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The best intentions will rarely, if ever, outweigh the deepest of motives. That is, your intentions may be honorable, but they’ll only be as real as your underlying motives allow them to be.

And thinking otherwise is just an illusion.

What Are Motives?

A motive is defined as “something that causes a person to act in a certain way, do a certain thing.” They are extremely powerful, and what’s more, we’re often totally unaware of what our true motives really are! So let’s take a closer look at them.

According to one of my all-time favorite self-help guru’s, Napoleon Hill, there are 9 basic motives that (often secretly)  influence a person’s mind:

  1. the motive of self-preservation
  2. the motive of financial gain
  3. the motive of love
  4. the motive of sexual urge
  5. the motive of desire for power and fame 
  6. the motive of fear
  7. the motive of revenge
  8. the motive of freedom (of mind and body)
  9. the motive of desire to build and to create in thought and in material

More on these in a bit.

What Are Intentions?

Intentions are the “purpose or attitude toward the effect of one’s actions or conduct.” That’s somewhat similar, but as you will soon see, decidedly different from one’s underlying motives.

A leader may, for example, intend to treat his/her direct reports with the utmost respect and regard, but his/her behaviors may be altered from that intention based on an underlying motive. Consider:

  • the motive of self-preservation may result in that leader throwing a direct report ‘under the bus’ when pressure from on-high starts to build
  • the motive of financial gain and the motive of desire for power or fame may result in that leader stealing the limelight from his/her direct reports instead of sharing the credit they duly deserve
  • the motive of fear may result in that leader playing it safe instead of doing what’s right
  • the motive of freedom (of mind and body) may have that leader insure his/her own work/life balance at the expense of the work/life balance of his/her staff

Motives versus Intentions

It’s great to have good intentions. But it’s essential that you understand the motives that (secretly) drive you. That’s because how we want to behave is driven by our intentions, but how we actually behave is driven by our motives – and our motives are driven by our unmet needs. Yet we often fail to realize how our motives really run the show.

How clear are YOU on your underlying motives? How clear are you on how your unmet needs are driving you?

It’s in your personal and professional best-interest to know.


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