Character Motivation Entry: Achieving Spiritual Enlightenment

What does your character want? This is an important question to answer because it determines what your protagonist hopes to achieve by the story’s end. If the goal, or outer motivation, is written well, readers will identify fairly quickly what the overall story goal’s going to be and they’ll know what to root for. But how do you know what outer motivation to choose?

If you read enough books, you’ll see the same goals being used for different characters in new scenarios. Through this thesaurus, we’d like to explore these common outer motivations so you can see your options and what those goals might look like on a deeper level.

Character’s Goal (Outer Motivation): Achieving Spiritual Enlightenment

Forms This Might Take:

  • A new awareness of how society’s perceptions have become distorted (materialism, commercialism, racism, moral ambiguity, etc.)
  • Becoming self-aware in a way that evokes curiosity and creates the desire for an even deeper understanding
  • Awakening to new-found levels of love and connectedness with people, nature, animals, sacred spaces, the cosmos, God, etc.
  • Obtaining a feeling of “knowing” that one is on the right path (with one’s goals, by applying religious teachings that resonate, etc.)
  • Becoming more health-conscious by understanding our bodies are a gift
  • Desiring to learn, and to look for lessons and messages in every experience
  • Experiencing unshakable compassion and love for others, and seeing everyone as equal and deserving of it
  • Needing to give back to others and feel one is part of a bigger whole
  • Appreciating the power of love in a new way
  • Being able to let go of worry and trust in God, the universe, or oneself
  • Experiencing a unexplained event that opens one’seyes to a higher power, calling, or spiritual world
  • An unshakable belief in the power of intention and putting good into the world

Human Need Driving the Goal (Inner Motivation): self-actualization

How the Character May Prepare for This Goal

  • Fasting
  • Going on a pilgrimage
  • Attempting a near-death experience
  • Partaking in hallucinogenics or activities that encourage hallucinations
  • Seeking freedom so one may investigate one’s beliefs and devote oneself to self-improvement
  • Studying with a spiritual guide
  • Investing time into reading religious texts and speaking with mentors
  • Studying and experimenting with different forms of spirituality
  • Self-exploration (of one’s true self, soul, essence, light)
  • Mastering meditation and gaining deep self-awareness
  • Spending time in nature
  • Praying and devoting oneself to a higher power
  • Learning to communicate with spirit guides, forces, God
  • Living one’s life in a way that does the least harm (wasting nothing, avoiding overindulgence, behaving morally, etc.)
  • Seeking out others who feel and think as one does
  • Working on personal development
  • Working on growing one’s psychic abilities and intuition
  • Ridding oneself of negativity (toxic relationships, distancing oneself from ideas that don’t resonate, etc.)

Possible Sacrifices or Costs Associated With This Goal

  • Pushing the mind or body too far
  • Unintentionally neglecting loved ones in one’s pursuit of internal awareness
  • Giving up a job, losing a home, etc. in order to find the freedom one needs to explore one’s beliefs
  • Losing friendships with people who don’t understand one’s goals and ambitions
  • Letting go of experiences, items, or activities that are symbols of materialism even though it conflicts with what family members cherish

Roadblocks Which Could Prevent This Goal from Being Achieved

  • Being scammed by people who are out to take advantage
  • Discovering a mentor is not who they appeared to be and this leading to one questioning one’s path and beliefs
  • Experiencing an event that causes disillusionment (seeing cruelty, observing godly people acting ungodly, etc.)
  • A health crisis
  • An injury that causes brain damage
  • A painful challenge that makes keeping one’s faith difficult
  • A marriage where one’s spouse has different spiritual beliefs
  • New (and highly credible) science emerging that “explains” a spiritual experience one had
  • Extreme life events that wear one down and make it almost impossible to hold to one’s beliefs (being captured and tortured, living in a country torn by war and in constant threat, the senseless loss of a child, etc.)

Talents & Skills That Will Help the Character Achieve This Goal:

Possible Fallout For the Protagonist if This Goal Is Not Met:

  • Going back “to sleep” (and re-embracing distorted perceptions)
  • Feeling disconnected with people and the world in general
  • A sense that something is missing, and that life is not as rich as it could be
  • Becoming fearful of death and what lies beyond this world

Click here for a list of our current entries for this thesaurus, along with a master post containing information on the individual fields.


Angela is an international speaker and bestselling author who loves to travel, teach, empower writers, and pay-it-forward. She also enjoys dreaming up new tools and resources for One Stop For Writers, a library built to help writers elevate their storytelling.
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6 Responses to Character Motivation Entry: Achieving Spiritual Enlightenment

  1. Pingback: Writing Links 7/17/17 – Where Genres Collide

  2. :Donna says:

    Angela, I can’t tell you how PERfect this one is for me! It’s the focus of my intended novel series 😀 😀 😀

  3. I just finished the novel Demian by Hermann Hesse about a character searching for enlightenment. I recommend it. The Razor’s Edge by W. Somerset Maugham is another novel about a character seeking a faith. I think it’s always good to read models.

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