Thoughts on peace of mind vs. desire for progress

Amr Khalifeh - Post Image

I’m a big proponent of always trying to know myself better. For example, studying the things that upset me and knowing why they affect me in such a way, finding out about my weaknesses, and so on. If you’ve ever tried to learn about how your mind works, how to be mindful and in control of it, you’ve likely come across this piece of wisdom in some form or another: desire is the source of misery.

If you give it some thought, you find that it makes sense. In most cases, if not all, we’re upset because there’s something we want that we don’t have: money, love, success, free time, etc. My mistake was in making & adopting the following conclusion: if desire equals misery, I should strive to limit my desires as much as possible. But of course, that’s easier said than done.

But why was that the wrong conclusion to make? Well, recently, I made the mistake of wanting something too much, and I failed to get it. I had made it such an important part & goal of my life that when I failed to get it, it impacted me tremendously. I was in so much pain and it felt like a big part of me had collapsed. Only then did I realize that I hadn’t been applying the lesson of limiting my desires. So I tried to reapply it. But since I had been burned by my recent desire, I ran as fast as I could to the other extreme of no desires at all!

That turned into a kind of depression. I lost all motivation to do anything. Like, what’s the point? If it’s best to not want anything, then I don’t really care about making progress on anything. Yes, that sounds silly, I know. But I was still rebounding from the initial impact of my failure. Shortly after, my senses started coming back to me. I remembered that living without wanting anything is just not realistic. Life without progress, no change, would quickly drain the will to live out of its owner. We all want progress on something: career, relationships, mindfulness, spirituality, etc.

So how do you reconcile these two things: not becoming miserable by your desires but also be motivated enough to make progress towards things you desire? The answer in retrospect is obvious: like most things in life, it’s a balance. But how do you get that balance right in your mind? Different people do achieve it in different ways. Personally, I’m a man of faith. I believe that if I work hard & work mindfully, Allah will take care of the rest. Half work, half faith. My faith helps me keep my peace of mind while also pursuing progress on things I want, and without becoming enslaved by my wants & desires. Now since I’m not perfect (gasp!), I lost sight of that and had to relearn it. But hope I’m getting back on the right track.

All the best,