Research Paper By Dragomir Lulian
(Business Coach, ROMANIA)
I want more!
I feel sad about not fulfilling my desire.
Help me to accomplish this!
These are questions and requests a coach might be asked by a client. Below is research made on what generates desire, different perspectives and interpretations widely accepted about desire the connection between desires and happiness and my view on how this could be used in coaching.
We seek happiness in unique and diverse ways yet the goal is the same. Whether it’s acquiring new skills that empower us at work, acquiring possessions, filling our lives with interesting hobbies, or dedicating ourselves to a life path of parenthood or civic duty, we’re all on the lookout for happiness that lasts. It is important to think deeply about what endeavors we will seek happiness in. Ultimately it is wise to seek an experience of happiness that endures regardless of circumstance. Once we have our goal then it is important to act with enthusiasm.
If we are sincerely going to strive for our highest potential and happiness that remains regardless of circumstances, then we will need to investigate the nature of desire. What is desire? Can fulfilling our desires really make us happy? And if not, what can?
We explore below the subtleties of desire—both where it comes from and what it creates within us—so that through education, we can begin to understand the elements of our experience that bring us closer or farther away from lasting happiness. In that quest of understanding, we begin to perceive that there is a difference between fulfilled desire and happiness.
Desire is a sense of longing or hoping for a person, object, or outcome. The same sense is expressed by emotions such as “craving”. When a person desires something or someone, their sense of longing is excited by the enjoyment or the thought of the item or person, and they want to take action to obtain their goal. The motivational aspect of desire has long been noted by philosophers; Thomas Hobbes (1588–1679) asserted that human desire is the fundamental motivation of all human action.
While desires are often classified as emotions by laypersons, psychologists often describe desires as different from emotions; psychologists tend to argue that desires arise from bodily structures, such as the stomach’s need for food, whereas emotions arise from a person’s mental state. Marketing and advertising companies have used psychological research on how desire is stimulated to find more effective ways to induce consumers into buying a given product or service. While some advertising attempts to give buyers a sense of lack or wanting, other types of advertising create desire associating the product with desirable attributes, by showing either a celebrity or a model with the product.
The theme of desire is at the core of romance novels, which often create drama by showing cases where human desire is impeded by social conventions, class, or cultural barriers. The theme of desire is also used in other literary genres, such as Gothic novels (e.g., Dracula by Bram Stoker, in which desire is mingled with fear and dread). Poets ranging from Homer to Toni Morrison have dealt with the theme of desire in their work. Just as desire is central to the written fiction genre of romance, it is the central theme of melodrama films, which use plots that appeal to the heightened emotions of the audience by showing “crises of human emotion, failed romance or friendship”, in which desire is thwarted or unrequited.
In philosophy, desire has been identified as a philosophical problem since Antiquity. In The Republic, Plato argues that individual desires must be postponed in the name of the higher ideal. In De Anima, Aristotle claims that desire is implicated in animal interactions and the propensity of animals to motion; at the same time, he acknowledges that reasoning also interacts with desire.
Hobbes (1588–1679) proposed the concept of psychological hedonism, which asserts that the “fundamental motivation of all human action is the desire for pleasure.” Baruch Spinoza (1632–1677) had a view which contrasted with Hobbes, in that “he saw natural desires as a form of bondage” that are not chosen by a person of their own free will. David Hume (1711–1776) claimed that desires and passions are non-cognitive, automatic bodily responses, and he argued that reasoning is “capable only of devising means to ends set by [bodily] desire”.
In marketing, desire is the human appetite for a given object of attention. The desire for a product is stimulated by advertising, which attempts to give buyers a sense of lack or wanting. In-store retailing, merchants attempt to increase the desire of the buyer by showcasing the product attractively, in the case of clothes or jewelry, or, for food stores, by offering samples. With print, TV, and radio advertising, desire is created by giving the potential buyer a sense of lacking (“Are you still driving that old car?”) or by associating the product with desirable attributes, either by showing a celebrity using or wearing the product or by giving the product a “halo effect” by showing attractive models with the product. Nike’s “Just Do It” ads for sports shoes are appealing to consumers’ desires for self-betterment.
