How desire lines can help you be happier

There’s a moment in a popular blockbuster TV show where Kit Harrington looks up, broods down the camera and says “The dead are coming.”

Well, you know what, Jon? I think they might already be here.

Have you ever really looked at people commuting to work? There’s a whole load of ‘the dead’ dragging themselves out of bed and into work in the morning wishing it were the weekend. And you could be one of them.

It is time to engage or exist. If you choose the latter, you are simply living your life in body only. You get one shot at living, so my thinking is that you might as well look like you want to be here. And by ‘here’, I mean alive!

Previously we examined internal habits and that as we accidentally accumulate them over time they can sabotage our lives. Ever heard of desire paths? Chances are you have walked on one. A desire path is a path caused by erosion from humans walking over it. The paths are often the shortest or easiest routes between two destinations. We often see them in forest or woodland areas, between gaps in hedges or trees, on the corners of fields linking together footpath routes, and along the edge of fields where paths never existed.

They can sometimes be known as desire lines. Human beings have an incredible hardwired ability to create desire lines in their minds. We take a route one time and leave the start of a feint trail behind us. When we reach the same point again we often go over the same trail over and over until it becomes habitual and we forget there is any other way.

It doesn’t become impossible to avoid the desire lines or take a different route, but it becomes so engrained that it is the only way of thinking that we never try anything else again.

Sometimes following the desire lines and forming habits can be really beneficial. But other times it means we accidentally learn there is only one way to think, act or feel in a situation that we lose sight of any alternatives. It is how we form bad habits like giving up or complaining.

Running is one of the most simple and accessible of all sports. Lots of people try it and only a few stick with it. If you have ever been new to running you will know that it can feel quite difficult quite quickly. That is why a lot of people give up. This forms the start of a desire line. When they consider trying to start running again, they remember how they thought, acted and felt the last time – and generally they repeat it. They accidentally learn the habit of giving up.

It is the same for complaining. At some point you may have been irritated by how your neighbours park their car. I’ll admit it, I have. It forms the start of a desire line. Every time I look out the window I start to expect to see bad parking and when I do, I get cross. If I don’t see bad parking on this occasion, I just assume I’ll see it later on. My desire line has formed and I forget that somebody might have parked badly a couple of times, but on the whole, their parking is probably fine.

This is the same reason that people learn to be helpless in their lives. It is why some people are very quick to blame others. And it is why some people think they are always a victim.

 So reflect, what desire lines have you formed? Could there be another way?

Leave a Reply