Most of you know I teach a class every week on Scholarship and Leadership to a group of 13-17-year-olds. The class ranges all over; we study George Washington, Gandhi, Lincoln, and ourselves. There’s a lot of writing and thinking about how to be whatever it is we want to be. Today I got a question from one of my very favorite students about motivation, as in, how do I motivate myself? Apparently, she wasn’t all that keen on writing the last essay I asked for, and struggled to make herself do it.
Boy, do I know that feeling. But I had an answer.
Hmm. Motivation. Good question.
There are about a million different theories about how to motivate oneself. There’s meditation, there’s affirmations (where you say inspiring things to yourself in the mirror), there’s prayer (I’m partial to this one, though I admit it doesn’t always work), and then there’s the only one I subscribe to all the time, as it never fails – just suck it up and do it.
I read a lot of self-help books, looking for answers. The best one is, of course, the scriptures, but I like biographies of great men and women, and sometimes just inspiring fiction (Card’s books, Dick Francis, lots of others). I believe that the greatest motivating force in the world is love. I also believe that ultimately, that is the ONLY durable motivating force in the world, as all things shall fail, but charity (that is, love) never faileth.
But then there’s the problem you’ve already thought of: how do I love writing an essay? And the answer is, I have no idea. BUT. I do know that you love the class. I know that you love the idea of doing great things, of being the kind of person that your children will admire and emulate, and that a good man will love and cherish. I know that you love being disciplined, and doing hard things well. When you’re in your right mind – you know what this means – you love these things. When it gets hard to write and to read, when you just don’t have any interest in doing what you have accepted the responsibility to do, that is when you have to have faith that when you made the commitment you DID know what you were doing, and that you do want the things you’ll get if you finish.
And then you just sit down (or stand up, whatever) and do what you have to do. There is no job, no task, no activity, that you’re always going to want to do. Nothing. I swear to you, there is never going to be anything that you don’t loathe at some point. But adults, real adults, they do those things even when they can’t stand to do them. It’s what gets Mom up in the middle of the night to clean up puke. It’s what takes Dad out the door in a snowstorm to go to work. It’s what makes me grade essays when I have three clients calling me wanting status updates on their loans. It’s what makes me call those clients back at 8pm, because I’m still at the office because I was grading essays.
I have a quote above my desk (I have several, but this one is pertinent). It says “suck it up and call”. That’s what I do. I call people. I hate it. But that’s what I do because I love the things I get if I do it. Some days, it’s close. Heck, some days, the hate wins. But not every day. Not most days. More and more, it’s ME that wins, the real me, that knows how to shoulder responsibility and loves the strain of hard work. This will be true for you, I promise you.
Just keep going. Grit your teeth, and move.
You can do it.
Apropos of this, I’ve written before on how silly – and at points destructive – the modern psychobabble is about “following your Muse” and “doing what you love”. Don’t misunderstand. As a man with an active Muse himself, I listen to those whisperings a lot, and I don’t think that’s a bad thing. But there are days when the Muse tells me to write my novel, and I don’t get to do that, because I made other promises. It’s hard, but that’s part of being an adult. My Muse is fascinating and romantic, but she isn’t smart, and she’s definitely not wise.
Old-fashioned virtues, no doubt. But critically important ones. All of modern society points us at the carefree and romantic as the only ways to really “live”. Fortunately, there are enough people left in the world that can see that is nonsense that some things still get done. There are those that don’t cheat on their spouses, even when the Muse is telling them how hot their secretary is. There are those that shoulder a pack and a rifle and slog through the mud to get shot at. Thank a Merciful God.
I don’t believe that I was put here to find what I love to do and do it. I think I was put here to find what I should do and learn to love doing that.
I love poetry. But it is prose that makes the world go ’round.
Gabriel’s rash is mostly better, but now he has fascinating blisters down the front of his cast that we can’t see any cause for. The cast is wet, though we dry it as best we can (it doesn’t get dried much when I work late, which I’m having to do more and more often now), so I’m sure that has something to do with it, but what can we do about it?
Still no bill from the ambulance. Is it mentally unstable of me to hope that they’ll forget?
There’s discussion by some people of having a family dance/fundraiser to defray some of the Gabriel expenses. Is that something that would be of interest? Who would come to that?
Next post is the long-promised “why I don’t believe in Medicare” one.