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Shifting Desires

October 25, 2020 • ☕️ 2 min read

My desires are constantly shifting. From the mundane, like what to eat for dinner, to more important matters, like what I want my career to look like in a year. The whole process is tiring. Sometimes I wish that I could make a decision and be happy with it.

But perhaps my frustration with this process comes from fighting reality. Perhaps it is the nature of desires to shift. Maybe I’m causing my own dissatisfaction by forgetting about this and wanting to fix my goals in place. With fixed goals I’d be able to make a plan of action and feel comfort and certainty that following through would lead to happiness.

Yet my frustration makes sense when I think about the consequences of honouring my changing wants. If in the morning I want a burger for dinner but when dinner time comes I tune in and notice I feel more like pasta, it doesn’t have a huge impact on my life. But if I’ve spent the last 10 years working towards a Phd in neuroscience then it will be hard to admit to myself that I’m feeling a calling to start writing novels.

Noticing that my desire is changing means having to face the discomfort of not knowing, of having to find a new direction and of regretting the time and energy lost.

It also means facing up to the complexity of life. It would be much easier if reality worked in a linear manner. If when I found something I liked, I could just double down on it with full certainty that this is the best direction for my life. Of course, it’s impossible to get that kind of certainty, even in principle.

But it is so alluring to believe that I’ve found the one right path. The problem with this is that it leads to a lack flexibility. I will be tempted to approach all new problems in my life in ways that have worked for me in the past.

For example, I’m good at getting deep focused work done. So it’s easy for me to think that all problems can be solved that way.

But reality is too complex for all problems to be unlocked by the same key. Sometimes focus is the answer, and sometimes it is chaotic and messy group discussion.

When we have an insight, when we acquire a new way of looking at the world that helps us solve our problems, it is so tempting to fixate on our new lens and believe that it’s the solution to all of our future problems too. It reminds me of a quote from a personal growth course I took earlier this year.

Every epiphany is the beginning of the next rut.

At the moment I’m enjoying the epiphany that honouring my shifting desires, especially when that’s difficult, is the path to authenticity. Yet there’s always paradox. Again I can’t just double down on this new insight.

Because when does honouring my shifting desires turn into being a dabbler, jack of all trades and master of none? It seems that I’m going to have to get comfortable with not knowing.