Setting goals and accomplishing them brings satisfaction and fulfillment. Most people know how triumphant we feel when we complete something we intended to do.
But what happens when the motivation to accomplish wears out? When we find ourselves procrastinating by checking Facebook, drinking another cup of coffee, or finding frittering away our time?
How do we keep the motivation going?
It seems that the key is knowing what inspires us. Inspiration is different from motivation. Inspiration comes from purpose. Purpose comes from knowing who we are, what we have to offer, and how we can make the world a better place.
Inspiration is sustaining. It energizes us. Motivation can be energizing for awhile, but it also wears out.
As a more-than-fulltime volunteer for a 501(c)(3) not for profit educational organization, I spent nearly 40 years learning how inspiration provides sustenance. Now I am learning how to apply that to the business world, recognizing the monetary value as well.
Since 1979, I have invested my time and energy as a student and teacher with the School of Metaphysics, a 501(c)(3) educational and service organization. One unique feature of this organization is that 100% of the staff people are volunteers. This includes all of the teachers, the office staff, the administrators … everyone!
The school’s ideal is “to aid any individual, willing to put for the effort, to become a Whole, Functioning Self, not dependent on any other person, place or thing for peace, contentment and security.” The course of study is a structured series of lessons with daily mental disciplines. Students learn to bring forth their full potential through developing essential life skills, such as self respect, undivided attention, concentration, memory, listening, imagination, reasoning, intuition, and breath.
As a volunteer teacher and administrator I discovered that when the only motivation for teaching is love for one’s fellow human beings, s/he develops valuable qualities such as patience, compassion, unconditional love, respect, and acceptance.
What keeps someone involved with an organization when he or she is not getting paid? The payment comes in another form: personal fulfillment while aiding others. We can find a clue in research done by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross who researched people who were dying. Universally, at the end of a lifetime, people ask themselves three questions: “Did I give and receive love? Did I become all that I could be? Did I leave the world a little bit better?”
Contributing our talents and energies to a good cause gives us a way to answer these questions in the affirmative, every day, rather than waiting to look back at the end of life when it may be too late.
My motivation for teaching what I had learned was gratitude. I was so grateful that my teachers were willing to give selflessly, and I received such profound benefits from the course of study, that I wanted everyone in the world to have it. Even when I had little experience, that passion and desire to share with others what I had learned, and the appreciation for what I had been given, made me a very good teacher.
Now that I have been teaching for over 30 years, I am still moved by gratitude and desire for everyone to have what I have! The innocence and joy that moved me in the beginning have matured into wisdom, still inspired by joy and love for the teachings.
I am also discovering that receiving monetary compensation for sharing what I know enables me to reach more people in more ways. The inspiration is just as strong. The motivation for turning a passion into a business is to have even more to give to the world.
For people to stay motivated, it requires having a strong ideal and purpose. Each individual needs to have a personal ideal and purpose that is strong, and all of us need to be aligned with the school’s overall ideal and purpose.
An ideal is more than a goal. Ideals are transcendent, images of the highest one can imagine becoming. A goal is physical. So, for example, one of my ideals is to be a clear voice for truth. I use this as a kind of internal compass when faced with decisions, when I need to be a mediator in a meeting, when I am called to speak at a conference, when I am asked for counsel, advice, or direction from a client.
A goal is something with a physical manifestation, such as buying a new or signing up 100 people for a seminar, or writing a book. When people have physical goals but are unclear about the transcendent ideals, they can become unmotivated once they have accomplished the goal. Waiting to decide, “what’s next?” can be depleting.
Motivation wears out when we have goals without purpose. Purpose is “who am I becoming in the process of living my ideal and accomplishing my goal.” So, my purpose for being a mediator is to bring light, awareness, into the communication. My purpose for writing my next book is to understand more deeply how to communicate in ways that anyone can comprehend.
When people know why they are doing what they are doing, not just a physical reason, but because they want to improve themselves, give their talents and gifts, develop new skills or understanding, then the motivation to complete a task deepens into the inspiration to reach higher and farther, and to give more completely.
When you give, you receive, so those who give more completely also receive more deeply. The reward is more permanent than money, because it is one of character development that lasts forever.
When people create together with a common ideal, the relationships people form are very deep, fulfilling, and enriching. People love to be invested in a worthy endeavor that produces self-growth while aiding other people.
I don’t remember when it started, but for awhile now, I hear people saying, “I’m going to do what I want, not what I should.” I’ve seen bumper stickers that say, “Don’t should on me.”
