What Motivates You?

Estimated reading time: 5 minute(s)

Lacking motivation?

I currently feel very unmotivated. I am banging my head against so many metaphorical walls … and I’m not even making a dent. I’m juggling too many things, being pulled in too many directions, and not feeling any level of success in anything that I am setting out to do. Only failure, or what feels like failure.

What keeps you going? Why do you get out of bed in the mornings?

Or do you not?

I’m still moving. Pressing on. (Maybe running on the treadmill—or the hamster wheel—is a better analogy, but I am still moving.)

But I’m having to really stop and think about why. What is my motivation.

To be honest, partly it’s money. I need to earn money to buy the things our family needs. I need to pay off debts. I would love to make money to save for things we want, or want to do. That is certainly part of my daily motivation.

But that, in itself, is hollow, empty.

I love my family. I love to do things with and for them. That motivates me, but much of my day is spent doing things to earn money for our family, so I don’t get to spend as much time with my family as I’d like. (That’s certainly not my own private lament—I’d say most parents who work feel that lacking in their lives.) My love for them is certainly one of my motivations in life.

And definitely obligation, or a sense of duty will push me through when I’d just rather not. When I know my kids are counting on me, or my wife, or maybe even someone else, I will eke out the physical or emotional will power needed to accomplish whatever needs to be done.

Those are some of the things that can move me when I need moving. There are certainly a few more.

Personal comfort is a big one for me. I am VERY motivated to get those air conditioners cleaned up and locked in place when the first hot weather begins to roll in on us. I do not do well in heat and humidity! And… let me tell you, if there’s an offensive odor somewhere nearby, it doesn’t matter how tired I am, I will eliminate it!

Speaking of eliminating… what about when you really, really have to “go”, and there’s not a bathroom within 10 miles? When “nature calls” we can be pretty good at finding our motivation!

Jen knows a kind of personal comfort motivation, too. She doesn’t like pain; any physical discomfort will cause her to seek any way possible to remedy her situation. This includes hunger. She knows that the well-being of everyone around her depends on her not being hungry! Our physical appetites can certainly motivate us—food, drink, sex, even our pride, and desire for acceptance. These motivations can grow so strong that they become addictions.

Personal comfort is certainly a strong motivator.

Another one for me, somewhat related to personal comfort—in an oxymoronic, paradoxical kind of way—is healthiness. I have been walking most of this calendar year, and eating fresh, good food (and less of it) as many meals as I am able. It was something I really wanted to do for my body, and for my family (so I could be more “here”). There is some part that is “duty”-oriented to this motivation, but also, I do enjoy the quiet time alone, and I feel lighter, more alert—less heavy—and just much better, overall.

And of course, the law is another powerful motivation. Not sure if I’d wear seat belts, or restrain myself from using the cell phone while driving, or give the government-funded school system a detailed report of what we are teaching our kids unless I was compelled to by the laws and codes of our various governments.

But the apostle Paul said:

“For the love of Christ controls and urges and impels us…”—2 Cor. 5:14 (AMP)

And also:

“And whatever you do or say, do it as a representative of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through him to God the Father.”—Colossians 3:17

So then, love is our motivator. God’s love for us, and for everyone. And being a representative of Jesus—always, gratefully.

I think King Solomon, wisest man to ever live, asked these same questions, pondered these same thoughts. You may already be familiar with his conclusion, even if you don’t attribute it to him:

“Everything is meaningless,” says the Teacher, “completely meaningless!” —Ecclesiastes 1:2

Really. Read Ecclesiastes when you’re feeling aimless, directionless, lacking motivation—it’ll pick ya right up!

So I became greater than all who had lived in Jerusalem before me, and my wisdom never failed me. Anything I wanted, I would take. I denied myself no pleasure. I even found great pleasure in hard work, a reward for all my labors. But as I looked at everything I had worked so hard to accomplish, it was all so meaningless—like chasing the wind. There was nothing really worthwhile anywhere.

(The entire book is this repeating theme of the meaninglessness of everything in life, good and bad. Truly a fascinating read!)

