How to Get What You Want
This may not seem like a Buddhist topic but actually, Buddhism has quite a bit to say about desire, what it really is, where it really comes from, how it could lead to frustration or insight into the ultimate answers. It also harbors the big secret to get what you want.
We want what we want. We want it now. We want it effortlessly. Desire is one of the most powerful forces in life. You might think Buddhism is about reducing desire, and that’s certainly a powerful path to go, but it is just as much about expanding it if you think about it in this way:
The biggest problem that gets in the way of getting what we want is when what we want is at odds with the situation or at odds with others desire. It may be at odds with what other people need and the goals that other people are actively pursuing. Usually, we tend to live in a tiny island of “me,” where our own interests, preferences, perspectives and motivations make the most sense to us. So that is what we might pursue. Meanwhile so does everyone else. But that sets us up to clash and so we struggle, fight, manipulate and try to outsmart the situation so “me” can win. But what if we took another approach?
The path that is most likely to get what we want is this
– all we have to do is want what’s best for everyone!
We could want not only what is best for ourselves but what is best for ourselves and everyone else. This is known as “Bodhichitta.” It’s the wish that ourselves and other’s deepest wish would be completely fulfilled. It’s not about limiting desire, it is about expanding it beyond the confines of dualistic identity to include others – to include all others.
We are inextricably bound with others, interdependent with them – so this is a more honest, realistic approach. There really is no getting what we want as long as others are miserable. It is no fun to be the one happy person while the world around us including everyone we care about wallows in misery and suffers. Wish fulfillment by its nature is a social phenomenon. Joy and success is best when shared with others.
If we focus on what is best for others, the situation, and ourselves, this is in a sense expanding our desires. We are not negating them, but looking at them from a different perspective. We are taking into account the other needs and wishes at play and including them. If we can plug into this, rather than live as an army of one driving after what is best for “me,” we can plug into a bigger vision, one shared by and therefore supported by others. Rather than live in the struggle of a “me” against “them” world we are harnessing the great power we share to cooperate. We are removing the major obstacle to our wish fulfillment by working with the other factors in our world rather than against them. Altruism is not about giving up your desire and your self-interest, but instead it is about recognizing that others desires matter just as much. It is an exponential expansion of desire to include all other beings.
What does it mean to wish for our own and others’ wish fulfillment? Yes, Bodhichitta is actually the wish that we ourselves and everyone we know would be enlightened. It is a kind of enlightened intent. The Tibetan (Tib. བྱང་ཆུབ་ཀྱི་སེམས; Wylie: chang chub sems) term for this refers to an awakened heart and awakened mind. This is the heart-mind that has been expanded and cleared. It is the mind which understands its purpose, to further that awakening, freedom and relief from suffering of oneself and others. While that may sound like an overwhelming task it may actually be easier than just working for our own singular self interest. Being selfish requires fighting off input and demands from our world while being generous allows us to connect and open up to our world. Opening up to our world is helpful. When we meet others with benevolence it highlights the goodness in the situation and makes it more likely for goodness to be actualized. Only then we are not the only one working to fulfill the wish, we are connecting with rather than working against the power of others.
How to always get what you want? Want whats best for everyone!
Is this a guarantee? Will we actually “always” get exactly what we want? Probably not, but if we want what is best for everyone then we are likely to get at least some of what we want. At the very minimum, the benefit of wanting whats best for everyone is that this will produce a host of other side effects that will make dealing with not getting what we want more tolerable. According to Buddhism, whenever we drop our self-clinging and self-fixation, then encountering unfilled desires is more tolerable. We have other’s joy to enjoy. We have other’s success to celebrate. We have our connection with others to put our desires in perspective.
Bodhisattva Aspiration Prayer – Shantideva
May all beings everywhere
Plagued by sufferings of body and mind
Obtain an ocean of happiness and joy
By virtue of my merits.
May no living creature suffer,
Commit evil, or ever fall ill.
May no one be afraid or belittled,
With a mind weighed down by depression.
May the blind see forms
And the deaf hear sounds,
May those whose bodies are worn with toil
Be restored on finding repose.
May the naked find clothing,
The hungry find food;
May the thirsty find water
And delicious drinks.
May the poor find wealth,
Those weak with sorrow find joy;
May the forlorn find hope,
Constant happiness, and prosperity.
May there be timely rains
And bountiful harvests;
May all medicines be effective
And wholesome prayers bear fruit.
May all who are sick and ill
Quickly be freed from their ailments.
Whatever diseases there are in the world,
May they never occur again.
May the frightened cease to be afraid
And those bound be freed;
May the powerless find power,
And may people think of benefiting each other.
For as long as space remains,
For as long as sentient beings remain,
Until then may I too remain
To dispel the miseries of the world.
More articles on desire in this blog: