Urge vs. desire

For a long time, I didn’t appreciate the difference between an urge and a desire. I thought they were the same thing. I assumed that the urge to eat or drink or do something meant that I really wanted to eat or drink or do that thing.

But as I’ve been working with my own urges, I’ve realized that urges and desires are not the same. Not by a long shot.

An urge can be triggered by totally random things. I see the butter dish out on the counter and I have a sudden urge for a piece of toast. I see an open bottle of wine in the fridge and I have an urge to pour a a glass.

Photo by charlesdeluvio on Unsplash

What follows is that familiar (and often unsuccessful) struggle to resist the urge. The struggle can be uncomfortable. But some of that discomfort, I realized recently, resides in the belief that I really want or desire that thing.

It turns out (much to my astonishment) that sometimes an urge is just an urge. There’s actually very little authentic desire attached to it. It’s just a passing thought or impulse triggered by something in my internal or external environment. Or purely by habit.

And this has been a game changer for me. If I take a moment to investigate, I sometimes discover that my actual level of desire is pretty low. When that’s the case, and I consciously acknowledge it, moving on from that urge is much easier.

Try it and see what you find. When urges arise, instead of moving immediately into “resisting,” or arguing with yourself about whether or not to give in, take a moment to investigate your actual level of desire.

Do you really want that thing at this moment? Or is it just an urge?

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