I am continually confused by my desires. Normally I love being alone, watching movies and eating snacks--just living life. But I don't know what devil has possessed me to desire more, to achieve more, to contribute more, to run faster and faster to accomplish my goals and then to desire more.

I realize that I have separated myself from friends and family to try to achieve them. I am not gifted. I am just a jogger. I am not a sprinter or someone who has a luxury car, a million dollars or a private plane.

I feel desperate but I do not stop chasing my goals. I feel fear and disappointment for many reasons. I feel jealousy toward my colleagues who have those luxury cars to drive to their goals while I crawl toward mine. I feel negativity all the time I struggle to achieve my goals. My dream is for a genius not a normal person like me. I know I will never give up but it is so painful because of what I've sacrificed. What I get in return is so not fair.

I am not a lazy teenager who cries about the world's injustice. I just want to know how to alleviate this pain so I can endure the negative emotional stress.

  • 2
    Maybe you can ask for the help of a psychologist. Commented Jul 13, 2018 at 6:38
  • I though philosophy might has debate or discussion about suffering to achieve goal
    – EconBoy
    Commented Jul 13, 2018 at 6:44
  • 1
    But it is difficult to imagine that philosophy can produce practical advices. You can see some classics of the past : Marcus Aurelius' Meditations and Epicurus' works, specifically the Letter to Menoeceus. Commented Jul 13, 2018 at 6:54
  • that nice but do you have a recommendation for the philosophy about achieving the goal.
    – EconBoy
    Commented Jul 13, 2018 at 7:31
  • If the goal is "to alleviate suffering", you can see Epicurus as well as Taoist and Buddhist Detachment (philosophy). Commented Jul 13, 2018 at 7:37

3 Answers 3


The reason for the advice of Mauro and Geoffrey, and why it is good advice, is that these kinds of problems arise from the ego and our dependence on external factors for our self-esteem and worldly gratification. The practices of Buddhism, Stoicism, Yoga and so forth, more generally 'mysticism', address this problem head-on. The Buddha's teachings are characterised as a medicine for this very reason.

Reading about these things will be useful but no medicine works if we just read the label on the bottle. Better to investigate by doing. If you read a short introduction to Zen meditation (say) you'll be ready to make a start.

Don't imagine this is a ten year process. It might be, but usually practitioners feel beneficial effects in days or weeks and from there things just keep getting better. Eventually your pains and emotional stress will wither away. You will be aware of them but they will not belong to you. This is summed up in the Buddha's 'Four Noble Truths'.

It requires some faith to take up the practice, of course, since at the start there's no knowing if it will do any good, but the product receives glowing customer endorsements and five-star ratings. Note that meditation was used to keep those young boys in Thailand calm and sane while trapped underground and trials suggest that for attention-deficit and hyper-activity in children it can work better than drugs.

If you have any success you'll soon be smiling in a bemused way at the amount of time and effort those around you devote to achieving goals that don't amount to more than a new car or a 100 meter sprint time of ten seconds.

  • 1
    I am considering about meditation which I had practiced from my friend suggestion but I don't think I practiced in the right way. So which sources of guide do you recommend me to follow? For real.
    – EconBoy
    Commented Jul 13, 2018 at 11:10
  • @EconBoy - This is a tough question since so much depends on where you're starting from. You could drop into a local Buddhist centre to pick up some leaflets or do an introductory session. Otherwise you could try the library or local bookshop and take pot luck. There's endless advice online but I don't have a recommendation. Others here may have links and book recommendations. The method is simple - sit down and give up everything - but this summary needs a lot of unpacking. A (rather long) book called 'Meaningful to Behold' by Geshe Kelsang Gyatso ((Tharpa) covers the ground. Good luck!
    – user20253
    Commented Jul 13, 2018 at 11:22
  • There are apps like headspace, and guided meditations like youtu.be/OboD7JrT0NE
    – CriglCragl
    Commented Jul 13, 2018 at 22:49

Mauro has given an excellent lead. Ancient wisdom is very much to the point. Try Epicurus, Lucretius, Epictetus, Marcus Aurelius. There's also Matthew Arnold's 'An Essay on Marcus Aurelius' in Essays in Criticism.

