The quality of our actions, whether they are positive or negative, depends on our motivation. This is why we have to transform our minds. – Dalai Lama
What does that mean?
All that we do are our actions. We do this, we do that. We do it because we want to or believe that we have to do it. We decide and then we take action.
This quote reminds us that our motivation guides the quality our actions take, and how they are perceived by others. Positive or negative will largely be colored by our motivation.
You have probably heard about someone doing the wrong thing for all the right reasons, right? And even though they may have done the wrong thing, they are given some leeway and credit for trying to do their best.
Similarly, people who do the right thing for the wrong reason are often given very little credit, once their motivation is known. In my opinion, that is the heart of the quote.
Why is our motivation important?
Our motivation is based on what we hold in our mind. Our values, our beliefs, and our desires will help mold our motivation. If any one of these is out of proper alignment, our motivation will be impacted. As always, our cultural differences will impact what we hold as proper, but we need to remember that and take that into account.
What we think is proper can be changed, if we are willing to transform our minds. We can let go of old ways of thinking and adopt new ideas as we decide which ideas and ideals are to be changed. As our motivation is the key, we can only do better if we better our minds, transform them from what they were into what we desire them to become.
Consider a time in the past, either in your country or some other, when the values were different. The motivation which sprang from those different values could have resulted in terrible things which the people of the time thought were the right things. But now we know better, and know that they are not.
Their motivation was part of why they did the wrong things for what they thought were the right reasons. In their day, it might have been viewed in a positive light, but now is not. To make this change we have to be willing to transform our minds.
Where can I apply this in my life?
As I live in the USA, you can imagine all the opportunities I had for considering times in the past when values, beliefs and desires were quite different. While that does not excuse the actions, it does prove the first part of the quote, doesn’t it? Because our minds are different, we view their motivations with suspicion, and that casts their actions in a negative light.
But beyond our ancestors, we each hold certain values, beliefs and desires within ourselves. How these are seen by ourselves and by others will be the basis of how our motivations are judged by ourselves, others, and by history. If we take a look and decide we don’t like what we see, it is up to us to make a change, to change our values, beliefs and desires by transforming our minds.
Can you recall a time when you had someone say that you did the right thing, and then realize you did it for the wrong reason? Or perhaps you were told you did the wrong thing, but you protested that your motivation was pure? That should be a warning sign that something isn’t right within your mind, and that it’s time for a change, right?
It can be you were misunderstood, or you misunderstood them. But you still got what you did and your motivation crossed up. Take a few moments and think about the times when that either happened to you, or you saw it happen to a friend or family member. How did that feel, and what happened? Did the transformation happen quickly or did it take a while?
How much pain, scorn or embarrassment did it take to get it started? Or was the simple realization that things could be improved enough? How did the change start and what kept it in place, or did old habits creep back in? This is something very specific to each individual and how they fit in with their own society and its normative values.
We do the things we do for our own reasons. We take actions, and others evaluate what we did based on what they value, believe and desire. But ultimately, we have to live with ourselves. To change our motivations, we have to transform our minds, by the means which work best for each one of us.
What our actions are and how they are evaluated by others and by history is beyond our control. We can only do what is right by our own motivation, which is based on what is precious to our minds. If we are happy with our motivation, then we are done. If we are not happy, then we need to transform our minds. Are you ready to begin?