Desire and the Source of Human Behavior
· If we are to assist in the education (maturation, actualization, etc.) of others or ourselves, our first question may be, “what is the source of human behavior”? After all, parents, educators, counselors, coaches, and even friends are, on a basic level, people who assist in shaping behavior.
· Contrary to the old saying, “practice makes perfect”, practice actually just makes “permanent”. That is, the behaviors that we repeatedly engage in, whether healthy or unhealthy, will “become us”. Simply stated, stimulus-response cycles are established and encoded in our brains and bodies through repeated behaviors, be they physical or non-physical. We call these repeated behaviors “practice”. Whether intentional or not, after sufficient repetition these cycles become habits. In some cases, very few repetitions are necessary, e.g. smoking cocaine; in other cases, very many repetitions are necessary, e.g. mastering the cello.
· By meeting the three WED Educator Objectives: 1) Modeling Healthy Relationship (by embodying WED’s Developmental Goals: Respect, Dignity, Responsibility, Compassion, and Perseverance), 2) Providing Clear Reflection (by lovingly and courageously facing and articulating our experience), and 3) Encouraging True Focus (by gently urging discipline to the pursuit of healthy goals as they become evidently desired), we may help discover our best selves, and harness the beneficial power of practice. Simply put, by practicing healthy behaviors we will replace less healthy habits with more healthy habits and ensure maximal health and contentment; what we call Optimal Wellness.
· Understanding first this question of human motivation helps us choose the best approaches to influence the behaviors of ourselves and others. Most importantly, it may also increase the likelihood that our actions will be consistent with our most noble aspirations.
· WED views human behavior as motivated primarily by desire. Whether desire to increase pleasure or reduce pain, physically or non-physically, now or in the future, consciously or unconsciously, the fulfillment of desire is the cause to behavior’s effect.
· In WED, we talk of three types of desires: needs, wants and values. We define needs as physical or non-physical desires that fulfill the requirements of nature for the survival of the organism. Wants are defined as physical or non-physical desires which may, or may not be required by nature, and which may, or may not be in the best interest of the organism. So, in addition to natural, healthy wants, wants manifest as addictions, and other forms of sickness or violence. We call excessive wants or imbalanced feelings of need as “neediness”.
· Accepting that desire is the source of behavior, and that desire can be healthy or unhealthy, the distinction of needs and healthy wants from unhealthy wants may be our first priority. This is where a helper, by Modeling Healthy Relationship and Providing Clear Reflection, can be so useful. Then, if we can accomplish this, we may practice following of our healthy wants and avoiding our unhealthy wants – what we call discipline. Encouraging True Focus on healthy wants is the function of values.
· We view values as a third type of desire. Values are powerful in that they are consciously chosen desires, and a reflection of our non-conscious habits. They are the relative importance we place on things, and determine how hard we will work to achieve things. They guide us to fulfill our needs – as we understand them. Values are of immense value! They bridge the gap between nature and nurture, allowing us to choose who we will be.
· WED values are its Core Values: Following, Non-Violence, Dynamic Balance, and Faith, which are embodied in its Developmental Goals: Respect, Dignity, Responsibility, Compassion, and Perseverance, and manifest in its Behavioral Guidelines – which form the foundation for WED practice.
“The Tao that can be articulated is not necessarily the eternal Tao.”