I wonder when “should” became a dirty word?
My mother used to recite a poem she learned in her childhood. Sometimes I can still hear her sing-song voice in my mind,
“Straight is the line of Duty
Curved in the line of Beauty
Follow the straight line and you will see
The curved line will always follow thee.”
I love this. It makes life simple. Doing your Duty brings out your inner Beauty because God is love. When we serve God, either directly or through serving other people, we radiate love. And what can be more beautiful?
I think the problem with “should” arises when people lack purpose. Doing something just because you’re supposed to, or “because I said so” can be frustrating. Knowing why you do something, what purpose is serves or how it will benefit another person, makes the activity worthwhile.
As a counselor, I aid people to discover, or uncover, their values. Some people seem to know what makes life meaningful and have strong ideals. Most people have a little difficulty identifying their ideals. They may have goals and things they want to accomplish, but knowing how those accomplishments bring out or develop virtue seems elusive.
How do you establish ideals?
One way is to look for people you admire, either people you actually know (or have known) or public figures. Learning how those people think can aid you to develop some ideas of how you want to think.
Another way for those inclined to do so is to read holy scriptures. Most scriptures delineate virtues, ways of thinking and behaving that bring us closer to God. “Draw close to God and he will draw close to you,” it says in the Bible. (James 4:8)
When we think and act in virtuous ways, “doing what we should” seems simple. We can be ethical, moral, and spiritual, living for the greater good, not just our own selfish desires.
A simple way to practice this is living according to the Golden Rule, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” This gives us a sense of what we should or shouldn’t do. It seems that the idea of “should” becomes a challenge when people fear that they will lose something and won’t get what they want.
In the Bible, near the end of Jesus’ life, he surrenders to God, saying, “Not my will but Thy will.” This philosophy of surrendering the individual will to Divine Will is, in my opinion, the essence of ethics. Living an ethical life is living with integrity.
Integrity comes from the same root as the word “integer.” Perhaps you remember from mathematics classes that an integer is a whole number. Integrity means whole. To integrate means bringing together that which becomes part of the whole.
So I see ethics as a way of thinking that harmonizes with each one of us being a part of a greater whole. Another way to view this is thinking about being a force for good, doing that which promotes and facilitates growth.
Some people seem to reject the idea of ethics, viewing it at restrictive or “boxy.” I see this occurs when people view ethics as limiting their behavior.
Any codes of ethical conduct, external law, or rules of behavior exist to guide us while in this human form to make choices that align with our Divine Nature. The Universal Laws are perhaps the ultimate guidelines, set into motion at the beginning of creation so we can become compatible with our Creator.
The practice of meditation enables us to still the mind (through concentration) and listen to our Creator, eventually to merge with the Creator. When we can listen and hear the voice of Creation we can have a kind of internal compass to guide our choices. This internal compass can be called conscience or being pure-hearted.
Throughout the ages mystery schools and religions have set forth guidelines for people to develop conscience. Reading and following rules because someone else “says so” can feel restrictive. When one practices meditation and devotes oneself to living in alignment with the Universal Laws, then conscience centers us. The internal click of knowing that one has done the right thing (even when it may not seem “fun” or “easy”) feels fulfilling.
Sometimes when I am faced with a choice of something I “should” do even though I may not want to, I think about how I will feel later when I reflect on it. Using visualization and clairvoyance it becomes easy to see that the right choice in the long run will “feel” right. It will be fulfilling. The choice that might temporarily feel good but which does not benefit the whole will, in the long run, “feel” bad. Some people might describe it as “leaving a bad taste in their mouth.”
Developing that kind of clairvoyance and conscience starts with believing that there is right and wrong. I have heard people say that there is no such thing as right and wrong, it is all for learning. That does not fit with any scripture or wisdom teaching I have ever read. It is true that life is a process of learning, and it is also true that we become responsible for what we know.
So for example, if the sales clerk gives me too much change without realizing it, even though I could get away with walking out with the extra money, it will deteriorate my sense of self worth. I will feel bad or guilty or ashamed because I know that I have stolen. Whether I get caught by someone else is not the issue. Because I know better, I am responsible for giving it back.
This kind of purity in thought enables one to go to bed with a clear mind and pure heart. When we make choices based on understanding we grow in virtue. Growing in virtue enables us to “feel good” in a permanent sense.
I love the idea of being devoted to something greater than myself. Thinking consciously about how I might serve God and aid other people is a good way to do so.