Fifty years ago, Mick Jagger sang about it (“You can’t get no…”) and advertisers have been counting on it for years. It is human nature that no matter how much you acquire, accomplish or win, you will never be satisfied and will always want more. Thus, it is our fundamental nature to never be satisfied. We almost never feel that we are or that we have enough. This “dissatisfaction drive” dates back to early man where the caveman with the most stuff, strongest muscles and best mate had the best chance of survival and continuing the race - our most primal evolutionary drive.
In the most recent edition of Atlantic, Arthur Brooks tackles the subject of our lifelong search for satisfaction, and the stress and conflict this search causes in us as modern humans, particularly here in the West. He cited the following equation as a possible way to understand this satisfaction conundrum:
Satisfaction = what you have /what you want
(Haves are in the numerator and wants in the denominator.) So, you algebra fans will recognize that “having” more will increase our satisfaction but “wanting” more will actually decrease it. Not having what we want diminishes satisfaction which leads to stress, increased stress hormones (fight or flight) which can potentially promote disease. So how do we maximize satisfaction?
Two suggestions might work:
Mindulfness - if we are totally aware of , and present in, any activity at any given time, we are much more likely to appreciate it, and not feel need for more. Example: housework might actually become enjoyable, rewarding and appreciated if we are immersed in it, rather than thinking of all the other things we could/should be doing.
Generosity - shifting our focus to ways we can help or benefit others using our gifts and talents will reward us with increased positive, healing hormones (oxytocin, seratonin) that come with giving. These can prevent disease and promote well being.
It turns out that the lyric, “You can’t always get what you want, but you get what you need” (different song, I know, but it works!!can be very helpful advice!
Dr. John Monaco