For your purposes the trouble with philosophy is that while it can, as in the texts above, give good advice, there is a problem of how to incorporate this advice into your life. You have to apply the advice to your particular circumstances and you have to train your emotions and desires so that they are brought under the control of this advice. Now, these are things philosophy can't do. But your question still has philosophical relevance because in answering it one draws a limit to what philosophy can achieve.

A further suggestion is that you could take a person as a pattern or model. Socrates, for instance, or the Buddha - take a look round and try to think of someone who is or was how you would like to be. It could even be a friend or someone widely known and admired. Not necessarily a philosopher.

Recognising that you have a problem really is one step towards dealing with it. I hope that's of some consolation.


I recommend dipping into a little Heidegger if you want to read a theory about the possible explanations of your anxieties. William Blattner's introductory text to Being & Time is a good companion to the Macquarrie & Robinson translation of the text.

As a taste, here's something along the lines of what the early Heidegger may have said: What you're experiencing is anxiety, also known as angst. Fortunately for you, anxiety is the kind of mood that reveals what we are (I take the answer to the question of what we are to be beyond the purview of your question). The cause of anxiety is the contingency of our being. For example, imagine I’m a doctor. My being a doctor is contingent on both the existence of patients to treat, and —perhaps more importantly— my going about a certain kind of activity in dealing with said patients. If I consistently fail to perform my duties as a doctor, I cease to be a doctor in (at least) the existential sense, and become a quack. You can use a similar conceptual framework for thinking about yourself as a good person, a good sibling, etc..

An important fact about anxiety is that there’s a motivated running away from who we are to avoid it (anxiety). This running away constitutes what Heidegger refers to as falling into inauthenticity, or the being of the Anyone. The Anyone is, according to Blattner "a pattern of anonymous normativity that lays out the framework in terms of which we understand ourselves, our fellows, and our world in our average everydayness.” I think your desire to acquire things like fancy cars and the like is predicated on an underlying desire to live according to the normative framework provided by the Anyone. This is referred to as inauthenticity. The alternative to this is authenticity. Here’s Heidegger on what that is: "If Dasein discovers the world in its own way and brings it close, if it discloses to itself its own authentic Being, then this discovery of the ‘world’ and this disclosure of Dasein are always accomplished as a clearing-away of concealments and obscurities, as a breaking up of the disguises with which Dasein bars its own way.” (167/129)

Heidegger never wrote the ethical companion to Being in Time, so the extent to which one should actually be authentic isn’t clear. It’s easy to see how too much authenticity could make one overly kooky and unable to relate to others. In any case, the phenomenological literature of which Heidegger’s writing is a part is quite rich with these kinds of conceptual tools for engaging with these kinds of problems.

Now, if I’m to take my philosophy hat off for a moment, I might recommend some other approaches to at least supplement the philosophical approach:

If you’re concerned that your anxiety and sadness is getting worse or is at a level that might be described as “clinical,” then try seeking the advice of a professional psychotherapist. While I love philosophy, I’ve found it hasn’t done much for my own psychological health; it really only gives you conceptual tools.

Additionally, I’ve been practicing a form of Soto Zen Buddhism under the instruction of qualified teachers for a number of years, and I’ve found it quite helpful in a certain sense. While buddhism doesn’t replace the professional treatment of psychiatric conditions, it can certainly help you work with the suffering that arises in your life such that you can more easily articulate (in an embodied way) the person you mean to be. As a first read, I recommend Kosho Uchiyama’s Opening the Hand of Thought. The book is full of sound practical advice, and is a good introduction to the Zen way of encountering your life, insofar as such a thing can be nailed down in a book. Also, if you’re interested in Zen, I strongly recommend finding a teacher to work with on a personal and ideally face-to-face basis.

Best of luck!

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