What motivates you? When despair and dismay threaten to overcome you where do you turn?
Sometimes we are motivated to change by a fear of failure. Sometimes we are motivated to achieve something new by the satisfaction we hope comes with success.
We've all listened to motivational speakers that either frighten us or encourage us. They challenge us to see new ways of looking at our circumstances. They inspire us to change our lives or habits, but so often our good intentions to follow their advice falls short.
Motivation is a complicated thing and different for each of us. I shouldn't assume that what motivates me will motivate you. How many times has someone tried to give you a needed kick in the pants but they said exactly the wrong thing?!? With the best of intentions there will always be people who try to motivate us in ways that just don't work. Sometimes the opposite is true. How many times has someone's attempt to discourage you given you the motivation you needed to prove them wrong?
Being a preacher, I think a lot about what will inspire folks to believe in God as revealed in Jesus Christ. For some, it is a fear of hell and death. Others are encouraged by the promise of heaven. For even others, they come to believe because of the peace in knowing God loves them and is with them. Jesus talked about all three.
Each of us knows what motivates us. Given what challenges are facing you right now, what will drive you to act?
Will the joy of a potential reward motivate you? Praise, money, power, sex, food - all powerful incentives. Perhaps focusing on the promised joy of heaven will make all the difference.
Will the satisfaction of of achieving a positive goal do the trick? Like wanting to be able to wear those favorite jeans again. Perhaps what motivates you is doing the right thing.
Or, are you motivated by the fear of a negative outcome? For example, did you study hard in school simply to avoid bad grades rather than trying to learn something? Perhaps what motivates you is the fear of doing or saying the wrong thing and feeling the guilt that comes along with that.
Or, is the best motivation for your current situation fear of potential punishment? In your past, did you behave so your parents wouldn't spank you or (later) take away your car keys? As adults we often change our behavior to avoid losing a job or going to jail. Perhaps the motivation you need today is fear of hell.
All of these motivations, both positive and negative, have their place and can be effective in helping achieve our goals. Sometimes that initial spark of motivation comes from hearing someone say the words we need to hear. We all need to surround ourselves with people who speak to our deepest needs, who spur us on in the ways that encourage us. I've been thinking about this a lot lately, trying to find the right words to motivate my sister-in-law Kate to work extra hard in therapy. While I am praying for the right words to say, I have also realized that the ultimate responsibility lies with Kate. Please keep praying for us all!
At the end of the day, the words that will actually motivate each of us comes from within. The voice that has the most power to challenge us or encourage us is the voice inside our own heads.
My favorite scene from The Sound of Music is when Maria sings "I Have Confidence" on her way to the von Trapp family home. Her Mother Superior planted seeds of encouragement, but the rest is up to Maria. She knows God is with her and she trusts Him with all her heart. This has been my "theme song" whenever I started a new job or faced a new challenge.
I have confidence in sunshine,
I have confidence in rain.
I have confidence that spring will come again!
Besides what you see I have confidence in me.
Strength doesn't lie in numbers.
Strength doesn't lie in wealth,
Strength lies in nights of peaceful slumbers,
When you wake up, wake up!
All I trust I leave my heart to,
All I trust becomes my own!
I have confidence in confidence alone.
I have confidence in confidence alone!
Besides, which you see, I have confidence in me!
What motivatesyou when despair and dismay threaten? Listen to those around you, but most of all follow your heart. You, and you alone, can make the difference.