Happiness is the difference between our expectations and our reality. Expectations are always in the future. Desire is related to our present and is representative of our reality. If we have it pretty good, then our desires are satisfied and our future expectations are lowered. If our current reality is lacking, then our desire is for better and our expectations are increased. Our desires and expectations today are dynamic. They change as our reality changes.
A desire is a sense of craving or yearning for a person, thing or outcome. The philosopher Hobbes (1588-1679) stated that human desire is the fundamental motivation for all human action. Motivation can be intrinsic (coming from within you) or extrinsic (coming from the environment). A lot of people think they are motivated by money, but they really are not.
Many of us have heard that we are motivated to minimize physical and mental pain or maximize pleasure. Anthony Robbins took those two concepts and explained decision theory – why we decide to do something – avoid pain or seek pleasure.
Professor Steven Reiss, is a professor of psychology and psychiatry and an author. In his book, Who Am I? The 16 Basic Desires That Motivate Our Action and Define Our Personalities (Tarcher/Putnam, 2000), said that these sixteen desires are what drive our everyday actions and make us who we are. The uniqueness of individuals are based on the combinations and ranking of these desires.
Professor Reiss found that many researchers tried to reduce all human behavior to the basic two elements – pleasure and pain. He did a number of studies involving over 6000 people and determined that there are sixteen intrinsic desires in each one of us. These sixteen basic desires guide nearly all human behavior. The sixteen basic desires are:
Acceptance – the need for approval
Curiosity – the need to think
Eating – the need for food
Family – the need to raise family
Honor – the need to be loyal to the traditional values of one’s clan or ethnic group
Idealism – the need for social justice
Independence – the need for individuality
Order – the need for organized, stable and predictable environments
Physical Activity – the need for exercise
Power – the need for influence of will
Romance – the need for sex
Saving – the need to collect
Social Contact – the need for friends (peer relationships)
Status – the need for social standing/importance
Tranquility – the need to be safe
Vengeance – the need to strike back
Professor Reiss emphasized that at least fourteen of the sixteen basic desires appear to have a genetic basis. The desires of idealism and acceptance do not appear to have a genetic base. These sixteen basic desires can describe over two trillion desire profiles.
Think about two or three people you know extremely well. How different are they on each of the sixteen basic desires? These desires are intrinsic – they are internal to each of us. They are part of our mindset. They determine how much effort we are willing to expend to get something.
If we have an exceptional strong desire for vengeance, then we will do literally anything in our power to exact that revenge. Other people with a low basic desire for vengeance will rationalize or justify to themselves why it is not worth their time to seek vengeance – the person, the object of their hatred will get his or her just rewards in this life or the next.
Each of these sixteen basic desires has been built from genetic codes which established your baseline at birth and have been reinforced in different ways through your learning experiences. You may realize that your career requires a lot more of the basic desire for social contact – the need for friends and peer relationships.
I am an introvert. I am not comfortable walking up to a stranger and introducing myself. I understand it. But, I understand that my business requires that I wear that an extrovert hat to do business. If you ask people who know me about my being an introvert – they would swear that I’m absolutely the opposite.
I recognize a need to improve my skills in the area of social networking to earn more money. I have changed my basic desire for social contact by direct action and will continue to change it in the future. There was a lot of trial and error and awkward moments, but I have the ability to put on an extrovert’s hat and act professionally.
Are any of these basic desires getting in the way of your life? 2018 might be the right time to assess who you are and why and make the changes you want.