We have often talked in this blog about THP (THERE-HERE-PATH) as the framework for life. Essentially, THP puts language to the process by which humans operate. We envision an ending – a goal, a dream, a hope; we assess our current reality, and then we take steps to move from where we are to where we hope to be. Everything we do follows this framework; it is the owner’s manual for how we operate.
The key to the whole thing is motivation (THERE). Our hopes, dreams, expectations, etc. are the only things that spur us to action. It is the driver in our lives. Without motivation we lack a desire to do anything.
Motivation comes in a lot of forms. We sort of manipulate motivation by threatening punishment or offering superficial rewards. But lately I have started to think that there is one universal motivation for all humans. One THERE, if you will. This one reality motivates all of us all the time.
The Universal Motivation
That universal motivation is this: what is in my best self-interest?
Different entities, like churches or the military, often try to present the choice between what is best for us and what is best for others as if they are mutually exclusive. We talk about not wanting to be “selfish”.
While I agree with the sentiment of this, I think there is a better framework. Because if people are motivated by vision, nobody is truly motivated by a loss of self.
A better framework is to redefine what “best self-interest” means. It certainly doesn’t mean “what I want” or “what makes me feel good”. These, rightly, are often viewed as the building blocks for “selfishness”. Pursuing superficial appetites is not just a bad idea in terms of affecting our communities, it is a bad idea for ourselves. Said another way: it doesn’t work. Those superficial appetites are not truly in our best interest.
Paradoxically, loving others is in our best self-interest. That is because we all want to belong and to participate in something bigger than our superficial longings. We want purpose. And we need community to experience it.
We only serve others if we realize serving others is the best use of our character, produces the best results for us (solid relationships, meaningful contributions), and ushers us toward the life we truly long for.
Obviously, our superficial appetites can swoop in and undermine this reality. It lies to us and manipulates others toward its own end rather than the genuine care of others we truly desire.
How This Affects the Community
And so, the choice for us is not about whether we are going to be for ourselves or for others. The choice is how are we going to perceive our best interest?
In the meantime, every other human being is making that same choice. Overlapping over one another, rubbing against the people around us, we swirl in the reality of these choices.
It is an important truth to consider. If we view our best interest as a completely self-serving, appetite driven endeavor, we will view those other people as competitors. Their universal motivator is at odds with ours. There can be only one. The people around us are natural opponents, adversaries. We often see this, even within marriages or close friendships, where the game seems to be who can bleed what they want from the other while giving away as little ground as possible.
On the other hand, if we view our best interest and the best interest of others as two sides of the same coin, we turn opponents into partners. People are not competing against us; they are working alongside us, and vice versa. A shared vision costs us some of our appetites, but it opens us up to the true manifestation of our best self-interest.
Our universal motivation either rips us apart or binds us together. It all depends on how truly we perceive the ways in which our desire is fulfilled.