It is important for us to examine our motivation in our day to day life. – Dalai Lama
What does that mean?
Why do we do the things that we do? What are our motivations? What are the reasons behind our actions? How often do you ask yourself about these things? Can you tell yourself why you just did whatever it was that you did?
While it sounds like I’m talking in circles, can you really explain why you did anything you did yesterday? What were your motivations? When the phone rang, you answered it. Why? Because you’re trained to behave that way? Or because you’re waiting on a call? Were you being polite? Have you ever thought about it?
While a phone call may be a bit on the trivial side, there are plenty of other things we do each day. Why do we do them? What are our reasons? What are our motivations? Do we really want to do these things, and are we doing them for reasons that are proper, given our values and beliefs?
Why is self-examination important?
You can imagine I believe this to be a very important and worthwhile activity, given the sub-title of this blog. Examination of our life, I would hope, includes an examination of our motivations. We know, again, I hope, what we have done. But do we know why we did it?
Saying that you did it because it is a habit is a useful excuse or reason, however it is not a motivation. Why is it a habit? Why did you start doing it, and why do you still do it? Does it still serve you, or do you have better ways to achieve those ends now?
By examining our lives, by looking into why we do things, we can begin to uncover our motivations. One can do the right thing for the wrong reasons, and be lauded. But is that the way you want to live your life?
By examining yourself and determining your motivations, you can start to change what you don’t like, and put additional emphasis on those things you do like. I believe it’s a worthwhile endeavor, do you?
Where can I apply this in my life?
Let us begin with the chain of events that leads to action. We believe something to be right or wrong. When we see something that matches or violates our beliefs, we are motivated to do something. This leads to action. Or, going backwards, our actions depend on our motivations, which rely on our beliefs or values.
Note that I didn’t list reasons or excuses in there. They usually are walls we erect between motivation and action, designed to prevent anyone from probing any deeper. If someone sees you do something and asks why you did that, do you usually respond with your actual motivation, or do you give a reason or an excuse?
I think that most of us will give a reason or an excuse, rather than get into a discussion of motivations. Why? Because it’s opening a can of worms. One answer leads to two more questions. Pretty soon, they’re asking why you believe something, or have a certain value. Not a conversation most of us are comfortable having, is it?
However, for the purposes of this post, that’s exactly what we have to do. That, in my opinion, is exactly what this quote is all about. Why did you cross the road? Was it to get to the other side? Why was that? Did you have someplace to go, or were you trying to avoid someone who looked scary?
This is something that could take hours, so I would recommend you pick one thing each day to examine. How does one pick an action? If you do something that feels a little weird, something of which you are a little ashamed, or something you feel you might not be doing for the right reasons, that might be something to examine. Anything you think is probably wrong would also be a candidate, right?
How does one do an examination? I would start like I did with the ‘cross the street’ example above. Start asking “Why?” over and over again. Throw in the rest of the questions (The 5 W’s), [ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Five_Ws ] and pretty soon you are going to get some answers.
The trick is to keep digging. Don’t stop, especially when you give an excuse or a reason. Those should be red flags to you, telling you to keep digging. Try to find the underlying belief or value that led you to act in the manner you did.
Then you have to figure out if that belief or value is still valid, if it is still true. If it isn’t, it’s time to replace it with something that is true, and better serves you. Something that helps to move you towards the best possible you.
If, at one point in time, you believed the only way you could make friends was to smoke with them, I would ask if that is still true. Can you make friends through any other shared activity? Could you modify that belief to say that you can make friends through any shared activity, and no longer have smoking tied to friendship? Would that make quitting a little easier?
If you don’t examine your life, you will live a random life, like a feather in the wind. Going any way the wind blows. There may be times for that, but I prefer to examine my life, and modify it to suit my purpose. What you do is up to you, but I hope you have a new idea and some new tools to play with.