Dealing with Ambiguous Motives

22 04 2009

      Most people mean well, or, they hope to mean well. Despite our own senses, it is extremely difficult to detect our own actual motives. Our lives are full of instances where we would hope our motives to be a certain way, but we might in fact be driven by completely different reasons, reasons that we ourselves would not look highly upon.

      For instance, we might break up with a lover, believing that the breakup is justified because of logistical reasons – maybe we’re moving to a new apartment farther away and we don’t think we’d be able to see them as often. In fact, however, the motive might be a chance to finally mingle with that attractive and flirty new coworker. We may treat our friend with respect, believing that our intention was based on a virtuous belief in dealing with people (“of course we are all equal, this man deserves no less than respect, etc…”). In fact, however, our motive may be a secret hope that the TV he is giving away will be given to us and not one of his other friends. We may believe that we compete in sport for the sake of developing our own potential against other skilled opponents, and meeting interesting people in the community. In fact, our motive may be to increase our sense of self-worth through shiny trophies. 

      So how do we live and deal with this interesting little facet of the human condition? Do we accept that we will never know our true motives and disregard thought on interpreting it at all? I believe that we can, in fact, find a partial solution to this paradox, and bring about higher awareness of our motives and greater alignment with the ones we would choose to strongly live by.


      The first part of this process is in understanding what we believe to be our best motive in a given situation, and to consciously aim to act through this motive. The awareness of what we want to actually drive us is crucial to ever being driven by that motive in the first place. Lets take the example of sport competition. We might look at the various reasons we have to compete, and determine that the motive we want to drive is not the unhealthy motive to dominate others and feel good about ourselves, but the healthy motive of expanding our capacities by putting them to the highest test – giving our all and learning as much as we can – despite who ends up on the podium. We ideally see the competition as an enriching experience where we are able to meet people, watch fun matches, and test our own capacities. Now you can ask yourself, “how can I be empowered by this motive?” or “how would I act to really embody this strong, healthy motive?” or “how would someone act if this motive was their drive?” You might determine that acting through this motive would involve having fun meeting other competitors and being excited to compete against them. Once you determine them, wouldn’t it be empowering to act through them? 


      The second part of the process involves observing our thoughts and feelings and figuring out what our motives are (to the best of our ability) and if they are or are congruent to what we believe to be our best motive. This is how we can cross-reference our experience and peer in at our own intention. We can go right back to the example of the competition. Lets say that we realize intense anxiety after a loss, and thought loops about what other people think of us now. Whoooaaa now. That doesn’t seem to be in line with what we determined to be the highest motive for competing. We had this awesome, glorious, growth-oriented reason to compete, but in our minds it looks like we’re propelled by a drive to look talented and skilled in front of others, and in front of ourselves. It seems like our actual motive is protecting and building up our self-concept! This isn’t necessarily a bad thing – the awareness of it is a good thing when combined with the knowledge of what we want to drive us in our lives. It brings us right to the third part in the process.


      The third step here is to identify how we would feel and behave if our ideal motives were our actual motives. If we truly could live through the motives we deem highest, is we could be driven by the values that we want to drive us, how would we be feeling and behaving right now. Going back to our example, how might we feel after loosing our first match in a competition if our motivation for being there was truly to enrich our lives by testing ourselves and experiencing and watching fun matches? Well, we might even be smiling thinking about the different aspects of our performance; what we did well with, what we didn’t time precisely, what movements felt fluid. We might even be writing these things down eagerly. Or we might be enthusiastically meeting other players and watching talented people in our sport play against one another. 


      The fourth and last part of the process is taking action. We must understand that if we truly want to be driven by our ideal motives, our highest intentions, than we must embody it. So as a competitor, this would involve TAKING ACTION, knowing that this experience can mean so much more an living through those ideal motives. This might very well be a case of fake it until you make it, but hey, you gotta start somewhere! This allows us to see the real value in the motives that are really most congruent to us.


