How Much Do You Want It?
A few days ago I made a “scientific” discovery: The rate of change and/or forward movement is directly related to the level of motivation. While this may not qualify as a law of physics, it does apply to human and animal life.
For example, our dog demonstrated this when he started barking at something or someone behind the trees at the back corner of our yard. At the time, he was facing the other way and had no interest in me or anything else behind him… until he heard the easily-recognizable sound of dry dog food pinging into his metal bowl as it poured out of a scoop. Just as I finished producing that sound and turned around, he had already reached the back door, waiting to be let in—he’d covered twenty meters of ground in half a second—thus providing credible proof of the direct correlation between motivation and the speed of forward movement!
So what produces and fuels our motivation toward positive change and forward movement? Observation, research, and personal experience show us two core drivers of change: 1)When the pain of staying the same exceeds the pain of change; 2)When the promise and hope for relevant reward becomes greater than our fear or apathy. For example:
Our thought-life, which drives our priorities, attitudes, decisions, and actions. Good and right thoughts act as “power steering” to motivate us in positive directions. (Phil. 4:8).
Necessity also fuels motivation for change and forward movement. For example, I am not an early-morning riser. Given my natural bio-rhythm I will stay in bed until 8am. However, for three years, while our family was living and teaching in China, an unnaturally high motivation propelled me out of bed and down to the cafeteria in our dormitory much earlier than 8:00. The cause? Breakfast closed at 8am and necessity to eat got me there!
Better yet, a sense of higher purpose produces motivation for positive change in attitude and behavior. In Mexico, where my husband and I helped lead short-term trips to serve in an orphanage, one time a group of Puerto-Ricans joined us. Every morning at 4am, they’d be up interceding for the local people and singing praise songs (softly). These folks were so motivated by the Lord’s purpose for the lives of the orphans and others in the area, that they were willing to give up (not lose) sleep for it. In fact, that purpose became so contagious that others of us joined them, including me!
This brings us to another motivation-builder-- affinity. Affinity is such a powerful motivator—causing us to do things we’d never think of, try, or even want to do otherwise. On the negative side, we call this “peer pressure”. On the positive side, it acts as an enabler and catalyst for productive change. My affinity and love for people of other cultures has not only gotten me out of bed, it’s propelled me outside in extreme heat in Kyrgyzstan to play games with kids, helped me (almost) fearlessly face flying cockroaches in Indonesia, and determine that crowds are ok when I’m with my Chinese friends in China.
Oh, “the things we do for love”! That expression captures the essence of the power of affinity as a motivator. Such as some men who suddenly decide they like shopping—with their girlfriend or wife, of course!
But even the best natural affinity can’t produce lasting change once it wears thin or we’re away from the source of it. We need a love, an affinity that remains ever-present, ever-powerful, to keep spurring us on to forward movement and positive change. Thankfully One is available-- The Lord, Who “first loved us (1 Jn. 4:19). His love for us becomes the ultimate “affinity factor”, empowering and motivating us to love Him back, love others well, and do what it takes for effective, go-the-distance, change.
Is increasing our motivation worth it? Is the change and forward movement worth the effort and possible pain? As they say in the athletic world, “How much do you want it?” The more we want it, the harder and faster we’ll “run” to get it.