  2. I think this is similar to those cases where people say “I’ll be happy once I have a million dollars” but are not happy when they get to the goal. They are confused about what happiness really is.

  3. Steve, would you be willing to play with these thoughts a bit?

    I’m thinking about what I know of Buddhist philosophy…that desire knocks us off center, out of the present and into the want-based future or the regret-filled past. But living in the absence of desire does not mean we give up our creativity. In fact, I think we create more, be more, express more, build more, invent more. In the absence of desire we allow the passion of our intentions to lead us, not our insatiability.

    What say you?

  4. Lisa,
    I was waiting for this comment. I love many Buddhist teachings, especially Zen Buddhism, but I struggle with the desire issue… I am a student of many teachings including Napoleon Hill’s Think and Grow Rich. In his book, Mr. Hill states the key ingredient in success is one’s ability to create a red hot burning desire.

    Now the Buddhist teaching about desire is an understanding I have not yet reached… If I try not to desire than I am desiring not to desire, which then leads me back where I started. I understand this is an ancient Koan.

    This is from the wikipedia page on Tanha:

    The Buddhist solution to the problem of taṇhā (craving, wanting) is the third of the four noble truths, the cessation (nirodha) of suffering. The cessation of suffering comes from the quenching (nibbuta) of taṇhā, which is not the destruction of taṇhā as much as the natural cessation of it that follows its true and real satisfaction. The problem is not that we desire, but rather that we desire unsatisfactory (dukkha) things, namely sensual pleasures, existence and non-existence. When we have Right Effort, when we desire that which yields satisfaction, then taṇhā is not the obstacle to enlightenment but the vehicle for its realization.

    So our problem isn’t that we desire, it is that we desire unsatisfactory things.

    Now read my post again. :-)

  5. … go ahead, just TRY and be satisfied. See how long that ‘happy condition’ lasts, before some New Desire rises to take the place of the Old Satisfied Desire … unless, of course, you are the Buddha Incarnate ;)

  6. Steve,

    Buddhists believe that by learning to live in the present moment, you detach your emotions from the outcome of the endeavor you involved in. This even works in the personal life as well. If I learn not to attach myself(ego) with the expressions or arguments that I receive from my alter ego, I condition my thoughts not to have emotional jerks every time I engage in an argument.

    I have an article related to yours with different perspective. I hope you like it.


  7. Not many people get “satisfaction” and “success”, but it is living how you want to live an enjoying yourself daily. It has nothing to do with any amount of money.


  8. This is a very good post. I am always quoted as one always satisfied, but personally I always feel that I am constantly struggling for achieving my dreams, many of which nobody subscribe to. But best thing is that I am always happy with everything.

  9. At the risk of aggravating some readers, I will say that both, happiness ad satisfaction are possible. Both are temporary. Both are necessary to living a normal life. As with all things, the devil is in the details. If youare satisfied too easily or not at all — that is a problem. If you are always happy, and fail to recognise your pain or anyone else’s, ever — that is a problem. If you always see only the negative and you are never happy — that is a problem.

    To me, the whole point of life is to experience its ups and downs with equal intensity.

  10. I like this post. It opens my mind that there is a big difference between grateful and satisfy. Grateful make us survive during the hard time. Satisfaction will destroy us during the good time, even bad time. I know someone who has too much satisfaction even when he face family financial problem. Asking money from his parents. He felt that it is enough for his wife and two children.

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