      So thats it, I broke it down into four little segments here lets review:


*Number one – determine your highest motive and aim to act through it

*Number two – determine how you’re thinking and feeling and what that means about your actual motives

*Number three – identify if you are off course, and come to a conclusion on how you WOULD be acting and feeling if you WERE driven by your ideal intention

*Number four – complete the loop and again ACT, THINK, and FEEL how you would if you were carried by your highest motives.


      This is not only a tool that we can use to help us detect (to a degree) our actual motives –  but it is also a tool for bringing about action from the motives that we see as ideal – a function that is equally or more important. If we can hold these ideal motives in mind and be aware of ourself, we can – over time – come to mold our nature towards our highest motives. By consistently acting in congruence to what we believe to be best, we can bring about the habits of change.

      So the next time you find yourself hoping that you are driven by such-and-such, or hoping that your motive is this-or-that, take a second to understand your ideal motive, act through it, and observe yourself. We might not be able to objectively know our motive, but with these simple practices we can help close the gap on this paradox and hopefully bring some beautiful unity between our values and our volition.


      Aaah, thats right. Breathe that in, thats the smell of a confident, empowered view of humanity… oh yeeeeaaaaah.


The Potential Place and Purpose of Commitment

20 04 2009

      What is Commitment, Anyway?

      “Commitment” is a funny term. It is colloquially used to describe a serious, thought out decision in which a final ends has been determined. For instance, people may commit the a monogamous relationship, or commit to exercise daily, or commit to making a certain amount of money in a certain span of time.

      So, what might we say distinguishes a “commitment” from a “decision.” It might very well be said that the two are synonymous, or maybe only signify a degree of deciding (commitment being more serious). If I decide to exercise daily, I have determined what I think is best and will act upon it. If I commit to daily exercise, then it seems as if I do the same.

      In searching for a separate understanding of what we might use to understand commitment, we can check out its coloquial use. It is common to state that commitment implies following through on a decision despite thinking and feeling otherwise. In this way, a decision involves acting on what we think is best in the moment, while commitment implies going against what we think is best in the moment and instead following through on actions in line with our “commitment.”

      If commitment did not involve going against our present judgement, then it would be the same as any other decision. We will say that commitment involves these “parameters” that limit our choices and channel us down a specific path.

      To boil down our current model: A decision involves behavior taken for specific ends which we presently determine to be best. Commitment involves behaving on a decision not for the sake of the decision itself, instead of justifying our present decision by its ends.

      So Why do We Commit?

      It seems to be a valid question. Why would be place parameters on what we allow ourselves to do?! For instance, lets take the example of the person who commits to exercising daily. If that person were in a certain state and in certain circumstances, and did NOT think that it was best for him to exercise, why would he do so?

      Similarly, we could take the example of the person who has committed to making $5000 in the next two weeks. If he was in a certain state and circumstances, and determined that it was not best for him to pursue this money, why would he continue to strive for his monetary goal?

    The reasons might vary, I will here list two plausible reasons.

1) The first justification for commitment involves the fact that the person understands – at the moment of their commitment – that their emotional states and environment will constantly be changing. They know the specific perspective that they think is BEST in terms of what they value most in life will change with these other factors. As a result, they place abstract value on the “commitment” itself, instead of flowing with whatever decision the moment presents as best in their minds. Hence, the man who is choosing weather or not to exercise may not be able to rationally justify working out in his present mind-state, but he trusts his judgement from the perspective of his past state and circumstance and more adequate that his present perspective in determining what is genuinely best for him.

2) The second justification for commitment might be in order to cultivate the character of dedication, the ability to apply oneself consistently without excuses or interruption of purpose. For instance – in the example of the person committed to making a specific amount of money – despite the fact that he cannot justify his financial goal in the moment, will continue to take action to make money in order to prove his own efficacy and develop a honed ability to focus.

      This is by no means an exhaustive list of justifications for commitment, as stated before, these are just tow plausible examples.

