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.