Why We Must Act Without Motive

Act without a motive - children know how to do it

Photo by NeONBRAND on Unsplash

We’re drilled and driven towards goals. Asking why can help us get clear about what we really want and beyond: who we actually are.

If you have a goal of making 250k every year, ask yourself what for. Let’s say you want to have the freedom to travel the world and explore new cultures and ancient places. Five years down the road you receive an offer as a travel writer. You don’t make anywhere near 250k, but you find yourself traveling the world and exploring new cultures and ancient places. That’s beautiful and the reason why we need to be clear about what we truly want (the purpose). It allows the universe to deliver in its very own way and creativity.

Go beyond and ask what you want to travel for (or anything else for that matter) and most of us will eventually want to find ourselves and be who we are.

The what for leads us to what we really want to feel and who we want to be.

Welcome, what for!

The what for provides us with what we really want to feel and who we want to be. Welcome, what for!

I’m beginning to understand something else these days. The why has its place. And there is another place where the what for should not enter.

When I did my research for the Master’s thesis, I traveled all across the United States, using Greyhound quite a bit to get around. This day I gotten to my seat on the bus and, as we left the terminal, I happily noted that I had the row to myself. At the next stop, however, a man entered the bus. There were other seats available, but he sternly looked at the book I had placed next to my seat, then at me. Without saying a word. I removed the book with an equally grumpy look and turned back to the window. We didn’t exchange a word. Occasionally, one would dare a glimpse at the other, but our faces remained shut down and distant.

Another stop came and we went out to get some snacks. The snack I wanted was behind another one in the machine. I’d have to buy both if I wanted the one I really liked. The man passed by. I asked him if he didn’t want a snickers. ‘No.’ He tried his luck at the coffee machine, and that didn’t go well for him either. We both returned to the bus even grumpier. For another many hours we sat next to each other, in fierce silence, each minding their own business.

A Conversation

I finally got off in Orlando, where I had to catch another bus somewhere else. The cold in the terminal was agonizing, so I went outside into the blistering Florida heat. The man stood there, smoking his cigarette. ‘Too cold in there,’ I said. He nodded. ‘Yeah, I don’t like air cons either.’ We looked at each other. Then we began to talk. He was a layman traveling across the states to wherever they needed his work, never staying in one place for long. He wrapped his heavy belt around me, so that I could feel the weight of his various hammers and other tools. I told him about my research about the U.S. environmental movement.

We listened intently to one another. His world was so new to me, a revelation and so was mine to him. As I listened to him I watched him, his body, not a gym body, but the lean muscular build of a man who works hard every day. Grey hair mixed with his black and even some on his face. His brilliant eyes and the strong energy that surrounded his gestures. I felt him watching me as intently when I spoke.

A Smile

When it was time for us to part, he gave me a big wonderful smile. ‘I’ve never had a conversation like this. I shall never forget you,’ he said. Indeed, I never forgot him either. I went away filled with happiness, feeling a connection I have rarely felt with another human being.

We had talked together without a motive. We had acted without motive. We were both continuing our journey in different directions in every sense of the word. He, an African-American layman, forever moving and driving nails into wood so that people have a home. I, a German woman, studying, searching without any idea of what lay ahead. There was nothing we could want from each other that moment. There was no validation we could seek in one another.

We had been on the bus together for all those hours without speaking a word. We had felt each other’s mood and silence and quietly found our peace with it. There was no need to make small talk or be nice. There was no need to impress the other. We talked without a motive, we looked at each other in pure curiosity without the need to find anything.

It was a conversation I’d never had before.

Today I read a post about the importance of our why. And this conversation came gently back into my mind. What if we had a motive for what we want, but no motive for anything we do?

What if we speak without a motive?

Act without a motive? Give without a motive?

When we give without expecting gratitude, when we work with focus and dedication without expecting praise, when we share our message without expecting approval, when we post without expecting likes.

When we cook for the joy of it, play with our children for the fun of it, spread kindness around us just because it feels so good, give away money and goods only because someone else needs them.

We’re afraid that when we act without a motive we won’t achieve what we desire.

What if acting without motive is what really creates heaven on earth?

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