Thursday, February 19, 2015

On Desire 2: Why Don't We Get What We Want?

On Tuesday, I talked about examining the nature and roots of our desires.  Today, I want to look at the more functional part of the question "if we really want something, what is stopping us from achieving that goal?"

Is it... competing desires?  The way that my desire to stare out the window and sip coffee is nearly equal to my desire to answer my email right now?  When we look at the actions it takes to build the unified library scene, our desire to make that happen in its many little parts is only one set of desires. In my work-life I also desire to be well respected, not misstep politically, achieve tenure, and sometimes sip coffee while staring out the window. All of these desires are occurrent at the same time, and some matrix results in my actual actions which bring about some combination of those desires.  I may be able to achieve some of my desires concurrently, but probably not all, as my inability to speak French and Hebrew fluently should attest. And this competition is messy, with different things gaining the upper hand at different times.  Sometimes I really want to get through my emails, who knows why, and I delete the CFP, and sometimes my strongest desire is to achieve tenure and I send in a proposal.

Is it... the nature of the desire? Am I more likely to work toward something I desire intrinsically? It surely seems like that may be the case, but I'm really not sure. How much power does a second order instrumental desire have? I desire to go to work because I want to pay my rent, that's surely the case, surely that plays into how willing I am to engage in activities that I think will make my desires real but also deem to be risky. Occurrent desires also need not be conscious to influence activity, so I don't even have to be aware of my fear of change for it to stop me from doing something I desire.

Is it... the source of the desire? Some sources of desire allow for desires to be externally imposed, and these are the ones I am specifically thinking about. An attention-based desire could be like my desire to promptly complete annual evaluations so I don't have to think about them any more. Organizational priorities can create the same kind of desires in employees, which seem like they would be disadvantaged in a competition among desires.

I am a person who is interested in getting things done, but I think that examining things like our desires can help us see where we're going, what we want to get done, and what kinds of road blocks we might run into. Having examined the desires and the barriers, we may be more able to fuel appropriate desires, map a course around or deconstruct barriers, and get to where we want to go.

What do you think?

Keep Rockin'

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