I am getting to that age when one is tempted to look back more than to look forward, to get lost in our memories more than to endeavor to create new memories. In short, it is easier to just float downstream carried along by the current of habits and predispositions rather than forge ahead and find undiscovered lands and challenge sedentary tendencies. I feel like Ulysses hearing the siren calls to cease the quest and find comfort and rest. But like Ulysses, I know that there is a greater mission within me and my journey is not yet accomplished.
But as I reflect back upon my life I now realize I have always had a tendency to “shelter in place” from the threat of change making it difficult to move forward. My impediment to growth has not been any external obstacle or internal deficiency but simply I have allowed fear to limit my progress. The product of fear is stagnation leading to death and it has usually taken experiencing a trauma or disaster in my life to give me the impetus to move forward.
I don’t believe I am alone in this predisposition. There is an axiom in the counseling world that goes like this: “We don’t change unless the pain of remaining the same is greater than the pain of change.” I see it all the time in my practice.
A man has lost the job that he hated and is now forced to consider another profession more suitable to his abilities
A couple’s relationship is falling apart and now must seek counseling to find new, healthier ways of relating to each other
A woman has lived with debilitating depression and only when her world is falling apart is now willing to look at her beliefs about herself to escape the pain
This is fear-based motivation and it is grounded in escaping or avoiding pain and we use it all the time.
I go on a diet because I don’t want to be fat
I exercise because I am humiliated by the way I look in a bathing suit
I work hard at my job because I’m afraid of being fired
I go back to school because I’m afraid of not finding a good job and ending up homeless
Does fear-based motivation work? Yes, of course, it works but the problem with fear-based motivation is that it is not sustainable and it doesn’t go away. When we reach a place of stasis in our life and we no longer have a reason to fear we also don’t have a reason to grow. If fear is our primary motivation then we will need to make up a reason to fear (irrational fear) or we will lose motivation for growth and enter into stagnation. What is even more important, fear is toxic to the body and spirit. Living in a continual state of fear will produce stress and stress is one of the leading causes of physical and psychological ailments.
I want to propose another, healthier and more positive motivation for change. This motivation can be summed up in one word.
Love’s motivation is applicable in all situations
Love is unending, unceasing and unconquerable
We live in a world where there is so much spoken about love but very little on its practical application. What we need is to somehow learn to apply love to the nitty-gritty of life. In many of us, fear is our default and even the thought of making love our primary motivation in our life is inconceivable. So here are some practical ways to transform fear-motivation to love-motivation.
Focus on those you love
When faced with a task or a job that is something that you would rather not do think past it to something that is an object of your love. A perfect example of this might be of times when we experience a difficult work environment. We all encounter times when we’re slogging through an arduous schedule or are involved in tasks that we have no desire to do. At times like these stop and ask this question, “can I dedicate this job to someone or something I love?” If you are working to provide for your family then think of them and consider your work as a way of providing them with food, shelter, and a future. Many a man and woman leave their home early in the morning and return late at night for the love of their family. I believe there is no more noble motivation than sacrificing for those we love.
Find something you love within the difficult work
Every job, no matter how it perfectly fits our personality, has elements that we find tedious. If we focus on these negative elements, we diminish our passion for the work and reduce our overall career enjoyment. So take a few moments and fill your heart with what you are passionate about and stop obsessing on those few things that you don’t enjoy. When you do you will find that the difficult parts of your job will cease to be so discouraging.
Focus on being grateful
Gratitude is a close relative of love and when it is regularity expressed it increases our capacity to experience joy and reduce anxiety.
What are you afraid of? What gnaws at your heart and keeps you up at night? Instead of allowing those fearsome future scenarios to dominate your thinking try to finding something
When faced with fear, chose the loving alternative.
Here are some loving alternatives to fear:
Choose to believe in your resilience and ingenuity
Choose to trust in an all-powerful and loving God
Choose to develop and execute a strategy
Choose to not catastrophize – reflect on times when you persevered through similar or even worse situations
Choose to reach out to loving family and friends for help
Choose to get up and do something creative, productive, kind and compassionate for someone who needs to be loved. Because love flourishes in us when we choose to give it to others.
What do you love? Make that the cornerstone of all you do, say and think. Tie this passion to your work and you will find extraordinary energy in your career. Tie it to your relationships and they will grow deeper and more satisfying. Refuse to do anything that is not somehow intrinsically tied to love and you will never run out of motivation for living.
If this seems impossible then challenge your internal programming, because someone, somewhere fed you a lie that life was not meant to be lived in love. It can be done, I know because I get up every morning with the desperate need to renew my commitment to love and every morning love is renewed.
If you want to discuss this or have any questions or concerns where we can help you don’t hesitate to reach out to us. Because our love-inspired motivation is to see true transformation happen in your life.