Conscious vs Unconscious Motivations

^ This is me at 23/24 founder of my first business, matchchat. It was all about the logo on the office wall.

We all have conscious and unconscious motivations that drive our behaviour and actions.

Here’s my story of how I’ve unearthed mine and the impact on my life and businesses.

When I was 20 I left University to start a business with George and at the time my only motivation was to “do something different” every other motivation I had was unconscious, or perhaps all of them were.

I wasn’t thinking in a considered manner about why I would leave University to try and start a tech business, I just did it.

It is only now with 10 years of hindsight that I can see and understand some of my unconscious motivations. I mean motivations that were there driving me, but were under the surface. In Coaching this might be called “your shadow self” - parts of you that are a little darker or out of your awareness completely.

For example, when I was 20 I wanted to be somebody at University, I wanted to be known for being somebody. I wanted to be a “name on Campus” I hated the fact that I was a nobody, that I wasn’t in a football team or a rugby team, that I was just a little scrawny kid from Stoke. I wanted to be a “somebody.” I didn’t know this at the time, but it’s very clear to me now, one of my unconscious motivations for starting my first business was to make something of myself and to find a part of my identity that would make me stand out and make me special.

There were other motivations too that were more conscious. Like I didn’t know what I wanted to do for my career or my job, so I consciously knew I was trying something out, I was exploring a new world where I could take some risks and I was young enough to play around. I knew that I didn’t want to do grad schemes and all that, so I was consciously exploring a new world where I could create a new working life for myself.

At a young age, the majority of my actions were instinctive and unconscious. This is the exuberance of youth, the blissful naivety and a lot of that unconsciousness worked in my favour, yet a lot of it held me back as some of my shadow intentions were not driving me to places I wanted to go and were more my responses to feeling insecure or afraid.

When I started Sanctus 5 years ago, I knew very clearly that I wanted to solve a problem for myself and for other people and I had some very clear constraints around the business I wanted to build and how I wanted it to operate.

The clarity with which I wanted to solve that problem in mental health served me and Sanctus very very well. I was relentlessly focused and obsessed with solving the problem of access to mental health support in a proactive manner. I was intentional and I went after that problem in a considered way, full of passion and excitement. I was motivated too by a desire to create a sustainable business, one that didn’t rely on investment and that could be the master of it’s own fate. Again, I was conscious of this, because of the reliance of my last business on investment.

For 5 years those motivations have moved me and helped me grow Sanctus to it’s relative success today to be a well established business with a wonderful brand and impactful product.

Yet, I still have unconscious motivations that have swayed me when I have not known it or have been little voices in my head pouring honey into my ears when I wasn’t looking. I naively thought after my burnout and failure of my first business, this wouldn’t be the case.

Here are some of my unconscious motivations that I have unearthed recently:

  • The desire to create individual wealth
  • The desire to create ancestral wealth
  • The desire to change my quality of life
  • The desire to be recognised by the UK “business scene”
  • The desire to belong and feel at home
  • The desire to be “famous”

I feel quite exposed sharing some of those unconscious drivers, yet on some level they have all been there over the years and some may have lead to some great decisions and others may have lead to some terrible ones. Or others just may have confused me.

We all have different desires and motivations that we are in and out of touch with. Some those above I have started to become aware of and claim for my own (become conscious of) and others I am still interested in and may decide to let go of.

As an example, the desire to create individual wealth is something that I have become more conscious of recently, perhaps because of my age and stage of life and I am completely owning it. I am not ashamed that I want to create individual and ancestral wealth for me and my family. I want to create security, stability, opportunity and choice, I want to give back and support for years to come. That’s fine by me and something that I am trying to become more honest and intentional about.

The desire to be famous is something I’m more interested in as I believe this is more egoic and stems from a desire I’ve still not fully let go of that’s the need to feel important or feel special and the belief that external recognition will give me that. I rationally know this isn’t true, but emotionally hold onto it. A good example of how this unconscious driver negatively impacted my business is that for about a year our marketing efforts were almost solely driven and focused on me. Our marketing wasn’t what’s best for our mission, it was what was best for me. Unconscious driver = poor decision making.

We all have conscious and unconscious motivations and they impact our lives, our relationships and our work all of the time.

This is why I love coaching, therapy and journaling as they are practices to make the unconscious, conscious. The more we can do this the more honest and intentional we can be in our decisions and in our actions. I believe much of the world is ran mindlessly and unconsciously by people who are completely out of touch with their self. Just watch any clips of debates in the House of Parliament and this statement will be validated.

Unearthing our motivations and drivers will make us all better humans, leaders, founders, people.

3/30 (I'm writing 30 Articles in 30 days)

James x


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