So much of our world is created by our cognitive habits. What we notice is often habit, how we interpret what we notice is often habit. Our beliefs are often habit too. For example, there was a really long period of time where I did not take a look at the opposite political persuasion to really try to understand their perspective beyond the superficial level.
Those aren’t the only beliefs that are habit. We carry beliefs about ourselves that we don’t tend to question but that might be completely untrue. Often those beliefs are self-fulfilling. For example, if I don’t think I’m smart, then I don’t apply myself in school and then I get bad grades.
I think we also carry beliefs about what we want or need that seem to provide an undercurrent to our motivation each day. For instance, right now when I have some free time or mental energy, I am focused on writing and school. I love to write this blog and do the homework assignments given to me. I also love anything positive psychology and I’m a little pretty obsessed with it.
But this just didn’t start with school for me. I find I usually have an underlying motivation toward one or two things that drives my decision-making when I’m not busy. Sometimes it has been reading novels, eating or cooking great food, finding quality time with a loved one, taking care of someone, getting rest, working out, watching television, working, dating, or shopping. This is what I need to be doing at a given time, and sometimes my perception of my need is below my radar. I have seen others with similar needs but also with different ones, such as playing sports, discussing politics, sharing stories, gossiping, grooming, partying, or making money.
Oftentimes, these focal activities are being driven by an underlying motivation. Frequently we are simply pursuing something we love, like a hobby or time with a loved one. But sometimes the underlying motivation has to do with filling a subconscious need such as getting approval, affirmation, attention, or validation, or feeling better-than, worse-than, deserving, or must be seen as (successful, happy, cool…., fill in the blank). For instance, when I’m looking for rest or good food, I have some shadow belief about what I need or deserve: I’m over-worked or ill so I need and deserve some spoiling. When I’m shopping or spending a lot of time grooming I may be feeling entitled to nice things, must be seen as attractive, and seeking approval or attention by dressing well. I write because I enjoy the process, but part of the reason is also for validation – I like the approval and positive feedback I get from others.
That being said, there’s nothing wrong with this. We are hard-wired to act in what we believe to be our own best interest. In addition, what would life be without the ability to pursue the things we love to do? However, when I go over-the-top with my focus and desire, it’s being driven by my subconscious. Bringing my motivations to consciousness helps me find better balance and other ways to feed my inner spirit appropriately.
What about you? Do you have a motivation undercurrent driving you to do things for reasons that are below your awareness? What are they? Does bringing them to light make you feel differently about those activities?