What Is the Motivation Behind Your Decision-Making Process?

Do you know the truth behind the decision-making process?

Have you ever thought about what motivates you to take action? If you’re like many people, you may respond with overarching ambitions like success, happiness, or self-fulfillment. Maybe when it comes to decision-making you have specific goals aligned with these generalized aspirations. Do you want to build a career, achieve financial stability, start a family, or find an outlet for creative expression?

How about feeling good about yourself? When making decisions, is this one of your requirements? It’s most likely you want to feel good about yourself. Doesn’t everyone? The truth is, feeling good may be one of your motivations, but not because it’s a healthy or universal one.

The truth is, feeling good may be one of your motivations, but not because it’s a healthy or universal one.

If you developed a natural sense of Self in early childhood, the foundation for your self-identity is an unshakable inner knowing of who you are and who you’re not, regardless of others’ opinions.

And though you may not feel great about yourself every day, your sense of self-worth does not suffer from extreme ups and downs.

On the other hand, when you have learned to operate with a substitute sense of Self, you lack that innate knowledge and are instead dependent on achieving through your actions a “feel-good state” that stands in for a sense of emotional wholeness.

Your self-worth is contingent on external results; namely, whether or not people notice and appreciate your accomplishments and provide you with the emotional validation you crave.

Do you know what your true motivation is?

Those with a healthy sense of Self have another difference with those who lack it: they can tell the difference between their direct motivations and indirect motivations. Self-motivation is composed of both motivation types for most people; this is not the issue.

Things get problematic when you’re not aware of your unconscious, indirect motivations, and found your entire sense of Self upon them.

When indirect motives drive you, you depend on the result or product of a process to feel like a “real” person. Instead of choosing a career based on what you want to do, for example, you choose it based on its perceived outcome.

Did authority figures encourage you to base your life and decision-making process on what you would enjoy doing every day? Or did they advise you to make decisions based on what would bring you life’s “greatest” rewards: money, success, and respect—regardless of whether the path was a pleasant one? Or even worse: did they assume you were going to be someone or do something they wanted you to be?

Those who are driven by direct motivations focus on process rather than results. When you reclaim a healthy Sense of Self, the process takes priority, and the end product of your work—instead of being the primary goal—becomes a byproduct of a fulfilling, purposeful life.

Leaving Your Comfort Zone

Nurturing your self-awareness helps you experience yourself directly, instead of through the lens of your actions. When you perpetuate an indirect relationship with yourself, you tend to stay nestled in your comfort zone, where your self-motivation keeps repeating old patterns and your substitute sense of Self continues to thrive.


Leaving your comfort zone is essential to changing your relationship with yourself. Your indirect motivations, however, may move you to use fear of failure or rejection as an excuse not to take action that would move you out of that zone.

There will be times when you fail. It happens to everyone. But you may find that with a healthy sense of Self or with a restored sense of Self, you feel more compassionate toward yourself and others—even when your decisions and actions don’t lead to the outcome you wanted.

It’s all a learning experience, right? The most successful people look at failure as an opportunity to grow . . . to be better.

Recognizing Your Indirect Motivations

Getting to the root of your unconscious motivations takes a lot of time. But the good news is you can start evaluating your decisions and actions right away. Indirect motivations are subliminal, but the emotions and even physical reactions they elicit are not. Your everyday life is replete with both.

Here are some questions you can ask yourself the next time you feel compelled to act in a particular way:

  • What do I hope will happen if I . . . (take said action)?
  • How will I feel if I achieve my desired outcome? (Think both emotionally and physically: warm, bubbly, gratified, proud, etc.)
  • What would it say about me if my desired outcome does not come to pass?

If you had a slew of negative responses to that last question, it’s likely that indirect motivations are leading your decision-making process. Ultimately, you want to get to the point where you can answer the question: “Why do I (want to) do what I (want to) do?”

Until then, developing a greater self-awareness of how your decisions and actions make you feel is an important step you can take toward setting clear objectives and restoring your Sense of Self.

Want to learn more about your unique self-motivation?

Take the Healthy Sense of Self quiz.

healthy sense of self

Author: Lindsay Dick

Leave a Comment