      What these above mental process have in common is the following: BOTH OF THEM INVOLVE PLACING AN ABSTRACT VALUE ON THE “DECISION,” AS OPPOSED TO MERELY BEHAVING IN THE PRESENT BASED ON PRESENT JUDGEMENT. Any thought process that does this seems to function as a commitment of sorts.

      To explain this easily, lets imagine a scale in one’s mind when one makes a choice. If this choice only involves what one feels, or rational justification from the past and present, then this is not commitment. If, however, if the weight of the committed decision ITSELF effects the “choosing scale,” then the “commitment mechanism” that we are outlining here has come into play!

      This commitment mechanism seems to involve a degree of what is commonly referred to as “faith,” for it involves a kind of trust in one’s choices despite lack of present justification in feeling or in reason.

      What are the Consequences of Commitment?

      Now that you’ve been fully inundated with philosophical jargon, and hopefully understand this mechanism, lets turn to the consequences of commitment. This short “blurbish” version of an inquiry won’t suffice to go into the infinite posibility for response in this regard. I will, however, dish out a few ideas about the potentials.

      It might be seen as potentially dangerous to lean one’s behavior outside the parameters of what appears just in the moment, and certainly closing oneself off to one’s present judgements for too long cannot be healthy. It might also be said that commitment gives us more freedom as individuals. This seems counter-intuitive, since commitment seems to limit the range of our behavior. However, if we establish our own commitments, and place the deterministic factors upon ourselves, then we can become less fluctuating in our purpose when presented with the deterministic factors that come from without.

      Something to contemplate. 

(NOTE: This is a small portion of a much larger work I am composing on this issue, but I think that laying out this idea in easy to understand terms will give people something interesting to think about.)

Understanding and Determining Authentic “Purpose”

23 03 2009

    It can be said that in order to understand what actions and thoughts we deem best, what kind of life we aim to lead, we must come to a relative conclusion on what is commonly referred to as a “purpose.” For this brief inquiry, “purpose” will refer to an understanding of what is to be most valued in life, and how to live in accordance with these highest values. We come to a “relative conclusion” on this purpose because as we will come to understand, purpose is a living, renewing process.

    So how would one come an idea of one’s self-determined purpose if such a framework of value and life choices has not previously been seriously considered? Though there certainly is no specific formula, there are principals and ideas to apply in order to come to one’s own most genuine self-determined purpose. The methods below are not an exhaustive list, nor do they have a necessary order per say, though the listed order may prove to be productive. The process of coming to know and living in accordance with “purpose” aught to be a way of life.

    May these ideas serve to churn thought towards authenticity and fulfillment.


Studying Our Motives-


    In studying our own motives we can come to gain awareness and understanding of our current principals of action – on those things that we currently act upon as drives for our behavior. We might be able to do this by consciously observing our own decisions. We may ask ourselves, what motive drives me to this action? Is this a motive that I aught to act upon, here or otherwise?

    For example, one might notice oneself in a loud argument with one’s neighbor – possibly regarding property. In hindsight, one might observe that one’s motives were in fact to make the other man feel poorly. Or one might realize that one’s motive was in fact to arrive at a proper understanding and to calm down the neighbor. In either case, one might be able to understand if the motives behind one’s action are worthy actions to live by.

    This continued process may bring one’s common patterns of actions to light in terms of motivational forces. In understanding what motivates us we can come to understand the values that drive us – be they a need for comfort, a yearning to quarrel, growth in our own potential, contribution to the quality of life of others, etcetera. We can then determine weather or not these motives and values can exist if we were to live to our highest purpose, in alignment with that which we deem best.


Observing One’s Own Conception of “Right Action”-


    In order to begin to understand one’s own understanding of “right action.” By “right action” I here refer to that which we understand as the proper action to take in a given situation. Everyone has some idea of these right actions, these “shoulds” in their own behavior. This is much like gaining awareness of our motives – but it is not gaining awareness of what our subconscious deems to be our best motives.

