My Account

It’s Hard Not to Have a Motive When You Do The Work

When I was a photographer, I’d go out every day with the motive of finding something beautiful to photograph, but I allowed a part of me to not care. Allowing myself not to care, is what kept my eyes open for the unexpected.

Let’s Be Honest

There’s usually just one reason why anyone does The Work: they want to get out of suffering.

But if you’ve been doing The Work for a while, you may have noticed that doing The Work with a motive is counterproductive. The more I want to get out of suffering, the more my desperateness blocks my inquiry.

A motive can make me so focused on getting the end product, that I discard even small bits of progress in that direction. I want it all. And I want it all now! That’s the way the mind can get when it’s attached to a motive.

And of course, the next move is to throw out inquiry because it’s “impossible” or “not working.”

It Is a Catch-22, No Doubt

I can’t do The Work effectively when I have a motive. And I’m not motivated to do The Work without a motive.

So what gives?

For me, there are several ways out of this conundrum. And they all pretty much amount to the same thing.

Holding Both at the Same Time

One way I hold both at the same time is to simply suspend my motive while I’m actually doing inquiry. I can have the motive to get out of suffering in general in my life. This motive is helpful because it leads me to inquiry.

But as soon as I actually begin inquiry, I suspend that motive and go into inquiry with an open mind, not knowing what I will find. That’s why I like to think of The Work as exploration. I don’t know where it will lead.

This suspension of motive allows me to experience the innocence of discovery even when I honestly do have a motive to get out of suffering.

Another Way I Do This Is to Hold My Motive Loosely

Yes, I want to get out of suffering, but does it have to happen today? I feel more peace when I look at self-inquiry as a process, possibly one I’ll do my whole life long. Then I start looking at what I like about it–other reasons why I do it besides just getting out of suffering. For example, I almost always learn something, it is entertaining, often humorous, and it generally helps me feel better.

Sometimes, I think that even if I were completely stress-free, I might continue to do The Work just because I learn so much when I do. I enjoy the process.

But my favorite way to hold both motive and no motive at the same time is to literally question my motive.

I Need to Get out of Suffering, Is It True?

My experience, doing this work for the past 10 years is that suffering is still there in my life. But I don’t care about it so much anymore. That itself is peace.

Join us for 9 weeks of The Work online in The Work 101 course.

Have a great week,

“People talk about self-realization, and this is it! Can you just breathe in and out? To hell with enlightenment! Just enlighten yourself in this moment. Can you just do that?” Byron Katie, Question Your Thinking, Change The World

Todd Smith has been doing The Work of Byron Katie on an almost daily basis since 2007. He is just as excited about this simple process of self-inquiry today as he was when he first came across it. He also enjoys writing about The Work, and training others in the subtleties of this meditative process. Join Todd for The Work 101 online course, private sessions, virtual retreats, and his ongoing Inquiry Circle group.