Today’s post is the featured article from the January 2008 issue of  The Front Porch Newsletter.  If you would like to automatically receive The Front Porch e-newsletter on the last Thursday of each month just click here to sign-up for your complimentary subscription.

blumbergface1The real motor to our motivation is our motives. Motives are the deep seeded driving force that cranks-up our motivation. Motive sits at the beginning of motivation. Literally … and in reality. Webster describes “motive” as something (as a need or desire) that causes a person to act.

Our motivation can often be seen by others. It might be in our enthusiasm or in our endurance and persistence. Lack of motivation can be seen as well. But true motives are different. They are hard, if not impossible, to see in others. And it is often hard to see it in ourselves … especially when we don’t really think about it.

Motives are tricky and can take on a life of their own. Have you ever been motivated to accomplish something and started with incredibly pure motives only to get side-tracked into selfish ones? These evasive misguided motives might have been simply been about getting your way or proving you were right. They might have been about pulling-rank or enforcing your position on others. Left unchecked, your motives may very well be robbing you of your greatest performance and contribution.

Actions can certainly speak louder than words. But motives are the “silent” killers. They can lead to empty successes and broken relationships without you ever being able to detect their lethal injection. Misplaced motives germinate in our speed and lack of awareness. They can fester and eventually sprout. They are painless and evasive. But they are very real!

Motives are like the rudder of a boat. The motor moves the boat, but if the rudder is just slightly set at the wrong angle … well, you can end up in a place you had never intended to be. I am sure there are a lot of questions we often ask in the midst of trying to accomplish something. But how often is the question asked, “What really are my/our motives here?” When is the last time you have intentionally stopped to ask yourself that question?

I think there are times where we just assume our motives are pure. But I have seen wonderful people of great character fall into the trap of misguided motives. I have looked in the mirror and seen that person from time to time. We are all vulnerable to it.

Sometimes we may have multiple motives that compete with each other. Often times, multiple competing motives need to coexist. We don’t have to look further than healthcare to see the sometimes competing motives of care and efficiency. It can become a blurry mix of balance and priorities. Yet unchecked motives are likely to be both out-of-balance and lacking a sense of priority.

But checking your motives isn’t always just about being sure your rudder is at the right angle. Sometimes it is just about reminding yourself why you do what you do. Motives “in-check” help us remember who we really are. Checking your motives may not only help you adjust your rudder, it may very well help you find greater fulfillment in what you do.

We are currently in the middle of one of the most interesting presidential elections in the recent history of our nation. Wouldn’t it be nice to be able to see an x-ray of the genuine motives of each candidate? It might change how you vote. It would be telling to have the capability of developing “motive xrays” of corporate leaders. It might change how you invest or where you buy your products. Or what about front-line supervisors? It might change how you recruit, hire and train your employees. And wouldn’t it be interesting to be able to get your own personal “motive x-ray”. It just might change your own personal perspective, choices and actions.

Unfortunately, there is no “motive x-ray” machine. So until it is invented, it would serve us well to simply develop the habit of asking the question …what really are my motives here?

ACTION IDEA: Once each day, in this next week, catch yourself in a striving or passionate moment and ask the question … “what truly is my motive here?” It is a question worth thinking about … on the front porch!