    For instance when one is awaken by the sun in the morning, one may have an understanding that the best course of action would be to arise promptly and begin a specific project or task immediately. Often, these understandings are not acted upon, they are merely recognized and then ignored. It is important to ask ourselves the origin of these thoughts. Why do we recognize that awakening promptly is the ideal action? It is possible that we would like to cultivate the character of a productive individual, it is possible that we recognize rationally that progress in our project is more valuable that another a few minutes of comfort under the covers.


Searching Without-


    Undoubtably, this search for our purpose is – a great extent – an internal process of analysis. However, that need not imply that we become an island. In order to gain perspective on our own understandings and motives, we aught refer to the works of other thinkers, some of whom we will find have struggled with ideas similar to our own.

    It is also important to understand the value systems of other people, and information from a variety of sources, in order to gain a broader perspective on the potentials of beliefs, values, and purposes. This may involve reading philosophy, psychology, rich novels, or communicating and juggling ideas of life with those of different opinions. 


Determining Our Highest Values-


    The reason this seemingly obvious portion of the purpose-understanding process is listed after the other methods is due to the fact that following through with the above methods is likely to allow one to gain an in-depth perception of one’s own current motivators and values, in addition to those values that we might deem highest by our self-determination.

    This careful process will involve understanding what values are to be lived by and acted upon, and why. In doing this, we must be diligent to observe ourselves and alter our thoughts and actions towards that which we deem highest and best. 

    Through these means, one can hopefully assemble a base level of self-understanding and the understanding of ideals in values. 

“Adaptivity” Implies Awareness and Understanding

23 03 2009

In this inquiry, “adaptive” behavior or thought can be said to be that of our own design, aligned with our own values, an expression of that which we deem best – of our own true determination of merit.

It can be understood that “adaptivity” in any particular realm of our lives implies a degree of awareness and understanding of that realm. If one remains wholly ignorant in regards to a specific topic, then it seems “adaptivity” cannot most adequately be achieved. With more awareness and understanding in a facet of our lives, we are able to more adequately behave in regard to it with an expression of our own genuine “telos” – our purpose or our own highest ends
One might come to believe that even if they have little awareness and understanding of a specific realm – let us use for an example; fashion – that their activity which involved apparel is adaptive because it is not contrived or mimicked, but expressed through the individual.

One’s genuine present action could be deemed “authentic” – but “adaptivity” implies actually relative a realm of your experience to your own highest ends and relating to it in a way that reflects that. If something is never even given consideration, or if something is not even recognized, it cannot be said to be entirely “adaptive” – for it isn’t consciously aligned with one’s highest values. One’s “adaptivity” in fashion, for example, would be an expression of one’s own values and merit in terms of what they deem to be the proper purpose and place of clothing in terms of functionality, comfort, appearance, etcetera. If the same garments are thrown on without any recognition of their purpose, or of our value of their functions, then our action in regard to fashion cannot be said to be a most genuine expression of adaptivity.

The same can be said of any realm or facet of our lives. Let us use the example of fitness. If one understands a degree of health principals, of physiology and of the effects of training, and uses one’s awareness in this area, one is able to hone one’s physical fitness – in regards to behaviors involving exercise, diet, and sleep – in the direction that one deems best on their own genuine values. In this respect one might deem hypertrophy and anaerobic capacity as the most congruent aims of fitness, given their values and beliefs. Another might come to be aware of an understanding of fitness sciences and by the evaluation of their own merit, deem fitness to serve the grandest purpose of preserving physical longevity and the high functioning of the mind – in terms of alertness and energy. In these respects, the two individuals both involve themselves in fitness in an adaptive manner – a manner of consciously taking understanding into consideration and transforming action in a way most congruent to their values.

I here only use the examples of “fashion” and “fitness” for illustrative purposes. It is obvious that the complexities of our experience do not have necessary, objective “categories,” but it is useful to use these to understand the relation of awareness and its role in our expression of our unique individual merit.

