Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Conflicting Desires

We each carry around mixed bags of conflicting desires. Doing whatever I want is not that simple. I want many things that conflict with one another. I want that chocolate bar and I want to lose weight. I want to sleep in and I want to be more productive in the morning.

C.S. Lewis said it like this, “Telling us to obey instinct is like telling us to obey 'people.' People say different things: so do instincts. Our instincts are at war... Each instinct, if you listen to it, will claim to be gratified at the expense of the rest.”
So what’s the solution? What helps me is to live what I call “the reflective life”. If I just make choices on instinct, I will tend to make conflicting choices, fighting with myself. Instead, I need to take more time for reflection. In reflection I think through which desires should win over others. This helps me consistently make choices that move me in the same direction. It also helps me make less decisions in the spur of the moment, when I am influenced more by the immediate rather than the long term consequences.

There is power in pre-making decisions thoughtfully so that they are based on reflection rather than on reflexes.