In some cases, the potential buyer already has the desire for the product before they enter the store, as in the case of a decorating buff entering their favorite furniture store. The role of the salespeople in these cases is simply to guide the customer towards making a choice; they do not have to try to “sell” the general idea of making a purchase, because the customer already wants the products. In other cases, the potential buyer does not have a desire for the product or service, and so the company has to create a sense of desire. An example of this situation is for life insurance. Most young adults are not thinking about dying, so they are not naturally thinking about how they need to have accidental death insurance. Life insurance companies, though, are attempting to create a desire for life insurance with advertising that shows pictures of children and asks “If anything happens to you, who will pay for the children’s upkeep?”
Marketing theorists call desire the third stage in the hierarchy of effects, which occurs when the buyer develops a sense that if they felt the need for the type of product in question, the advertised product is what would quench their desire.
Joseph Butler (1692–1752), a bishop of the Church of England claimed that happiness occurs as a by-product of the satisfaction of desires for things other than happiness itself. Those who aim directly at happiness do not find it; those whose goals lie elsewhere are more likely to achieve happiness as well. Butler was not doubting the reasonableness of pursuing one’s own happiness as an ultimate aim. Indeed, he went so far as to say that “when we sit down in a cool hour, we can neither justify to ourselves this or any other pursuit, till we are convinced that it will be for our happiness, or at least not contrary to it.” He held, however, that direct and simple egoism is a self-defeating strategy. Egoists will do better for themselves by adopting immediate goals other than their own interests and living their everyday lives in accordance with these more immediate goals.
The problem with this model is that the happiness we experience by fulfilling our desires is short-lived. It’s based on circumstances that we largely have no control over. For instance, we might have just satiated our desire for something sweet, but as soon as we get back in the car from the shop, we find ourselves sitting in evening traffic. Suddenly, we have a new desire and a new problem to solve. This can feel like a chase, with short-lived bursts of happiness that arise immediately following the cessation of a desire, combined with much longer stretches of anxiety when our desires are actively pointing out the problems that need correcting.
Suffering exists: that’s right, suffering exists; no matter how hard you try to run from it, it’s there. I suggest leaning into the suffering by surrendering. Having a miserable day?
Get curious about why you are sad instead of shopping, eating, drinking, popping extra prescriptions, etc. get curious about what’s making you sad and perhaps make a change or a communication.
Suffering arises from attachment to desires: The dress, car, house, fame, fortune you want creates further suffering because these attachments are transient. Once you have a car, you will want another car, house, dress, etc. It’s a never-ending cycle of suffering because to acquire more and more means a cycle of desire and control.
Suffering ceases when attachment to desire ceases: This one is a little harder to swallow, it’s probably why most people give up on any spiritual path and decide the momentary high from driving a new car is the way to go but if you can even get a glimmer of life without attachment, it truly is bliss. How do we get there? Through seeking self-improvement.
Freedom from suffering is possible by bringing consciousness, mindfulness, and self-awareness into our daily life, not the race for material possessions or stature gained through objects, sex appeal or likes.
What we can conclude is that since antiquity to present the world has been moved by desire and that social media, aggressive marketing and the speed of our era make this a big challenge for all of us.
On coaching, I understand to use desire to create self-awareness on how this desire is aligned with the client’s values and raise awareness on what is truly meaningful to the client. This involves a process in which the client needs to layer the desires and find together with the coach which needs to partner with the client and explore with curiosity the client desire. Furthermore, I find it important to help the client to focus his actions on areas where desire is in alignment with his values. This helps the client to achieve long-term fulfillment not only short term satisfaction.
STACEY J. WARNERIs the desire for happiness making us miserable?
Ethics Chapter. Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy