What is my motive?
If our goal is to get to the bottom of things, to find the cause in the effect, we will want to understand motive and it’s place in the equation. Questions like, “why did I do that” or “why are people so mean”, can all be explained by understanding motive. First we can remove all the complications and mystery from “motive” by saying that it is the same as desire. We can identify our motives by asking ourselves what we truly, deep down at the core, desire. Whatever we find is what’s been motivating us. That is motive. All people have a desire to be happy and that desire is what motivates people. There is a little more to look at. Wouldn’t our lives be simpler if we really understood motive? If we could explain it? Take out the riddles? Let’s do that.
All people have one built in motivation. This, being happy, may seem sort of silly, but if we want to know what makes the world go round, what makes people tick and do what they do, recognizing this fact about motive is essential. Once we cross this bridge we will stop being confused as to peoples actions. You see, having what we think of as the best motives does not make everything go smoothly. Understanding motive will do more for us than having, what we think of as, a good motive. Let’s say we’ve come to see that being happy is our primary motive, how does this help us? If understanding doesn’t benefit us why bother? There is a method for making use of the information. First we’d have to know what it is we’d set out to accomplish in our lives. What has my overall plan been? It doesn’t matter if it was a good plan. My overall plan at 14 was to stay in a state of non-concern by taking narcotics. Not a great plan. I didn’t have an overabundance of information on life. It’s worthwhile to consider that most big peoples plans were formulated as little people. Ok, so what do we do? We examine our overall plan. At this point we’ll want to get some paper and pencil and do some memory brainstorming. This, writing as we remember (even bits and pieces we’re not sure about) will bring up some memories. Then we can look at what ends up on our page.
Before long we can sit and look at our plan. Everyone has one a plan. Some have them on paper already. Some can’t tell you what their plan is and some will deny that they have one. But having no plan – is a plan. We “don’t plan” for exactly the same reasons that we “do plan”. Ever run into someone who tells you they’re done making plans? For them, on that day, plans aren’t working. They’ve had it. Why would someone ditch their plans? Why do people make plans? We could say, “What motivates people to make plans?”. Early on in my journey I got in trouble over a relationship. The trouble was I was suffering badly. One thing I knew for sure is that I didn’t want to feel like I felt. I told a mentor about the problem I was having. She said to find out what my motives were. When I thought I’d gotten to the bottom of things I saw that my motive (desire) was not – to be useful. My motive was to do something I enjoyed. Something I associated with “happy”. In order to do this I needed to get someone else involved and I really didn’t pay any attention when my inner voice told me to stop. My favorite part of romantic relationships is getting into romantic relationship. My motive for involving someone else was that I needed someone else to get what I wanted. The only requirement I had of them was that they looked a certain way. So I found somebody who fit the bill and got them involved in my plan. As a result I got my brain twisted into a knot. The secondary result was: I haven’t done that since, even though I want to – all the time. The third thing that came out of it was I used this story to illustrate a self destructive plan.
So I know why I did what I did and I know not to do it again. So what can be learned from my mistake? For me it’s that motive isn’t the real mystery. We can understand motive in a minute. But it starts a new line of questioning. One of ideas. I had some unreal ideas about happiness. “If this – then happy”. All plans can be reduced to this simple formula. I didn’t make any changes to motive. I did get some different ideas about happy. So now, I ask “everything that is” to direct me to what is best. I spend some time at meditation because I see it as a useful endeavor. It fits my motive. You see we can say we understand motive, but not do one thing that falls in line with our understanding. In time our conditions will give us a clue as to the true nature of our understanding. This is handy as it reveals our ideas. All we have to do to find out what our ideas about happiness are is look at what we’re doing.
The crux of the matter is that understanding motive is one step toward intentional accomplishment. We’re all really great at accomplishing stuff. We want to get better at intentional accomplishment. Which means understanding the process. Lets return to the prime motivation that is shared by everyone. That of being happy. It’s one of the only aspects of our nature that we’re born with. Babies like to be happy. If something happens to get them unhappy they will do everything in their power to get happy. They will make sounds that make grown ups go to any length to restore the babies happiness. This basic human nature to be happy never changes.
We only ever change what we believe will make us happy, then we pursue it. From the time we’re born till the time we leave, this is what we do. Mother Theresa did what she thought would bring happiness. So did Genghis Khan. Same motive, different take on life. The difference is never one, of what we might want to call, the prime motivation. As we have found in everything we’ve looked at so far, the difference is in the data. The data, that becomes – our data.
We’ll use Mother Theresa and Genghis Khan. Both start there lives on earth as little babies. We can’t know what the whole situation of their mothers was, what their embryonic diets were. What sounds and feelings were transmitted. All this has an effect on brain chemistry. Personalities are starting to form before the actual birth. Who knows what different DNA was actuated in response to conditions. But we know they both made it here and they arrived like everyone else with their innate motivations intact. Shortly there after they started to form a plan.
They gathered data from there surroundings and this was stored in there data bases. They formed ideas from these files about the world. Then, in exactly the same manner, working from the same motivation, they decided how they would proceed in the pursuit of happiness. Same motivation, same or similar brains, completely opposite end of the spectrum results.
Whats happening in ones life has a direct relationship to the prime motive. If my life is not what I would like it to be then I must examine it, starting with what I know about motive. What am I after? Why did I think doing what I was doing would bring happiness? Write these conclusions on paper. We concentrate on this until we are able to get a better picture of how the process unfolded. The system of life is like any other system, as we learn the system we get better at operating within it. Finding out how the system works is the most important thing anyone can do, if they want to be happy.
If the goal of the reader is to get started on a self determined path then this area of motive will be examined. The first thing that needs to be done is to find out why our current plan is. By current I mean “what got me my job, my car, my relationships, my goals…”? We already know what the prime motivation is. That’s the easy part. Look for where the ideas about happiness came from. This is always where we will find the answer to the “unhappiness” in our lives. Ask questions. Write them down. They will be answered once you’ve got them written down. Getting good answers is all about asking good questions. All the help you need is available.
“Social improvement is attained more readily by a concern with the quality of results than with the purity of motives.” Eric Hoffer
In 2000 the Hoover Institution Archives acquired the papers of the American public philosopher Eric Hoffer. The papers fill 75 linear feet of shelf space and contain extensive draft writings and journals by Hoffer, many of them unpublished. They are now open for research.