I remember an event several years ago, when my wife and I were participating in a run/walk for cancer awareness to support my sister-in-law, who thankfully was among the ‘survivor’ group. In those days I had better knees without so much mileage on them, and my work schedule allowed me to exercise regularly, and I was in pretty good shape.
|My dear Sister-in-law Kami is on the far right. Glad she is still with us!!!|
During this event, while my wife and others walked along together, I wanted to run the 5K distance with some of the other participants up in the front. As the race started, I took off at my usual pace and realized that I was nowhere near as talented of a runner as many of those around me. But up ahead in the field of runners was a guy running with a pink Mohawk.
Now I know nothing of that man or who he was. He was probably just a normal guy who he had cut and dyed his hair to run in honor of of someone at the event, (much like I was wearing a shirt in honor of my sister-in-law, with pink letters which said, "Kami's TATA Sisterhood"). And it was nothing personal against him or his haircut, but something clicked inside me, and I determined that no matter what levels of physical reserve it took, I was going to beat the pink Mohawk! The hair simply became the goal or something to focus my motivation upon.
I kept him in my sites, gradually reeled in the distance between us, and then eventually passed him and sprinted through to the finish line ahead of him for at least the last quarter mile. While my time was nothing stellar, for a bubba like me, it was my fastest time in years, at around or just under 24 minutes.
But my thoughts today don’t really have anything to do with my extremely limited abilities as a runner, but rather, WHAT MOTIVATES US IN LIFE TO DO THE THINGS WE DO?
And why is it important to examine and determine our motivations?
"For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he." (Proverbs 23:7)
There are countless reasons we are motivated to do different things:
FEAR can be a motivating factor at times to increase our performance levels.
This can include fear of being punished for doing something wrong. Fear of being caught, which causes us to manipulate and cover up our tracks in a futile attempt to hide the truth. Fear of how we will be seen by others, and the list goes on.
MONEY can be a motivating factor for some.
While money is not inherently bad in and of itself, it is what we are motivated and focus on in regards to that money which makes the difference.
Are we motivated to obtain money so that we can be self-sufficient and help take care of the needs of others? Certainly the parable of the Good Samaritan is made more meaningful, because the caregiver not only had good intentions, but also had the means to provide relief to the man who had fallen among thieves and left by the wayside.
Or are we motivated to gain money to obtain material things and possessions which truly have no lasting value?
Or are we motivated to gain money to wield power, authority and influence over other people?
So while money is in no way a bad thing in and of itself the motivation behind why we seek it IS of importance. For example, if the obtaining of money or wealth comes through fraudulent activity and dishonesty, and requires the sacrifice of personal integrity, then how much good can come of it?
While on the other hand, if financial success is achieved through honest, hard work and ingenuity, with a motivation to provide meaningful employment to others, provide relief to the suffering and less fortunate, or other noble ends, then vast amounts of good can come of it.
"But before ye seek for riches, seek ye for the kingdom of God. And after ye have obtained a hope in Christ ye shall obtain riches, if ye seek them; and ye will seek them for the intent to do good - to clothe the naked, and to feed the hungry, and to liberate the captive, and administer relief to the sick and the afflicted." JACOB 2:18-19
NEEDING TO BE RIGHT, or at least think we are right, is another reason which motivates some people’s actions and interactions with others. This can easily lead to anger and conflict.
Consider the following thoughts about such motivation:
Another anonymous author said, "We errantly learn to be right and make others wrong. The need to be right is the result of trying to protect the image we want to project to the outside. We try to impose our way of thinking, not only upon others, but also upon ourselves."
NEEDING TO BE SEEN, VALIDATED OR RECOGNIZED BY OTHERS is another motivating factor for some people.
Receiving recognition for a job well done in not a bad thing, as this can often set a positive example and role models for others to emulate to improve themselves.
But if the motivation in our hearts behind why we are doing things is to receive the public accolades and honors of men, then we are missing out on the true value and eternal worth of who we are by making it dependent upon what others think of us.
"Behold, there are many called, but few are chosen. And why are they not chosen? Because their hearts are set so much upon the things of this world, and aspire to the honors of men." (D&C 121;34-35)
Just consider how such motivation reveals about us. To do things only because it brings recognition from others, is like going back to grade school locker room or playground again, where our happiness is only dictated by the fickle clicks and what is deemed ‘cool’ and popular at the time. Society can’t even stay stable in what words they use to describe such things: “cool, hot, rad, wicked, totally awesome, dope…” or whatever the new thing is at that moment, while the old is now outdated and irrelevant.
Do you really want your worth being determined by such instability?
Instead, there are not only Good reasons to be motivated and find self-worth, but also reasons which are Better and Best, when compared to others.
Sometimes we’re motivated not by fear, or for recognition, but only because we are asked to do something by others, but not because of our own volition. While this is good or perhaps even better, it still leaves something lacking, because the motivation is coming from others and not from within ourselves – therefore we cannot truly take ownership of it.
Even a good thing, like working to provide for your family, spending time with family or even going to church, can be done for the wrong reasons if we are not careful. Consider the following remarks by Elder Dallin H. Oaks:
“Consider how we use our time in the choices we make in viewing television, playing video games, surfing the Internet, or reading books or magazines. Of course it is good to view wholesome entertainment or to obtain interesting information. But not everything of that sort is worth the portion of our life we give to obtain it. Some things are better, and others are best.
Some of our most important choices concern family activities. Many breadwinners worry that their occupations leave too little time for their families. There is no easy formula for that contest of priorities. However, I have never known of a man who looked back on his working life and said, “I just didn’t spend enough time with my job.”
In choosing how we spend time as a family, we should be careful not to exhaust our available time on things that are merely good and leave little time for that which is better or best. A friend took his young family on a series of summer vacation trips, including visits to memorable historic sites. At the end of the summer he asked his teenage son which of these good summer activities he enjoyed most. The father learned from the reply, and so did those he told of it. “The thing I liked best this summer,” the boy replied, “was the night you and I laid on the lawn and looked at the stars and talked.” Super family activities may be good for children, but they are not always better than one-on-one time with a loving parent.
Some uses of individual and family time are better, and others are best. We have to forego some good things in order to choose others that are better or best because they develop faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and strengthen our families.
It is good to belong to our Father in Heaven’s true Church and to keep all of His commandments and fulfill all of our duties. But if this is to qualify as “best,” it should be done with love and without arrogance. We should, as we sing in a great hymn, “crown our good with brotherhood,” showing love and concern for all whom our lives affect.”
What is by far the BEST motivation behind why we do things, is because WE ARE INSPIRED FROM WITHIN OUR OWN HEARTS TO ACT OUT OF LOVE AND CONCERN FOR THE WELFARE OF OTHERS!
So while this isn’t meant to be a conversation about what is right and wrong, hopefully it will at least serve to help us consider the motivation behind why we are doing what we are doing each day. And I think it is important because the shallowness or depth of our worth and happiness will be determined by that internal motivation.
And when that motivation is not only based upon love and concern for others, but also primarily includes our love for God and our realization of our true relationship with Him, then we will have discovered the true nature and purpose of life itself!