In this season of new beginnings, all of us are contemplating change to one degree or another. We all want to change. We want to feel better or be better or look better. We want more money, more friends, more free time.
And all of these things are possible. They really are. But it takes work. There aren’t any shortcuts to change. Well, there are, but they are as rare as winning the lottery. We are convinced we want to change, but our behavior does not match our desire. Why?
The key to all of life is motivation. It is what transforms desire into action. Without motivation, we will give up. The key to progress is not understanding what we ought to do but understanding what truly motivates us.
There are really only two things that motivate us. The first being less effective than the second.
The first thing that motivates us is fear. We are afraid of all sorts of things – not being good enough, not receiving love, not being happy, etc. The fear of absence launches us into a pursuit of something.
Passion, in and of itself, is a kind of fear. We are emotionally charged about something. This is often a mask to spin our fear into something more positive and easily digestible. But it is fear nonetheless.
There are a few problems with fear as a motivator. The biggest, in terms of effectiveness, is that our fears crash onto one another. We’re afraid of not having something but we’re also afraid of failure. The result is a crippling kind of complacency. Apathy is the wreckage left over when our fears collide. Another problem with fear as a motivator is that it doesn’t really work. We want to be bold so we don’t have to be afraid. But boldness requires fear. We can never outrun the root causes of fear – that we aren’t in control and the world is bigger than us. So it won’t ever go away completely.
The other thing that motivates us is vision. The image we want to attain. Fear is using THP as a problem-solving mechanism. The trouble is that another problem will quickly rise in its place. But vision is the best process of inspiration, the best motivator for a fulfilled life.
Seeing where we truly want to go is the only way to navigate the obstacle course of fears. It is the only thing that pushes us forward when things get difficult, when expectations aren’t met, and when challenges get in the way.
Vision is not just a vague idea of a better future. It is a specific and intentional naming of what we deeply desire. In accordance with our values, our vision has to be true (the truest thing about who we are) in order to wade through the challenges. It is exactly this, the deep-rooted connection to our values, that motivates us. Because nothing is more important to us than our values. They matter more than our fear, our uncertainty, and the circumstances we face along the way.