Motivation and Shifting Goals (1)

I’m frequently guilty of being motivated by the wrong thing.

The other day I caught myself debating about whether or not I should stop and use the restroom as I entered the grocery store. The single, but weighty fact in favor was that I really needed to go.

But, I reasoned, if I make myself wait until I get home, then I’m more likely to get only what’s on my list, get out, and get home to my family—in a hurry. There will be no mindless moseying, and no temptation to slip expensive and unnecessary novelty food items into the cart.

As the implications of my logic sank in, I had to laugh at myself, but I was also slightly disturbed…

Why would it even occur to me to try to motivate myself to shop expediently—by means that would be punishable under the Geneva Convention? Shouldn’t good stewardship of  time and money be its own motivation for a servant of God?

My intermittent affair with fitness is similarly dysfunctional. The camera does not lie (annoying), and it informs me that my metabolism has officially reached middle-age.

So what do I do?

Well, I download an app to my phone that reminds me to exercise, records my workouts, and helps me keep track of what I’m eating.  Then, I solicit my Facebook friends to download the app as well, so they can view every detail of my diet and and follow my workouts. This is because I know that at some point, the whole fitness thing will seem hopeless or just not worth it to me. But hey, if Janice might see when I eat a cupcake, and Lori will know if I skip a workout or two…now that’s motivation!

Finally, and probably most alarming to me is how much oomph is added to my pursuit of God by some sort of external accountability.

A young lady recently asked me if  I would mentor her. I greedily and enthusiastically agreed. This is just the sort of opportunity I live for—plus, I just really enjoy her company! Excitedly, I began to think over basic personal discipleship principles we could discuss together, including lifestyle and use of time (and how they reflect / shape what we really live for). As I did, I became painfully aware that my “Follow me as I follow Christ,” would be more of a vulnerable, “Follow me as I straighten up, fix my own broken priorities, and start following Christ myself.”

That’s not all bad. I suppose anyone who approaches spiritual leadership honestly will be confronted with their own weaknesses and failures. And modeling open, vulnerable repentance might be one of the most challenging and encouraging things a leader can do for those they are trying to love and serve.

What bothers me, though, is the fact that a simple desire to know God and be all I can be for him only pushed me so far. I didn’t take an honest assessment of my own priorities or determine to step up my game—until I had a new level of responsibility to someone else.

Why is that? Why does the vehicle (discipline, accountability, etc.) become more important /  motivating than the thing we were trying to do in the first place (knowing, loving, and partnering with God). And how do we prevent this from happening?

I’d love to hear your thoughts…


6 thoughts on “Motivation and Shifting Goals (1)”

  1. I can relate!!! But maybe this phenomenon is as-God-intended. We are instructed to be responsible for one another, so it makes sense that when we accept that role, we strive harder to fulfill our own potential, too. When we come together as we should, we bolster and nourish others and ourselves. I don’t think we can be self-sufficient, and I don’t think we should be. Should God’s support and a sincere heart be enough? Sure, but after all, he gave us millions of other people with whom to share our burdens, so we might as well take advantage. 🙂 Peer pressure isn’t all bad.

    1. Agree with you…mostly. We are not meant to go it alone, and we definitely ought to strive harder when we are given greater responsibility. But I think that’s as far as the God intended part of the cycle goes. While getting right for the sake of leading another is good, the prerequisite for getting right is being wrong. Loving God for the sake of loving God cannot (by definition) be accomplished by any external factor, can it? Other folks can challenge us by their example, encourage us with their love, and hold us accountable when we start to stray, but they cannot cause us to seek and love God for his own sake. The question is, is it possible to keep loving God as our goal, and keep discipline as the vehicle we are using to get there–instead of making the discipline itself our new goal?

  2. Isn’t it amazing how even though we know (or at least remember) how wonderful it feels to be in great physical condition, we still have trouble convincing ourselves that it will be worth giving up the tempting chocolate chip cookie sitting in front of us. If only whatever we are trying to achieve could be as instantly gratifying as what is immediately before us…..but of course that’s rarely possible. Thanks for sharing this Crystal – I think a lot of people can relate to it.

    1. Ha! I don’t know if I do remember how wonderful it feels. I hardly noticed, ’cause I took it for granted! But you’re right, looking at the big picture, it seems so silly that tasting the cookie or ice cream or whatever for a couple minutes now is tempting enough for us to risk thwarting our overall goal. Sigh…

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