The premises are the following:
1) First person POV (but advice for third person works too)
2) Protagonist-driven plot
3) Some backstory that hasn't been explored yet (and which ties into the MC motivation).
4) Multiple (convergent) plot threads introduced in sequence.
The inciting incident is the most used way to set up a plot promise. The event happens, it inconveniences the MC, and readers expect the plot is about addressing that inciting incident.
But how do you set up plot promises where the protagonist is driving the plot, without having them go at front stage and declaim their motivation to the readers? I, the MC, am trying to achieve this, because of reasons.
Moreover, say you actually had the MC doing that (more or less) but placed their aim and motivation more subtly among other stuff, so it's not glaring, and readers missed that it was a plot promise? It just happened to me that readers assumed certain scenes were character setup and not "really part of the plot". It was a big series of scenes, so the problem must've been that the plot promise and the MC motivation wasn't clear. Additionally, I am weaving several plot threads and this was the second introduced, so people were possibly too hung on the first open plot to accept a second one.
So what are my steps for troubleshooting? Do I move the motivation at the front of the chapter and strengthen it by making things harder/riskier? How do I avoid the MC outlining their motivation in first person not coming across as unsubtle telling?
I nailed a characteristic voice for the MC that's been received well, so I can fly a lot of stuff under the radar, but I dislike having to outright tell things.