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From the Archives: Is the Mind Always Dissatisfied and Restless?

August 18, 2018 by Charlie Hedges − 0 Comments

In Sapiens, Yuval Harari writes, “The mind is always dissatisfied and restless.” He continues, “We are obviously dissatisfied with pain and want to do everything to avoid it. Yet even when we experience pleasant things we are never content. We want more. Again… dissatisfied.”

I’m not so sure I agree. I think wisdom offers a couple alternatives. First, I can’t always avoid pain and I know of scores of people whose relentless pain has somehow made them stronger in other ways. And when it comes to pleasant things, personally, I don’t always want more.

Instead I look to relish those surprising (or planned) pleasures that I am fortunate to experience. When I am in my “international zone” I can stay in one place for up to hours just being blown away by the wonder of a building, a cultural experience, a museum or just the landscape.

Now, about relentless pain. That’s another story, isn’t it? One of my closest friends has learned to function with almost unbearable headaches (not migraines) that the best doctors in the county cannot diagnose. It impacts her stamina, her ability to paint, and her patience. Yet, she is still one of the funnest people I know. She is certainly not always dissatisfied and restless.

*****

Unfortunately it doesn’t always work out so well. My mind is frequently dissatisfied and restless. In my American mindset, I am conditioned to be tickled by something new or fun or fresh. I admit it. But, these feelings of dissatisfaction and restlessness can also lead me to a search for “meaning, adventure, and awe.” Dissatisfaction and restlessness are conditions that lead me to attempt to live a worthy life.

Dissatisfied and Restless? I’ve come to believe it is a decision, an often tough decision. Still… Dissatisfaction and Restlessness is a decision—even if I have nothing to do. I can always read and write, do errands for the house, go to the gym, or pick a subject and learn.

Every day I have a serious option: will I be bored today or will I simply enjoy my simple day-to-day pleasures? I think I’ll take the latter option.

Dissatisfaction and Restlessness

Is Mostly a Choice

Photo courtesy of Courtney Keating at istockphoto

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