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Across the fence: Motive

Marci Whitehurst for Progressive Cattle Published on 24 December 2019

A New Year means new goals, right?

Usually.
Maybe.
Not this year.

I cannot bring myself to make resolutions or goals this year.

My sarcastic cowboy resolutions are easy:

  • Don’t run out of duct tape this year.
  • Start a rural aerobics class: Bucking Bales 101.
  • Learn underwater fence repair.

On the heart level, this year I feel the tug of the different hats I wear, and I am assessing what I actually want to keep in my life. It is cowboy simplicity meets Marie Kondo. Does this bring me joy? If not, get rid of it.

Of course, we can’t rid ourselves of everything we don’t enjoy, but this year I’m looking at what stays on the shelf and what needs to go. I’ve invested a large amount of time in things that may not actually have any fruit. I’ve got to pare down rather than add goals.

There isn’t one thing on my to-do list I want to cut out. However, it is time to reassess what I am already doing, and the one word I keep coming back to is: motive.

Motive is the reason we do something. In a crime, suspects are questioned based on their motive. How likely is it they would commit the crime?

It seems we are really good at reacting to something once it has happened – but perhaps not as good at being proactive before it happens. What if we as producers nailed down our motives?

Why do we ranch?

Why do we care about agriculture?

There are obvious answers: to feed people; your family has done it for generations; we love the animals and land; we enjoy working with our hands.

Those aren’t necessarily bad answers, but what about you? What about me? Why do I have cows?

It’s good to have answers outside of ourselves. One of our reasons for having cows is to promote the cattle industry as a whole. However, it can’t be the only reason that gets me out of bed each morning. Why do I do what I do?

Motive.

What drives us to keep the cows, to feed them, to sign the lease on their pasture, to keep going with all these different hats?

My first answer, honestly, is: I don’t know.

Do you ever have days like that?

  • A celebrity makes an anti-agriculture remark and I wonder, is it really worth it? We are working so hard and being labeled inhumane.

  • Subzero temperatures don’t lift, and it is hard not to question why we chose this road.

Little sleep affects the brain waves, and then it is hard to even process through what we are doing, much less why we are doing it.

It is easier to go along with the status quo than to stick out and do something differently. Sometimes that is why we keep doing what we do – simply to keep from causing waves.

Yet there is something inside of me that longs for something bigger. Big thinking instead of a small mindset. I want to have a worthy cause that drives me. That pushes me when I’m too tired to keep going.

Motive.

Since I’m a word nerd, I looked up “motive” and wouldn’t you know there are studies on it? It turns out there are three types of motives:

1. Biological: hunger, thirst, oxygen, sleep, etc.
2. Social: achievement, belonging, curiosity, acquisitiveness
3. Personal: habits, goals of life, levels of aspirations, attitudes

Get this: Motives are triggered when there is an imbalance in the body. The body wants homeostasis. Balance is essential for normal living. (See Types of motives)

I realize what I’m longing for isn’t just simplicity and wanting to know my motive. I’m longing for balance. There is a lot that is out of balance in the world. Much of it is beyond my control.

The clincher is: So much of what I can’t control affects what I can control. Thankfully, we do have some control, and we have a voice.

My motives, then, must be simple yet allow for the big picture. Specific yet flexible. Important but not self-centered.

The strongest motive I have in me is mothering. You know those cows that always tend the calf nursery? Yeah, that’s me. So when I think of what I’m passing on to my children and future generations, I don’t want it to be debt or discouragement, powerlessness or complaining.

I want my children to have a blueprint for life, whether they work with cattle or not. Therefore, my motives sound like:

  • Build a platform under the kids in my life that builds on their strengths.

  • Acknowledge and accept my place in agriculture, not because of my merits but because stewardship of the land is part of my design.

  • Grow what I can grow and let go what I need to let go.

These words are vague, but for this year it is a fit for me. May our motives be authentic and worthwhile in every season of life.  end mark

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