I am confused about the differences between attachment (desire) and having a dream/setting goals. Are they the same or different? I am currently working in a job that I do not love but also do not hate. I could do the job if I make myself to but I am not motivated or feel passionate about it. I am contemplating whether I should change my career or try to pursue what I always wanted to do, which is in the arts. The problem is my family wants me to continue working in my field as they think it is more stable and I'm able to earn money to support myself. I am confused and lost in direction and would like to hear a perspective from a Buddhist as I am a devoted follower. Should I try to meditate and lose the desire to change career and try to be more content? Or should I follow what my heart tells me to? There is also a question about fulfilling or want to fulfill other people's (parents) expectations and filial piety. Please clarify me. Thank you.

Thank you everyone for your advice, you can't believe how relieved I felt after getting this off my chest. Sadhu sadhu sadhu 🙏

  • This question seems similar (related) to Why do the Noble Truths talk about 'craving', instead of about 'attachment'? ... but not a duplicate because this question also asks about desire and duty and career. – ChrisW Jan 22 '18 at 4:15
  • Correct me if I'm wrong, but is attachment is attachment, and desires (tanha) are things like goals, ambitions, dreams etc? The question would be if craving is similar to having and setting goals and whether we should strive to eliminate craving? – Jane.S Jan 22 '18 at 4:42
  • While I'm not really qualified to answer this in a spiritual manner, I'd still recommend the following: Work full time on your job and part time on your career. Do it strategically and when the career earns you more money than your job, you can switch comfortably. Look at Ilya Kuvshinov on Patreon for example. Or Lackadaisycats, or Gunnerkrigg Court. Examples of where art pays well. Find some of the longer videos by Jim Rohn ('best year ever', 'learn this skill'). Check out the free stuff Jay Abraham has to offer. Business philosophy and good, ethical marketing are a strong foundation. – Haunt_House Jan 22 '18 at 19:53

Technically, you could resolve this either way. As long as you can completely convince yourself to take a stance and forget the other alternative, you'd be fine.

However in Buddhism we are advised to try and maximize the positive qualities of mind. So if one of these choices makes you more motivated and energized than the other, you will probably do better long term by going that way.

Now, regarding your parents, in this case you're not violating any ethics, except their expectations of your life, which is the domain that you own 100%.

Regarding goal vs desire concept, in Buddhism it is the blinding desire/craving/lust that is recognized as a danger, for obvious reasons. Yours is not like that. Also, a type of desire that we think about but never fulfill or can't fulfill, leads to suffering. Yours is like that at the moment, so the most Buddhist advice would be to either start fulfilling it or to drop it. Staying in this limbo is definitely a case of generating suffering.

  • What are the ways to convince yourself? I feel like I want to change and take my own life back in control. Yet, from a Buddhist view I'm not sure whether this desire (craving, striving) should be encouraged. Thanks for your answer. – Jane.S Jan 22 '18 at 4:48
  • 1
    If I were you I would listen to my heart. This is what my teacher advised as a general rule, all things equal. – Andrei Volkov Jan 22 '18 at 4:53

In Buddhism what is important is whether or not your job comes under wrong livelihood and if you get enough free time for meditation. Following one's heart is discouraged in Buddhism. In other words, you should not do anything just because you like to do it. Do something only if it's beneficial. So you have to evaluate both professions in terms of financial gain and free time. If you are financially stable, you get more time to work on other things in life. So your parents are probably right unless your current job consumes all your free time.

Remember, doing what you like does not lead you to end of suffering. So it doesn't really matter if you get to practice arts or not as it can only give you momentary states of happiness. We work to make a living, we don't live to work.

