Motivation is about why you do things and why you are living in the way you are. What are you interested in? Buying some new clothes? Supporting your sports team? Eating your favourite meal? Anticipating an exciting trip abroad? We each want many things. I imagine your individual list will fill several pages – music, sports, cooking, teaching others, learning, watching movies—anything.
I would suggest that reading through it will help give a clue to your deeper motivation, what you want from life. Perhaps suggesting a sense of direction, helping you take stock of where you are up to, and representing what kind of person you are.
Digging a bit deeper it is possible to become more aware of your hopes and fears, your values and principles, and your inner desires. Such insights can help those people who feel frustrated in unfulfilling roles and who do not know what to do with their life: or who have just suffered a major change such as a divorce, an injury, or a redundancy and being now single instead of married, infirm instead of healthy, or unemployed instead of working, no longer feel they know who they really are.
Sometimes what you really feel and desire is partly hidden from you. Psychologists have known about the unconscious process of rationalisation for a long time. Faced with hearing what others want for you and what they say you should want, you may tend to come up with excuses for what you do about which you feel uncomfortable or embarrassed. You can sometimes justify discreditable actions with plausible reasons, especially after the event. Who wouldn’t feel better seeing themselves as honest, decent, and fair-minded rather than recognising when they really do something out of self-interest and with petty emotion.
Listing your conscious desires is a good start. Yet, there are some more questions you can ask yourself to uncover what is good and bad about what you are currently wanting out of life.
Who you admire
This could be someone known to you personally or seen in the mass media. It is easier to pinpoint what you want for yourself when thinking about the qualities, desires, values and actions of someone who inspires you. Such a person will represent your feelings.
Having a deep sense of hurt that is mirrored in motivation
For example wanting to be loved if in childhood a mother’s love was never really felt. Wanting to be sparklingly fit and healthy if having been handicapped by a long illness or been derided in early life for being overweight. Or wanting recognition for one’s abilities if having been passed over for promotion or failing academically at school.
What you choose to have and do if life imposed no limits
Try to imagine not having any restrictions whatsoever. Absolutely no constraints of money and circumstances. No influence on you due to the attitudes of the people now in your life. You would have as much money as you wish. What would be your motivation in this fantasy? If there were absolutely no constraints on you, where would you like to live, how much money would you have, with what kind of person would you be spending time, and what would you be doing? This is a question about what you want for your ideal lifestyle. It can help you gain some insights in who you would truly want to be if there were no limits and no anxiety.
The spiritual nature of your motivation
In line with Emanuel Swedenborg ‘s philosophy there is the idea that whatever our motivation might be, there are four possible types of love which underlie it. Each of these in itself is okay. For example it is okay to love yourself but in line with probably all spiritual writers he claims that a spiritual problem arises when the love of self or love of the world predominates.
Love of self
Not all conspicuous or bossy people are motivated by self-love. However, when a love of yourself dominates your motivation, then you will be thinking highly of yourself and want other people to do so too: you will be likely to bring conversation round to yourself and your own affairs. If you do something good you will want everybody to know about it. And you will want to get your own way in things.
Love of the world
Swedenborg suggests that enjoying what is pleasurable such as good food, physical comfort, nice clothes and so on, is not bad in itself. The problem arises when a concern for your own ease and convenience dominates your motivation. If a love of the things of the world comes first then you will likely be preoccupied with money and tend to think how you can profit from this or that.
Love of others
When a love of others dominates your motivation then when you slip up some times and act in a harmful or unkind way, you will be sorry afterwards and try to make amends. Self-interest will not be the predominant thing in what you want: rather there will be a concern for those you come into contact with.
Love of what is good and true
If someone makes mistakes and fails in following their principles then they will suffer keen remorse: if religious the person will beg God for forgiveness. This shows a love of what is good and true. There is a love of other people in so far as you can seen a potential for something good and true in them.
“Everyone has in him something precious, that is in no one else! But this precious something in man is revealed to him only if he truly perceives his strongest feeling, his central wish, that in him which stirs his inmost being” (Martin Buber)
Copyright 2014 Stephen Russell-Lacy
Author of Heart, Head & Hands Swedenborg’s perspective on emotional problems