Hack Your Motives to Make Smarter Decisions

Photo by Ben White on Unsplash

mo·tive

/ˈmōdiv/

NOUN

1. a reason for doing something, especially one that is hidden or not obvious.

As per Lexico by Oxford

Everything you do, everything you say, everything you want is backed by one or multiple motives.

Obvious, right? Of course you have reasons. Why else would you be doing/saying/wanting that? But the reasons themselves might not be obvious at all.

Motives are, by definition, not the obvious reasons for something. They’re the deeply layered, complex, maybe-even-not-entirely-known-to-you reasons for something.

They’re the true whys governing your whats and hows. They are subtly driving your choices, both major and minor. They are a complex web of emotions, memories, insecurities, fears, and expectations. They are, in a word, powerful. And they’re also tough to figure out.

Why subject yourself to all that stickiness?

Because your motives are making you do stuff. In order to understand why you want x or said y or chose z, it would help to delve into your motive web. Understanding what is motivating you and why means you can operate from a greater plane of understanding and make wiser choices more in tune with what you really want and value. Instead of reacting emotionally and with little conscious thought, you’re able to respond wisely and with conscious intention.

Another reason? It means you can healthily address emotional issues as they arise instead of blithely carrying on only to have them come back to haunt you later. (Boo!) Deep down, are you being driven by anger, resentment, fear, jealousy, or insecurity? Figuring that out sooner rather than later is helpful in dealing with those feelings head on. Emotional messes are best cleaned up before they happen. (The best fight is always the one you never had.)

Ultimately, you owe it to yourself.

It’s that simple. You owe it to yourself to understand your why. You owe it to yourself to know where your thoughts and actions are coming from. It’s also fairer to others who might be impacted by the things you do and the decisions you make. Imagine you tell your friend she could do better in her choice of sweater. Maybe you’re a fashion buff and you care that your friend looks her most fabulous on all occasions.

Maybe.

But maybe that comment actually comes from a feeling of jealousy over how slim she looks and that she’s able to pull off a style you can’t. So you take out your feelings on her sweater. If you’re aware of what’s truly driving your comment, you may just hold yourself back from saying anything and instead let your friend enjoy her fashion choice in peace.

Photo by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash

How do you figure out your true motives, though?

The significance of motives is their lack of obviousness. They are like the ninjas of reasoning — stealthily in the shadows so that when they strike, you’re not even sure what happened. Basically you’re up against a ninja spider.

This analogy is fun.

To sort out the web and avoid getting eaten by the ninja spider, you need to peel back the shadows by being really honest with yourself.

(It’ll also take some intuition.)

(Plus desire and patience and pixie dust. Okay, thankfully no pixie dust.)

To figure out your motives, you first need to be willing. In other words, you have to want to figure them out. Lolling in blissful denial isn’t going to help you understand your underlying motivations for your decisions. Fighting yourself won’t either. You need to approach your inside webby world with a sense of desire, discovery, and interest.

Next, you require patience. You might not figure it all out immediately. Or today. Or even this week. It might take a lot of work, depending on various factors. (Such as how in tune you are with yourself already or how deep seated the emotional factors at play are.) Patience with yourself and the process is important so that you keep examining and don’t give up.

Alongside the patience is intuition. Intuition is understanding something without conscious reasoning. It’s a sort of knowing without knowing how you know. Think of it as an internal intelligence — it helps you understand yourself without entirely understanding how you arrived at your conclusions. You just…ask yourself and the answers are provided.

It works.

To harness your intuition in this motivational endeavour, give yourself some space. Focus. Ask yourself why you said what you said, why you want what you want, or why you did what you did. Then listen, calmly, without judgement, and see what thoughts and ideas come up. Again, don’t fight yourself. Just explore what’s going on.

If you find that challenging or it doesn’t help you, get someone else to do the asking instead of doing it yourself. An appropriate person would be someone you trust and who is good at asking thoughtful, open-ended questions. If no one is around, have the conversation in your head. Imagine such a person and let your mind supply their lines while you mentally answer with yours.

Seriously.

While it may feel weird at first to have an imaginary conversation, it’s a powerful tool to gain emotional insight. If you know your conversation partner well enough, you should be able to imagine the kinds of things they’d say.

The trick is to not think too hard and instead just let the conversation — whichever version of the conversation you choose to have — flow. You’re looking for insights, the first thing that comes to mind, the thought that jumps out at you even if it’s unexpected.

And be honest.

You want to examine your motives, right? You want to figure out what’s driving you so you can be wiser about the choices you make. You want to respond instead of react. Therefore you need to be brutally, painfully, agonisingly honest about what your motives really are, even if you’re embarrassed, upset, or sad about what you discover. Just be sure to treat yourself kindly and to acknowledge, without judgement, what you’re feeling. Just because you feel the way you do, doesn’t mean it has to affect your actions going forward. You make your decisions, not your feelings.

That’s the power of hacking your motives.

You become smarter when making choices. You are able to act from a place of freedom and knowledge instead of floundering about, subconsciously trapped in a web you don’t understand. You are empowered to take the best route and the high road.

And hey, the high road has the best views.

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