Four Motivations: Why We Do What We Do?

Recognising my motivations

Photo by Gabriel Gusmao on Unsplash

Pause. Take a moment. Ask yourself “Why am I reading this article?” The purpose of making you do this is not to make you realise that you can make better use of your time elsewhere, but to make you aware of your motivation. We are constantly doing things but rarely do we ask, why are we doing it?

Most human motivations can be classified under four categories. What are they? To know them you will have to motivate yourself to read the full article.

Enjoy Life

This is the first motivation. No one has to tell us to do this, we are instinctively drawn towards things that give us pleasure. Aam papad, Amitabh Bachchan movies, Tin Tin comics and Gold Spot gave me pleasure as a child. If you are wondering what is Gold Spot, it was an orange flavoured cola drink when I was a school boy. As I grew my hormones derived immense pleasure from reading adult literature. Unfortunately it was not a part of the school curriculum, so my extensive reading did not add to my academic achievements.

Often we associate pleasure only with sensory gratification. But there is emotional pleasure too. Awards, trophies, medals and certificates gave me great emotional pleasure as a child. I was terribly heartbroken when my mother once folded my certificate and kept it in her purse. It felt as though someone had pierced my heart. The feelings we experience when we feel loved, recognized and admired are a form of emotional pleasure. No wonder, we cannot seem to ever get enough of it.

Do Well In Life

This motivation rears its head when we begin to enter young adulthood. If you belong to a middle class family, the common approach to do well in life is to get a professional degree and a job. Unfortunately when I was growing up there was no option of making a career by posting videos on YouTube or playing video games. I had to pay to play video games and the only tube I knew was the one that emitted light.

This motivation is all about making good money, buying a decent house and having a swanky car. Basically it is what society calls ‘settling down’. The hope is to bring more predictability to financial and emotional life. At least that was what it was before we realised, the economic crisis can hit our finances, Tinder can swipe away our relationships and a pandemic can take our breath away.

Lead A Moral Life

In the mountain of motivation, this is at a higher altitude. Which is why few people in today’s fast paced life bother about morals, ethics and values. But those who do run their intentions through a morality check before they act. So what are morals? The usual stuff that parents tell their children “be honest, don’t be greedy, be kind to others” but sometimes forget to follow themselves.

When I became interested in spirituality I became more conscious of morality. I felt if I had to have even the slightest chance at God realization, I must be a ‘good’ person. No God, Hindu or Christian, would let me enter the Pearly Gates without passing the morality test on planet Earth. As a result the 80G deductions in my income tax return went up. For those of you wondering what that is 80G, it is the reduction in your taxable income when you make charitable donations.

Realize, You Are Life

This motivation is the rarest. It is at the peak of human endeavours. It is the motivation to solve the mystery of life. Why am I here? What is the meaning of life? Who am I? These are some of the questions that plague people afflicted with this motivation. Yes, it is almost like an illness as there are no clear answers to these questions. And yet the questions do not go away.

People plagued with this motivation are called seekers. They go from place to place, Guru to Guru, book to book, workshop to workshop searching for this elusive thing called Truth. It is a thankless task as most people around them cannot understand their craziness. And there seems to be no end to this pursuit. I have enough material on my experiences around this motivation to write a book. Someday I will.

What Is Your Motivation?

Now that I have listed all the motivations a good question to ask yourself is — what is my motivation? Am I driven by enjoyment, achievement, morals or the mysterious unknown?

Quite often there is no single motivation that pulls our life, it is a mix of all. Also it may change, as we age.

When we are young we are driven by the urge for pleasure and instant gratification. We are not so bothered about the consequences. As we mature we realise we must do something constructive with our life. As we grow older we feel I must give something back to society. This could mean sharing our wealth or the knowledge we have gained. As we approach closer to the end of our life we may wonder — is there some deeper truth behind our existence?

At the same time it need not be sequential. Some people may devote their whole life to a single motivation. Dhirubhai Amabani’s life motivation was to do well in life. His prime focus was wealth creation. Mahatma Gandhi was inspired by living an honest life. He wrote a book called ‘My Experiments With Truth’. Prince Siddhartha’s pursuit was to seek liberation from human suffering. He found a deep personal truth and became the Buddha.

I tried hard to find a famous historical figure who devoted his whole life to the pursuit of pleasure but couldn’t find one. If you come across any such person do share in the comments section.

Before I end the article, I must disclose what I am sharing is not my original insight. These four motivations are called Purusharthas in Hindu philosophy. They are Dharma (lead a moral life), Artha (do well in life), Kama (enjoy life) and Moksha (realize, you are life). The struggles we face in life are often when we are unclear of our motivations or they conflict with each other. When we realise what truly matters to us it leads to growth.

Since you have invested your time in reading this article, l will make a small contribution to your self-development by identifying one of your motivations.

“You are motivated to know yourself better and discover your true self.”

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PS: Like every human😊

Personal growth insights. Simplified.

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