This correlation between awareness, understanding, and adaptivity may seem daunting, it may appear that so much of our lives are not adaptive since our awareness and understanding are finite. However, this realization needn’t be daunting. It may in fact be interpreted to be liberating and exciting. With every new item our mind comes to grasp, with all the new information we are able to take in about the endless aspects of our lives and of the universe, we are able to act in a way that we can more truly say is genuine as an outflow of that which we deem highest.

Of course we may have blatantly wrong understandings. For instance, one may have a specific belief related to proper diet requirements for health that are entirely false – such as a belief that saturated fat should compose 90% of our daily caloric intake. Our consistent experimentation and learning in these matters will likely bring us to more and more adequate understandings. It is certainly the case that we will all live and die with understandings that are incorrect. For thousands of years, people died believing that the sun rotated around the earth. This did not imply that their actions were any less adaptive than our own – they merely took different beliefs into consideration. So long as we are aware and taking perception into conscious consideration, we are able to strive for adaptivity on our own terms, be our views aligned with the unknowable “objective reality” or not. We still are able to align ourselves with what we deem highest and strive towards our ideals – wether our beliefs be false or not.

It must be noted, of course, that our beliefs and values will change with new information and perspectives – derived from continued awareness and learning. This churning and flowing process is the living sign of an examined life. With this ongoing cycle we strive for what beliefs and values we deem ideal, and what correlating ways of acting and thinking are best. In this way we come to find volitional alignment with our telos – our truest adaptivity.

Contrast of Emotional Neediness and Dependance to Core Confidence and Efficacy

3 03 2009

Why is neediness to repellant, so unattractive? What does neediness communicate and what does it reveal about how someone views themselves and where someone is “coming from” (in terms of their beliefs, purpose, values)?


In this inquiry, I will look at numerous inter-related facets of the term “neediness,” and understand why this behavior comes across as unattractive. I will then look at the polar opposites of these mindsets / behaviors and see why it comes across as attractive / adaptive. 


Once this has been done, I will look into the attractive quality, and determine methods for attaining that level of adaptiveness in behavior through grounding in oneself – without dependance on any externals. The aim will be finding the mindsets and the behaviors that cultivate a person as a stronger individual, a more authentic, independent, confident human being.




Lets begin by talking about the “empty cup” theory. A needy individual approaches a non-needy individual with a proverbial “empty cup,” and is looking to have it filled with something of the other individual. This may be positive emotions or some kind of egoic validation. The needy person signifies that he is not satisfied with his own situation, and so he requires that someone else aide him in feeling good or fulfilled.  This communicates that the needy person does not have much in his own life. To another caveman or cavewoman, this might signify that he has little in terms of material possessions, and so he cannot aide and GIVE value to the other person. He is here to take value, to lean on others for feeling good, or for material things. Others must povide for him in order for him to feel good and posibly to survive. Not good for survival. the hungry do not get fed – he has no value to offer and so is repelled – so that only the cavemen WITH value (be that value in their own self-efficacy and positive emotions, or in the value of their abundant resources) is the one who is attractive, for he is most likely to provide resources and emotions.


The confident caveman does not approach with the same fear, he understands that no one person can dictate his value, and that he needs no one person’s approval. Other cave-people believe that he must have something to offer, he must have resources or alliances or something of value if he is to act so independent of their approval or acceptance.


The needy person also is highly effected by the acceptance or presence of the other. The other person’s actions bring about a variety of emotions in the needy person, who places exceptionally high value on the other person’s opinions and behaviors. Their acceptance will bring a huge validated smile to the needy person’s face, and their absence will induce a drop in the needy person’s emotional state. He DEPENDS upon the other for his own esteem and emotional state. He does not see himself as equally valuable (whatever that means) or competent, and he is not strong enough to adaptively control his own emotional being. This communicates that the needy person views the other as of higher value. A needy caveman might know that another caveman has 3 wives, and so the needy caveman treats the potent caveman as a superior – he sees his possessions and acts as though he is below this other caveman on the totem pole. In the caveman days this may have been adaptive because if he were to act “high status,” he might have been attacked by the caveman with higher societal status (which may or may not coincide with the individual’s own self-worth and idea of his own value). 


