What are Occurrent and Standing Desires?

August 8, 2023

Occurrent and standing desires are concepts that pertain to our inner motivations and goals. When we talk about occurrent desires, we refer to the immediate and transient wishes that arise in our minds, triggered by specific situations or stimuli. On the other hand, standing desires are more enduring and deeply rooted aspirations that shape our long-term objectives and life purpose. Understanding the distinction between these two types of desires helps us gain insights into our motivations and prioritize our actions accordingly. In this discussion, we will explore the characteristics of occurrent and standing desires, their influence on our decision-making, and the significance they hold in our lives.

Exploring the Nature of Desires

Desires are a fundamental aspect of human motivation, driving our actions and shaping our goals. They are the inner yearnings that push us towards certain outcomes, compelling us to seek pleasure or avoid pain. However, not all desires are created equal. Some desires are fleeting and temporary, arising in specific situations, while others are more enduring and persistent. In the realm of psychology, these two types of desires are known as occurrent and standing desires.

Defining Occurrent Desires

Occurrent desires are the desires that arise in response to immediate circumstances or needs. They are transient in nature, emerging in the moment and fading away once the situation is resolved or the need is met. For example, feeling thirsty and desiring a glass of water to quench your thirst is an occurrent desire. It arises as a direct response to your body’s physiological state and disappears once you have satisfied your thirst.

Occurrent desires are often characterized by their situational specificity. They are closely tied to the present context and are influenced by external stimuli and internal cues. These desires can emerge spontaneously or be triggered by external factors such as advertisements, social interactions, or environmental cues. As occurrent desires are closely linked to immediate circumstances, they tend to be more short-term and focused on immediate gratification.

Understanding Standing Desires

In contrast to occurrent desires, standing desires are long-lasting and enduring. They represent our deeper, more stable desires and aspirations that persist over time. These desires are not bound by specific situations or immediate needs but reflect our core values, beliefs, and long-term goals. Standing desires are often associated with our sense of identity and purpose, shaping the direction of our lives and influencing our decisions.

Standing desires can manifest in various forms, such as the desire for success, love, personal growth, or contribution to society. Unlike occurrent desires, they are not easily satisfied and may persist even after achieving certain goals or fulfilling immediate needs. For instance, the desire for personal growth may drive individuals to continuously seek new challenges and opportunities for self-improvement, regardless of their current circumstances.

The Interplay between Occurrent and Standing Desires

Occurrent and standing desires are not mutually exclusive but rather interact and influence each other. Occurrent desires often arise from the interplay between external stimuli and our standing desires. For example, if your standing desire is to maintain a healthy lifestyle, an occurrent desire for a sugary snack may emerge when you encounter tempting advertisements or smell freshly baked pastries. These occurrent desires can either align with or conflict with our standing desires, creating a dynamic tension that shapes our choices and actions.

While occurrent desires may provide immediate gratification, satisfying our standing desires often requires long-term planning, effort, and perseverance. It is through the pursuit and fulfillment of our standing desires that we find deeper meaning and fulfillment in life. However, it is important to recognize that the interplay between these two types of desires can sometimes lead to conflicts and trade-offs. Balancing immediate desires with long-term aspirations is an ongoing challenge that requires self-awareness and conscious decision-making.

Cultivating Self-Awareness and Aligning Desires

Understanding the distinction between occurrent and standing desires can help us become more self-aware and intentional in our actions. By recognizing the transient nature of occurrent desires, we can develop strategies to manage impulsive behaviors and make choices that align with our deeper values and long-term goals. This involves cultivating mindfulness and reflection, as well as developing strategies to regulate our emotions and impulses.

To align our occurrent and standing desires, it is essential to clarify our values, set meaningful goals, and create a supportive environment that nurtures our aspirations. Regular self-reflection, goal-setting exercises, and seeking social support can contribute to the alignment between our immediate desires and long-term vision. Additionally, developing a growth mindset and embracing the journey towards our standing desires can foster resilience and perseverance in the face of challenges and setbacks.

In conclusion, occurrent and standing desires represent different facets of human motivation. Occurrent desires are transient and situational, arising in response to immediate circumstances, while standing desires are enduring and reflect our deeper values and long-term aspirations. Understanding the interplay between these two types of desires can help us navigate the complexities of motivation, cultivate self-awareness, and align our actions with our core values and long-term goals. By recognizing and embracing the role of both occurrent and standing desires, we can embark on a journey of self-discovery and personal growth, ultimately leading to a more fulfilling and purposeful life.


What are occurrent desires?

Occurrent desires refer to the immediate and temporary desires that arise in our minds at specific moments. These desires are usually driven by our current circumstances or external stimuli. Occurrent desires can be impulsive and fleeting, often triggered by a specific situation or an immediate need or want. For example, feeling hungry and desiring to eat a snack right now is an occurrent desire.

What are standing desires?

Standing desires, on the other hand, are long-term or persistent desires that have a relatively greater impact on our overall behavior and decision-making. Unlike occurrent desires, standing desires are more enduring and stable. They reflect our underlying values, preferences, and aspirations. Standing desires influence our actions consistently over a longer period, guiding our choices and shaping our future goals. For instance, having a standing desire to pursue a successful career or maintain a healthy lifestyle reflects more persistent aspirations.

How do occurrent and standing desires differ?

The main difference between occurrent and standing desires lies in their duration, impact, and influence on our behavior. Occurrent desires are temporary and situational, arising in response to specific stimuli or circumstances. They often spark a short-term craving or urgency that may not have a significant long-term effect on our actions or decisions. Conversely, standing desires are more enduring and profound, representing our core values and priorities. They have a long-lasting impact on our choices, shaping our attitudes and behaviors consistently over time.

Can occurrent desires turn into standing desires?

Occurrent desires can potentially evolve into standing desires if they become more prolonged and develop into deeply-held values or goals. When an occurrent desire remains consistent and aligns with our long-term aspirations, it can gradually transform into a standing desire. For example, initially craving a taste of chocolate now and then may turn into a standing desire to pursue a career in baking or become a chocolate connoisseur. However, it is important to note that not all occurrent desires have the potential to become standing desires, as they are often driven by immediate gratification or situational factors.

How do occurrent and standing desires influence decision-making?

Occurrent desires can have a significant influence on our immediate decision-making. These desires often arise impulsively and may lead us to make impulsive choices that prioritize short-term satisfaction over long-term consequences. Standing desires, on the other hand, have a more comprehensive impact on our decision-making. They shape our preferences and guide our choices with a greater focus on long-term goals and values. While both types of desires play a role in decision-making, standing desires generally carry more weight in shaping our overall behavior and life directions. It is crucial to consider both the immediate occurrent desires and the underlying standing desires when making important decisions.

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