What are the basic desires that motivate ours actions? Steven Reiss conducted a study in which he and his assistant tried to find out what motivates people. He summarized his findings in a book called „Who am I?: The 16 Basic Desires That Motivate Our Actions and Define Our Personalities“. His thesis says that if people live according to their basic psychological desires, they gain value-based happiness and a fulfilled life. I want to summarize his theory and explain why the topic is important to me and my blog.
Reiss found in his study that the 16 basic desires that motivate people are:
Importance of personal desires
The importance of every desire to humans has three parameters: very important, average important or less important. What desires we rate as „very important“ and „less import“ defines our character. We try our whole life to fulfill the desires we rate as very important and we avoid the desires we rate as less important.
To find out what desire is very, average or less important, Reiss describes every desire briefly and ends every description with questions which help finding out how much importance the concerning desire has for yourself. As well it is possible that the reader tries to answer the questions for a person who is close to her or him.
The desire profile
Once this step is done for every of the 16 desires, you get what is called the desire profile for yourself or/and for the people who are close to you or for whom your are able to answer the questions as well. You can now compare your own profile to the profile of others. You will find people who have a similar desire profile to yours more agreeable than people whos desire profile is very different. In that way you gain a deeper inside into your relationship to them. As well you will understand why you will never get along with them in some points as the desire profile is set in life unless grave changes occure in your or their lifes.
How to fulfill your desire profile: value-based happiness
The more important point about his theory for my blog, is the second part of his book. It gives you some possibilities how to best fulfill your desire profile and hence gain value-based happiness. Reiss distinguishes two kinds of happiness: value-based happiness and feel-good happiness. Feel-good happiness is something pleasant you do in one moment. You feel good in that moment, but sooner or later you will forget about it and then you need more of what gave you the feel-good moment. Through that kind of happiness though you might not feel that your life has a purpose. On the opposite, value-based happiness is an inherant and general feeling about your situation or life. You will feel about yourself living a meaningful life not just for a moment of pleasure but for a longer period of time. Value-based happiness doesn’t mean that you feel happy in that specific moment, but on the long run you have a feeling of being generally happy.
To gain value-based happiness you need to fulfill your desire profile. But how do we actuallly do that? In the second part of his book Reiss gives ideas how to find value-based happiness through relationships, work, family, sports and spirituality. A relationship with a partner whos desire profile is similar to yours and a job where you can fulfill your very important desires and your less important desires are absent, will most likely lead you to value-based happiness. As well having a family or spending more time with your family and doing sports where you can fulfill your desires might help you on your way to live a meaningful life. Moreover, certain desires can be fulfilled through spirituality.
Value-based happiness = Resilience
While reading Reiss‘ book about the basic desires it became clear to me that value-based happiness is equal to resilience and that by fulfilling their basic desires people can become more resilient. Moreover, it is the foundation of living a happier life. That is accually why I named the title of my blog „Resilience and Happiness“. I want to explore the connection between the two concepts and present example of how to fulfill the desire profile. Let’s see if Reiss theory works.