What Keeps Us Going
Motivation can take many forms. I think that when we discuss motivation we should do so with intention in mind. That’s to say that although we can pinpoint motivation, it can be difficult to ascertain intention. That’s because intention can be hidden.
Actually, when we frame motivation without thinking of intention, we’re really asking the reason or what moved you to do it. It’s the goal. For example, you might say that you really want to do your work fast. The goal behind you pushing for work might be beating tight deadlines, overcoming big challenges, and more. And these external factors are what others perceive of you. They can think of all the intentions they want, but it might not be the right one. When intention is considered, it becomes a deeper layer of understanding those actions for yourself. It’s the the driving force vs. the objective/goals.
Let’s take that same scenario and think of some motives & intentions.
- Prove you can work fast so you can impress your boss. It’s the end of the year, so you’re looking for a promotion. Your intention is to prove you’re worthy.
- You were slacking off, so getting it done quickly makes it look like you were working hard all along. Working fast might cover it up and you’re fueled by the anxiety and guilt of procrastinating. Your intention is to absolve yourself from the guilt of slacking off.
- If you get your work done early, you can slip out of work early without anyone knowing because you dislike your job. The excitement of relaxing quickly motivates you to finish, and your intention is to spice up your otherwise boring life.
- When you work fast, you can prioritize some other work. You become motivated by the idea that you can spend more time doing other meaningful things. Your intention is to organize your workflow so you can learn the things that matter to you.
- You want to learn more about your job by really getting in the trenches. You’re motivated and inspired by your hardworking coworkers who are great leaders in their space. The intention is to rapidly increase your skillset.
- Allowing yourself a deadline keeps you motivated about work because you can manage your time. The intention is to develop a better work-life balance and take care of yourself.
To yourself, the negative intentions can be perceived as positive, or vice versa. But for others I suppose that an intention can be objectively viewed as negative by popular or societal/cultural norms. Intentions are very personal and are hard for others to guess, so it’s easy for people to make up their own stories behind the intention.
These positives and negatives can really coexist in that way, and also come in to play when we’re looking at our own perspectives. If you find yourself judging every one of your intentions, it can be helpful to try reframing negative thoughts into positive ones once you learn how to identify draining thinking patterns.
Let’s give an example of that.
Motivation: You want to get 1st place in a writing content, and you’re motivated by the clout & $1,000 prize.
Intention: To prove that you are capable of writing something great.
Outcome: You lose the contest.
You lost the contest, and now you’re sad. You feel like all this time was wasted. Your belief in yourself and hope that you’re worth anything is faltering. You start getting envious of the winner, picking out everything they did wrong in their writing.
However, if your intention was to prove you could do it, then regardless of whether you win or lose, you have still achieved the drive behind the action, which is the self-respect and the determination to push through.
Are you driven by motivation or intention? You can lose sight of your intentions and real goals if you focus too much on the motivation.
Frankly, you can’t predict anyone’s intention 100% of the time. Unless you have enough info to know or unless they tell you straight up. They could be doing something that seems nice but is actually shady or manipulative. That’s not to say we should be afraid of people all the time and get paranoid about what they might mean.
One problem I struggled with (and sometimes still do struggle with) is being okay with what others do. Meaning, take a neutral look at what the person did and then deduce the intention only if I have enough info about it. It’s easy to apply your own biases to what they do. Not only do we see ourselves differently, the way we see others in our mind can be different too.
Let’s say your friend ignored you the entire month. You might think, “Oh, guess he’s not really my friend. He’s not messaging because he doesn’t wanna hang out.” Or you could be self-critical and say, “He’s not messaging me because I said something stupid, right? It’s my fault I’m losing friends.” Meanwhile, the intention behind your friend not messaging you happened to be not about you at all. It was because he needed some time to work on himself and make changes in his life.
As you can see, it’s quite simple: We are selfish. We want answers, and when we don’t get them, we can get annoyed and maybe even start assuming. Sometimes there’s no need to search for an answer. But if you’re suffering from anxiety (something I’m no stranger to) then it can be hard not to want to know everything, right then and there.
Have you heard the phrase “We judge others by their actions and ourselves by our intentions?”
It’s a pretty relevant saying that applies to the scenario I described above. As humans, it’s natural to assume things, and everything others do is our own selfish way of viewing it. When we let go of the assumption that everyone’s out to get us, we too can start being okay with the actions of others.
That’s not to say that we should go on and assume everyone has good intentions all the time. It takes practice to see through anyone’s fake veneer of motivation to divulge the real reason people do stuff for us. Even then, it’s not good to ruminate about everything everyone’s doing all the time. It’s just good to know that not everyone’s hiding in the shadows to stab you in the back, nor are they always doing things to intentionally hurt you. And if they actually are, then you can be more equipped to deal with that situation when it comes.