The more confident caveman is probably not greatly elated or disturbed by the presence or absence of another. The other is not the source of his fulfillment, the more confident caveman is not looking to be made better by another, he has what he needs. He might have all the food and women he needs. When the other cave-person leaves, he is not taking away anything vital from the already satisfied caveman. Again he probably has what he needs and is not reliant on the other cave-person for positive emotions or resources.


What about that caveman who has no bride, has no material possessions, and has no social alliances, yet still acts in a way that conveys extreme status and an abundance mentality – why is he still valued, why is he still AS attractive as the man WITH those possessions and alliances?


He conveys that he does not attach his own “self-worth” to anything, he simply values himself and is grounded within himself. He is confident without relying on anyone or anything to be confident (core confidence). He denies the risk of being threatened by other socially high status males, he is sure of himself and his path regardless. He needs nothing else to suffice for himself – he is self-reliant for his own fulfillment, emotionally and physically. Hence, his can probably provide for any woman no matter what the circumstances are. This is the kind of man who can firmly stand up for himself and be resourceful. He knows that he will survive, and he knows how he wants to be treated – and all of this goes without the crutch of social alliances an material possessions. These qualities are extremely desirable for survival, and hence are very attractive.



(STRONGEST don’t even care about anticipated responses, they are grounded in adaptively and their reality)

Let us look now at anticipated responses. One man approaches a woman expecting to have a fun conversation that will probably lead to sex. A second man approaches a woman expecting that she will be disgusted and tell him to leave. What will be the differences in their “sub-communication?” The first man can put on a genuine smile, he does not flinch to approach her, he warmly expects a great time and sets that frame IMMEDIATELY. To a woman, this conveys that he is used to being treated warmly by woman of her perceived value – and so she will be more likely to treat him similarly. The second man might be hesitant to approach – it might not do him any good to do so, he’ll probably just get blown off. He also will probably not be able to come across with the same open fun frame, because he expects he to turn him away. He may not be assuming the same rapport, and so will go into the conversation in a way that seems like he is “testing the waters,” unsure of her response to him. His frame, his REALITY, does not come across as strong.


We might argue that an optimally adaptive man would not care about an anticipated response, he would simply act and feel how he wants to. He may expect to be blown out, but if he wants to talk to the woman, he will do so regardless, and he will have a fun and sexual frame because thats what he WANTS, not because he knows it will go well. He may not be optimistic OR pessimistic, he just knows what he wants, how he wants to feel and how he wants to communicate, and he does so without being stifled in these desires. 




Let us look now at the social “totem pole,” or the concept of one’s own value and the value of others. A who communicates unattractive qualities generally views himself as lower on the totem pole, he sees his value as lower than that of the value – and hence he does not fully feel worthy. He does not think that he is enough for her, or for whoever he is talking to, and so he becomes pliable to their whims, and seeks to satisfy them in order to fulfill himself with the approval of the higher-status people. His low-status may be a result of how he was treated, and who he now believes himself to be.


Or let us look at the behavior of someone who believes himself to be at the top of the totem pole. He is confident in his values, they are not malleable and at the whim of those who have different opinions. He is not intimidated by the social value of others, because he is at the top of the totem pole. He is not looking for others to see what is “cool,” what he should do, how he should act. He is his own standard, he is at the top. He may think this because this is how he is treated, or this is how he views himself.


However, is it possible to let go of the idea of this mental “totem pole” and the idea of a “self-worth-o-meter” all together? What if you could see the totem pole as just an idea – what if you saw yourself as on an even keel of “worth” as all other human beings. What if you were just grounded in your own values, and were not swayed by other people’s opinions? One could take their world in first hand and be confident in their own choices and morals without viewing themselves as “high status” or viewing others as “low status.” One might not have any external “reason” to feel good or be confident, but he does not follow societies blueprint of what gives one the ability to be confident, he is sure within himself, he lives how he deems best, period.