We should not only cease our negative activities, but also the motivation that gives rise to them. – Dalai Lama
What does that mean?
We tend, from time to time, do things that aren’t the best for us, or for others. These are the negative actions or activities are what the quote is urging us to stop doing.
The quote also urges us to not only stop the actions that are negative, but to reach beneath the surface and find the motivation that gives rise to these actions.
By finding the source and working to eliminate the motivation for doing things that aren’t good for us or others, we can stop our desire for repeating the action that is negative. Does that make sense?
Why is motivation important?
Why do we do the things that we do? Sometimes it is a lack of impulse control. But most of the time, there is an underlying motivation. Some people over eat because the food tastes good, or they enjoy the crunching sound when they chew. Perhaps there is comfort in the process of cooking, or fond memories that come back with the smells and tastes of a particular food.
In any case, there is usually a reason for our behaviors. The quote asks us to seek these motivations and modify them. In doing so, we can help to prevent future occurrences of the undesired activities. Sometimes several behaviors are rooted in the same motivation, allowing us to take action against several problems at the same time.
Where can I apply this in my life?
I would urge caution in this exercise, as precision is required. If you aren’t completely honest with yourself, you may end up with results that are significantly less effective than you had hoped for. You may also do more harm than good if you don’t dig deeply enough.
As an example, if a smoker (presuming smoking to be a negative activity due to the injury it can do to the lungs) said they smoked because it made them feel good, it would not be proper to say we have to stop feeling good, right?
In digging deeper, the good feeling might come from the camaraderie felt with sharing a common bond with other smokers, even if you’re meeting them for the first time. Here again, we don’t want to stop having the feeling of camaraderie, right?
In digging deeper still, we may find a fear of rejection, a shyness or a bit of social awkwardness is the true motivation. These are things one might well wish to cease. Do you see how digging deep and finding the true root cause is necessary to avoid causing yourself more harm?
What of your activities do you think are negative in effect, either to your mental, emotional, physical or spiritual nature? Grab some paper and write a few of them down. Consider each of the activities and select the one you wish to work on first.
What is the reason you do this particular activity? Obviously you get something enjoyable out it, or you wouldn’t be doing it, right? What is it? Why is that reason giving you pleasure or helping you avoid pain? Keep asking that question until you uncover the true root of the problem, your true motivation. Only then can you proceed to the next step.
With a basic need as your motivation, you will need not only to consider how you will remove your old pattern, but with what you will replace it. In the case of the smoker who was shy and reluctant to make friends, they will need to find a way to stop smoking, but they will also need to find another way to overcome their shyness.
Time for a brainstorm, think of all the different ways you could fill your need. Think of how others fill this need, and consider how you might have done so in the past. Until you can fill it, you will have a hard time breaking the old habit, which fills the need fairly well right now.
Now, with an old habit to break and a new way to fill the need it satisfied, it’s only a matter of time and determination before you make the change, and make it permanent. Find people to help you. There are plenty of mutual support groups dedicated to helping people kick old habits and develop new ones.
Are you ready? It’s time to get busy!