The quality of everything we do: our physical actions, our verbal actions, and even our mental actions, depends on our motivation. – Dalai Lama
What does that mean?
This quote is very close to a principal I have found very useful. This quote says that the quality, or value of all that we do depends on our motivations. In this case, the scale against which our actions are measured is the greater good, at least that’s how I read it.
According to the quote, our motivation will either help us get a result which is beneficial to others from our actions, or one that is detrimental, based on what our motivations for the action are.
The quote states that if our motivations are for the good of humanity, it is very likely that the quality of the results we achieve will be for the betterment of humanity. Similarly, if our motivations are to the detriment of humanity, so too shall the outcome be.
Why is are our motivations important?
If our motivations, if our reasons for why we are doing something, are good, it will be hard to have thoughts that are other than good. Similarly, if our motivations are corrupt, it will be hard to have thoughts that are not also corrupt. Our motivations set the tone for our thoughts, and they, in turn set our tone for our actions.
And what are we, if we are not our motivations? Our motivations, our reasons, are what define what we are willing to do, and not willing to do. They are our reasons (or excuses) for why we did or did not do something. They are what help us dig deeper to get things done, or the reasons we quit or give up. In short, our motivations are a very large part of who we are and how we behave.
Where can I apply this in my life?
Think for a moment and consider why you do the things you do on a regular basis. Do you go to work because you enjoy it, or because it’s a paycheck. I’m not making a value judgement here. I have worked at more than a few jobs where there was little reason to like the work, and my motivation was the paycheck.
What do you do on a regular basis? Most of us have a job, even if it’s studying for classes, or keeping the house in order. What else do you do on a regular basis? Go online? Read a book? Catch a play or a movie? Shop for food, or go out to eat? What about going out with friends?
Grab some paper and make a list of the things you do regularly. Take a moment and look at the list and see if you can find an underlying reason for doing each of these things. You might want to go back and try to think of a second or third reason for some of them, as some of us have a tendency to rush through these things and just put down the first thing that comes to mind.
Now let’s pause for a moment and consider why you are even doing this exercise, or not doing it, depending on your actions. Are you doing this to help you in your quest for world domination? Or are you doing this to help you become a better person, so that you might better serve humanity?
Odds are, if you are actively doing the exercise, it’s somewhere between these, right? And if you are not, why not? Does it seem too silly? Are you short on time, and would rather get on to the next item on your list as quickly as possible? For those, I would recommend a short story about a woodcutter and his axe.
Looking at your list, rate each of your motivations. Rate them for how they are related to helping humanity, helping yourself, or if they simply satisfy some desire of yours. How many of your motivations are for your own amusement, but are to the detriment of humanity, based on your beliefs?
This is very dangerous ground for those who have not made a solemn vow to be brutally honest with themselves, as it is easy to lie. But your lies won’t help your actions, all they will do is hide your motivations from yourself. I would recommend some introspection and contemplation on this part, if you can spare the time.
Are you pleased with how things look for you? Is there room for improvement? Can you modify your motivation to something “a little better” based on your values? Or might it be better to discontinue the activity? That’s a call only you can make.
Take a moment and look at your motivations, and how they impact your actions. Do your motivations reflect the best possible you, or should you consider a tweak or two to your motivations?