Desire is insatiable.

If you know this, you are ahead of the game of life. If you can teach this to your children, they will lead happier lives.

Desire from an evolutionary perspective kept us alive. Desire for food, shelter, sex, and safety has kept the human race evolving and thriving. If desire were ever satisfied permanently we might perish. What if we stopped wanting food? What if we stopped reproducing?

In modern society as our basic needs are typically met, desire has become the downfall of many people. Our desires have expanded into nonessential things like fancy cars, expensive clothes, and exotic vacations. If our income affords such luxuries then these things can be fine to pursue. It is when these things become the objective of our efforts or exceed our means that we run into problems. “I am working so hard so my family can have nice things,” instead of valuing time spent together as a family. The nice things do not create joy or fulfillment. Connection with loved ones does.

One might argue that it feels good to get nice things. This is true. Does the feeling last? After you buy that expensive handbag or pair of shoes notice how long the euphoria of possessing the item lasts? How soon do you move on to the next desire? Not long.

Teens are especially prone to desire because they are wanting to have things to set their social status or set themselves apart from the group. Our daughters may never be satisfied by their wardrobe despite the monetary investment. Our sons may always desire a better car. My son is still complaining about the Prius we let him drive. I often give the “when I was a kid” lecture to him. It’s fun.

Many adults I work with have one of those “Ah Ha!” moments when I bring their attention to the notion that desire might be undermining their happiness. When they understand desire and its true purpose they are free to shift to a different perspective. I know when I embraced this concept I felt relieved and free. When desire starts to appear in my life, I notice it and consider the object and purpose of my desire. If my desire is for an essential item like healthy food and it is within my means to obtain it, I pursue it. If the desire is coming from an unhealthy place like jealousy (my neighbor just bought a new car) or a need for external validation (this jewelry will up my social status), I let the feeling of desire pass because it will. I remind myself that possessing such nonessential things in life will not bring me more joy or fulfillment.

If the desire is particularly persistent, I seek to find joy and fulfillment elsewhere. I meditate, take in the beauty of nature, spend time with my children or spouse, call a friend, visit a neighbor, play with a pet, take a moment to notice all the things I have for which I am grateful. The feelings generated will easily suppress the unhealthy desire. If the desire persists beyond those tactics, I look underneath the desire for the why. Why am I desiring this? Typically the answer lies in an old wound or unmet need from long ago. I work on that and tell myself that desire is leading me astray from addressing the real issue.

Helping our children to truly understand desire as insatiable, its value, and how it can derail us is priceless.