Your Desires Vs Your Duties. And the Winner is…

Desire vs Duty

We sit at our usual table. I sit with my questions, he sits with a coke and a smile. I ask him about his plan of extended travel to the other side of the ocean.

“I am almost ready. The tickets are on their way ,” he says.

He has been saving money for it for years. But his eyes are as empty as his coke.

“This thing has just come up,” he says, “where one of the guy who works for me, his brother is in the surgical ward. He’s in a pretty bad shape,” he gazes out, “and they don’t have the money for this stupid medicine that they need everyday and –” he sighs. Gazing into the middle distance. The fingers tracing the lip of the cup.

“Yes,” I say, “but you are not obliged to pay for—“

“Yes, yes, I know, I know. I am not obliged… they need the money,” he says, “and I don’t.”

I sit silently. He sips his coke, the smile now gone.


You want one thing, but you feel you should be doing something else. On one hand, desire, and on the other, duty. Ever felt like that before? 

The conflict between desires and duties is perpetual, and also pretty well understood.

There is a way to find congruency between the two, a common ground where your desires and your duties are not at war.

What If you can create a situation where you actually desire to fulfill your duties? Or even better, your duties demand that your desire be fulfilled!?

This congruence of duties and desires is not only possible, but is a worthy cause to work towards. It’s not easy. It may not be for everyone. But it possibly is the quickest way to a happier, more fulfilling life. It’s something that can be learnt and gainfully applied.

Understanding Desires & Duties

The first step is to understand the power you have.

We make our desires. And we choose our duties.

You have the power to – quite easily in fact – desire something else. And you can – though not as easily – change your duties.

For example, I can desire the best car ever made. My most favorite car will set me back a cool US$ 80,000. That’s a lot of money to work for. But it’s my desire. It’s as fickle as yours. I can change it consciously. I choose travelling the world instead. For a fraction of the price.

Or, you can choose to change your duties. Obliged to take care of the family? Do not have a family. Too lazy to pray five times a day? Do not have a religion.

I must confess that these are dangerous grounds. I am also aware that some of us may not be willing to come face to face with our own free will.

The bottom line: you have a choice, no matter how extreme it may look. It’s a refreshingly dangerous realization. And I think it is necessary to know that we may not control the cards we’re dealt, but everything else is by our own choice.

Giving It Up For The Good

Joshua Fields Millburn is a blogger and the #1 short story writer on Amazon’s Kindle. He published his debut collection of short stories and hit the coveted #1 position on Amazon. Writing is his passion. He says that while writing his masterpiece, he was frustrated 80% of the time and wanted to “put his head through a wall”. But that 20%! That 20% was what made everything worth it.

When you’re passionate about something (your lifelong dream perhaps), you think that it will all be rosy and fun and you’ll walk into the sunset all high and happy.

That’s not a given.

There is a price to pay. If our desires and duties are congruent, it will be easier to pay the price, but pay we must. You can call it sacrifice or willful abstinence or whatever.

Once you learn how to channel your desires, how to pay that price, you can buy pretty much anything.

When things go wrong, which they sometimes do, the overarching vision is what will make you go through 80% of the shit to come out clean on the other side. Smiling. Happy.

Desiring The Duty

From some religious circles outright condemning the “comforts of the world” to the hard-nosed businessman sacrificing his health for that extra tranche of sales, we have somehow agreed upon the notion of making it hard for ourselves.

And if you love what you’re doing, it’s may not even be considered work.

They’d want you to “grow up” or “act mature”.

But without willful participation, without the desire, our half-hearted attempts will end up making things worse.

The simple trick, if you may, is to understand our duties well enough to desire them. Otherwise, find better duties.

Either learn how to love what you do, or start doing what you love. Being in conflict is bad for both you and your work.

And when there is no conflict, there is a higher chance of growth.

Where others will give up, you will push forward. You will stick around for – dare I say it – for a higher cause. They’ll call you crazy, a misfit at the edge of madness – but when you with your overarching vision push through long enough, the same people will turn around and call you talented, gifted, committed and give your example to their kids.

You will be doing what you desire, and you’ll be doing what is right. To the best of my limited knowledge, you’ll then be unstoppable. You’ll be at peace. You’ll be content.


I sit and gaze. He finishes the coke. We get up to leave.

“You know what, I saved money once, I can save it again,” he says, “that bastard needs the medicine.”

I see the smile coming back.

Photo credit: artolog

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