Freedom from Wanting More

When we measure our self-worth by how well we succeed in meeting our desires, we organize around always striving to have more of whatever it is we want.


Wanting more is a phenomenon of our time, a reflection of the way we live, and yet it’s something that is very seldom recognized as being a phenomenon. It conditions our behavior without our realizing it. We never notice that it often precedes our emotions or actions.

Of all our emotions and experiences, the desire for more is the most prevalent. This phenomenon may be a natural state of the human condition. We certainly organize our time around it, and we measure the success of our lives by how successful we are in getting more of whatever it is we want in any particular moment.

We also live in fear of not achieving more. Most of what we talk about with family and friends is about getting more: Who has more of this, more of that? In the U.S., more is celebrated as a cultural value. We want more rooms in our house, or a more toned body, or cars with more horsepower or more status, more money, more clothes, more education—the list is endless.

Even meditators may want more altered states or more insights or to attend more retreats. More is like the dust in the air that we never notice, but we’re always breathing in.

Are you in some way letting more become an intrinsic measure of your worth without ever choosing to do so? When and if this happens, it conditions the moments of your life in such a way that you develop new patterns of behavior. It literally affects what you notice in any given moment of your life.

When we start to use more as a way to measure self-worth and to determine our values, we are falling prey to what is known in Buddhism as “wanting mind.” This wanting mind is driven by desire, aversion, and anxiety; it creates an illusion of control in a world that is constantly changing. Someone who’s not keeping score, who’s not looking to be richer, and who’s not afraid of “losing”—who has not let more unduly influence them—is free.

More can be a great motivator, so I’m not suggesting that it be thrown out. But it should not drive the vehicle that is your life. It can be fuel for that vehicle, but your mindfulness and your values must be behind the wheel of the car.

For your reflection:

  • Notice more in the course of your day. Ask yourself is more serving me or not serving me?” If not, shift your attention elsewhere.
  • Investigate if more affects what you notice. Does it influence how you’re responding to any particular experience? When you read the newspaper or watch television, does it affect how you’re experiencing what you’re seeing, reading, or listening to?