Nature has designed us to want to feel good and not feel bad. For most of us, this is our life agenda.
But what does it mean to feel good? For many of us, feeling good means the gratification of urges such as the urges for food, money, power, fun, sex, or the affection of others.
It’s not that the pleasures of life are bad. I see part of our purpose in life includes savoring the gift of existence, including the pleasurable experiences of good food, fun, sex, the affection of others, and material comforts.
But we potentially get into trouble with gratification in three ways.
The first is when we make our happiness contingent on the gratification of our desires. Since we can’t always get what we want, making our happiness contingent upon gratification inevitably leads to unhappiness.
The second way we get into trouble with gratification is when we engage in good-now, bad-later behaviors, like overeating, overspending, or over drinking. If these good-now bad-later behaviors become compulsive, they can lead to addiction. When we seek immediate gratification without regard for the long-term negative consequences, we end up harming ourselves and others.
The third problem with gratification is that the temporary thrill is just that—it is temporary. Gratification does not last. We either get uncomfortable the next time desire arises, or we get bored once we’ve gotten used to that new purchase or some other improvement in our conditions. This leads to an endless treadmill of needing more, and more, and more.
The solution is to savor the many gratifications of life, but to also seek the fulfillment of love, or of nurturing Life. This could be the fulfillment of a job well done, of serving someone, of creating something beneficial, of making someone smile, of addressing an injustice, or any of a thousand other ways people work to enhance Life. We feel fulfilled when we feel our lives have meaning and purpose. Fulfillment also includes the sense of being harmoniously part of something greater than ourselves, including our family, our friends, and our community. There is also the abiding fulfillment of simply savoring the incredible gift of Awareness—from the practice of presence.
Fulfillment carries us through the inevitable difficulties and distresses of life. Fulfillment is a constant in the ups and downs of daily life. While gratification is gratifying for a moment, fulfillment is fulfilling for a lifetime.
Dedicate your life to the practice of love. Make loving your reason for living.
This should of course include the practice of loving yourself.
Loving will lead to a deep and enduring fulfillment that transcends mere gratification and delivers you from the bondage of gratification.