Motivation for chess tactics study
Let's take a look at the few cases where these tactics pattern actually showed up in my games. In most cases, I lost a piece by not realizing that my opponent can fork some pieces of mine. I know that simple tactics (almost) never occur in the games of chess masters. Masters simply do not give their opponents the chance to apply these simple tricks. Although I was always aware of this fact, I never really thought about the consequences of this for my personal quest for chess improvement. The most important thing for me to learn is to apply the visualization skills that get acquired by solving hundreds of chess tactics puzzles to avoid giving my opponent any chance to use discovered attacks, pins, etc. against me. In fact, one of the reasons why I like the tactics problems by John Coffey so much is, that they contain also "black to move" problems where you look at the board from white's perspective.
Therefore, I still see no alternative to solving tactics problems. However, this defensive view of tactics also requires the discipline to evaluate the opponent's opportunities each and every move. And with that, we are back to the often discussed thinking process, but that is another, may be even harder to learn, issue.