I have no answers. I still feel mostly unmotivated in life. It’s like much of my effort is not worth the effort—it will not have its desired effect, if I am even sure of what that is. I hope God will illuminate me, personally, in that regard. But perhaps he won’t. I know my ultimate motivation—reason for moving—is him. That’s it. Keep my eyes fixed on Jesus. Stay connected to him, the Vine.

That, I know.

But what motivates you? Where do you find reason for your efforts? Impetus for your actions? Why try when our world is so, SO messed up? What does it matter?

Everything is meaningless.

I’d so love to hear your response. Please comment below and let’s do encourage one another with the things that move each of us—great or small—to get out of bed, and carry out a day… and even to do things that move the planet.

What motivates you?

7 thoughts on “What Motivates You?”

  1. To get the conversation started, I thought of a couple more things that might motivate.

    First is your work. Not for the money, but because you love it. Some of us get to spend our days doing something(s) we love. This can certainly be what gets you out of bed in the morning. Set backs roll off your back easily because you love what you do!

    Fear is another. I touched on this in the article, when I mentioned acceptance. The need to feel accepted is rooted in fear. But fear of all sorts of things can certainly be a very strong motivator. I think it’s one of God’s most primal motivators in us.

    Which, actually, is why I think Paul reinforced the idea that “Perfect love drives out fear.” Fear (of God) is the beginning of wisdom, the saying goes, but love conquers fear. That is our ultimate motivator, for sure.

  2. I think I do what I do most times because of routine. Routine keeps things flowing. When my routine shifts or maybe I mean when my routine is interrupted, broken to the point of no return or when it is not possible to follow… well, then I feel very “Ecclesiastes” about life…

    That is where I’ve been since camp ended this year.

    For me I KNOW in my head that my routine doesn’t give me purpose, it allows me to LIVE my PURPOSE. But when my heart forgets that, well then without the routine it all seems meaningless.

    I know it shouldn’t matter what I do, what I have, how I do it… I know that the answer for me should be found in what what Paul was saying in Philippians 3… but sometimes its hard to get my heart to hold onto that.

    1. Interesting addition. It’s true… often routine is the easiest motivation. I find that I am more perturbed these days when routine is interrupted. I’m getting old and crotchety! 🙂

      Also, I find it interesting that you seem to be suggesting that Solomon’s assessment of life (“Everything is meaningless”) was because he was somehow “off”? Am I interpreting what you said incorrectly?

      I do feel there is truth in that “everything is meaningless” … maybe it’s just the way that I’m hearing it. Because I also know that one can find joy, purpose, meaning, good, and other positive things in anything and anywhere, if one looks hard enough … but is that a different thing?

      Honestly, this question still completely fascinates me!

      It’s almost the “What is the meaning of life?” question …

      1. I guess without intentionally meaning to that IS a valid way to read what I wrote. And now that I think about it, yes I could mean that.
        In Ecclesiastes Solomon lists all he tried doing, seeing, tasting, owning, working at, enjoying (and the list keeps going) but it was all meaningless. When my focus is on the things, the doing… maybe even the questioning then I too get the feeling it’s all meaningless. Unlike Paul who learned the secret of being content in any and every situation…
        “Yes, everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I could gain Christ “(Philippians 3:8 NLT)

        For me I believe this should be my answer to what motivates me instead of any other answer I can give… But, being honest, it isn’t what gets me out of bed most days.

        Maybe I’m not making sense, it’s hard to tell 😉

  3. “When my focus is on the things, the doing… maybe even the questioning then I too get the feeling it’s all meaningless.”

    I think that’s it right there. As difficult as it can be to keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, and to rely on him for everything, every time … it’s so simple, but it’s the truth, and the answer every time.

    When we are focused on anything else (the things, what we’re doing/not doing) we’ll start to see and feel the meaninglessness.

    So Solomon was right (for sure) AND Paul was right-er (though, to be fair, he had a bit more revelation than did his centuries-earlier counterpart) 🙂

    Having the right focus certainly helps us be content … but I’m still wondering if that is also our motivation? I think. And there’s something else I’m working around up there (points to brain) too…

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