I’ve been thinking about motivation.
What makes some of us hop out of bed in the morning while the rest of us roll over and go back to sleep? Why am I so driven to exercise daily and yet have no motivation whatsoever to give up ice cream? What motivates anyone to watch reality TV?
Maybe it’s the time of year. Decent shows are in reruns, and the calendar motivates many of us to make resolutions.
I decided not to wait. Two weeks before Christmas, I downloaded an app called My Fitness Pal on which I can track my daily calories and exercise. The app sends me reminders to update the log and lets me know what my weight will be in five weeks if I continue on my current path.
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Any rational person would have waited until after New Year’s Eve to begin. After all, it’s a little depressing to come home after a Christmas party and confess to my phone what all I managed to eat in the space of two hours, only to have it inform me that I will gain 10 pounds if I keep it up. Thanks, Pal.
Maybe what’s motivating us is a vision of our future selves. My fitness app gave me a Dickensian vision that I would like to correct before it’s too late. A new and better self is what’s behind those New Year’s resolutions, too.
Then again, most resolutions aren’t motivating enough to last through January. Often, what gets me up in the morning is my 3-year-old jumping on the bed. Or a little too much water before bedtime.
Speaking of water, I’ve heard that motivation for change is in our nature. It’s the nature of rock to stay and the nature of water to move. We are made mostly of water, therefore, change is natural.
But what about rocks tumbling downstream? Solid earth is constantly eroding or melting to become new kinds of rock. And water can remain frozen for millennia. By contrast, Rocky Road doesn’t last more than three days in my freezer.
Maybe motivation is just an illusion, another way for us humans to feel we’re more sophisticated than rocks.
If that’s true, I suppose it doesn’t matter what we’re motivated to do, as long as we feel we’re the ones making the choices. That we’re not just obeying the laws of physics like everything else in the universe.
I suppose that’s what has motivated me to go to church. I want to know whether motivation is related to the quest for significance, and what the heck the plan is, anyway.
Turns out I’m not the only one with dizzying thoughts on the topic. In Romans 7, Paul wrote, “I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do, I do not do, but what I hate, I do.”
I didn’t know they even had ice cream in the first century.
Paul later wrote, “For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do – this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.”
Well, that clears it up. So motivation is really the manifestation of the timeless struggle between good and evil. Between Ben and Jerry, and me.
OK, so maybe Paul was talking about something a little more profound than ice cream. But it’s nice to know that someone else struggled to understand why we do what we do. And it’s motivating to think that what we do is important.