I think it is useful to start with what is meant by “helps to illuminate motives when we take action”. The short story is that it may help reveal “why we do what we do”. In other words mindfulness may reveal and help us clarify our intentions when we take action. As we become more aware of our intentions, we may be able to make better choices that are more consistent with our intentions and motivations.
To help illustrate this point, I invite you to consider an action that you have taken today. It could be as simple as preparing a meal, paying a bill, or driving to work. On the other hand, the action could be more challenging. For example, having a discussion with a friend or family member about a perceived difficult problem. It wouldn’t be uncommon for us to move through these tasks on auto-pilot, where we simply act out of habit with potentially little awareness of our intentions.
Let me share with you a personal example where knowing my motives helps me to make sure that my action is appropriate for what I intend. When I arrive at home after a busy day, which often isn’t until between 9 and 10 pm, I am often met at the front door by my daughter, who is usually eager to share her day. My intention is to listen fully to her, however, at the same time I am aware of the distractions of my own mind including being tired and any other task that may be on my mind when I arrive home. I know that, as a parent, I want to be able to listen to my daughter. I make a conscious choice to “let go” of whatever is on my mind, and purposefully and mindfully listen to what my daughter is sharing. The benefit to me is that I have a greater understanding of and rapport with my daughter.
The benefit to her is she feels understood and heard. Mindfulness in this instance helps me to be more conscious of my choices so that my actions are in line with what I hope to accomplish as a parent.