  • Thank you for your advise. I appreciate your honesty and hard truth. Sometimes we all need a wake up call. For some reason it's really hard for me to decide between these two choices, I always keep thinking of "What if?" That's probably the cause of this suffering, I need some time to reflect on this. – Jane.S Jan 22 '18 at 5:07
  • 1
    @Jane.S Whatever profession you pick does not really matter. In 100 years you will be nothing more than soil and bones. All that matter are the good and bad deeds you do while you live. You will not remember anything you did in the past life once you die. Maybe you were a great artist or maybe you were a millionaire in your last life. Does it really matter? Do you even remember? So don't worry about it much. Focus more on spiritual development. – Sankha Kulathantille Jan 22 '18 at 5:22

Goals are set and attempted to reach, attachments you either attach or detach. Functionally different concepts. One can be attached to a goal, that is attachment to a goal. What is ones goal, that one wants, what one wants one likes, what one likes that one is attached to, in this sense they are conjoined, not apart.

If one says "My goal is to attach to X". Goal thus becomes Attachment and Attachment becomes the goal.

The point here is that words are symbols, abstractions, not entities, they dont ultimately exist and take on a range of meanings in different contexts and do not apply in some.

IE "Apple" is a word, if i point to an apple and say "this is an apple" what you see me pointing at becomes the object of referrence in this context. The word i used is a simple abstraction of the object of referrence, it is not the object of referrence.

A seemingly healthy thing to pounder on is that it is Attachment of something to something, often Self-Identity or Judgement is ascribed to a concept. A goal becomes my goal, liking becomes my liking, attachment to the goal becomes thus my attachment to my goal. Suddenly one has postulated existence of the concept of self, if one then thinks that this Concept is the Object of Referrence rather than a convention of reasoning the problem arises, because that would be assuming that the word apple is on par with actually seeing the apple, naturally one would expect the word to be a real thing, in example of an apple one would come to expect that one could eat the word like one could eat the apple, obviously a critical mistake.

In example of a Court session. One could say "Man vs State". "The State" is clearly an abstraction, in that room there will be men or women, men or women discussing and making decisions according to their knowledge, intent and conviction, there will be no "State" in blue gloves fighting the guy. The State is like that Self postulation.

Maybe sounds obvious but it goes all way to demonstrate the limitations of reasoning for we can talk about some tangible object of referrence like an apple but also about feelings or things unknown, unseen, unheard, unfelt, unexperienced and therefore we will never know exactly what that object of reference is until we know it for ourselves it will be abstract no matter how many words are used to explain and how much we pounder it, it we wont have an accurate description of how is actually the object of referrence because we use words to reason and communicate.


For every goal one needs to have strong desire for it. The question is just: what brings long terme happiness so that it is worthy to grasp after.

But not only the goal it self but also the means to reach it are importand.

If one desires well-being but uses harmful and addicting things to reach it, he/she will get troubled by harm and addiction him/herself as well.

That is why virtue and right livelihood are so importand. Once having a livelihood that does not involve harm, it's easier to walk, remorse-less. If one makes his/her live on using and harming others, or by increasing their greed and desire, than it has backwards in same ways.

So in regard of livelihood, especially, it's good if having a smooth and troubleless kind. So once bigger and more far goals are clear, just focus on the means, on one step by the other and improve you ways of living and livelihood according the remorseless reqirements.

If it is possible to combine with ones pasion in skills, fine. If not, better to take on the harder way but sleep fine. At least, since mentioned art, it can be very addictive and busy the mind day and night with less place to find a rest.

It's of course also good to listen to and respect ones parents, and if their wishes are not harmful and against a remorseless life, what should be the problem in following it? At least, since surely not so occupied, they might think more practical and reasonable. But it the new idea might give ways for a better livelihood, than it can be explained and argued in this way.

At least it's a good chance to give ones parent something back, in talking and teaching on Dhamma, generosity, moral and virtue.

So if taking very sober, it might be not the biggest problem to make your best decision on it.

Best wishes to take and see the right thing to do for long term happiness.

[Note: This is a gift of Dhamma, not meant for commercial use or other lower wordily gains by ways of exchange or trade]

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.