I sometimes don’t know which comes first.
The character I’m writing who I suddenly realize is dealing with struggles I relate to. Or struggles of my own that I see more clearly because one of my characters decides to deal with them in their own way.
Unlike characters in books, however, I don’t go through a wild adventure in a week’s time that overcomes my flaws at once.
Instead, I slog through one thing at a time, winning some fights. Not quite winning others. Refighting the same battles for the upteenth time. Recognizing the patterns. Hating the patterns. Hating that I still succumb to the patterns. Thinking I’ve overcome a pattern of behavior only to see it pop up in a different way…
The list could go on.
This has been the case recently as I attempt to sort out my motivations for why I do what I do.
I have great goals, don’t get me wrong. I want to help people. I want to finish writing a book so it can reach others. I want to honor God and show His love to others.
It’s the ‘why I want this’ that trips me each time.
Because I’m selfish. I think about myself far too often.
I want to do these things, not because I love God so much that I want to serve Him with my life and time and energy, but because I want to be fulfilled. I want to feel like I have done something worthwhile. And if others see that I’ve done something worthwhile, all the better.
The desire to feel that work is purposeful and means something is valid, don’t get me wrong. But I’m pretty sure shouldn’t be the main reason I act.
Which brings me back to motivations.
Motivations affect what we do
This is a bit obvious, but it bears repeating. We do what we do for a reason.
I eat because I am motivated by hunger. I study Spanish because I am motivated by the desire to communicate effectively. I write because I am motivated by a desire to tell a story and show readers a particular truth.
But motivations pile up and overlap and come in different strengths.
If I’m studying Spanish because I want to communicate, then I’ll drop what I’m studying and go to town instead if the chance comes up because that’s an even closer level of communication than staring at words on a page.
If my motivation is to build a habit of 15 minutes of study, however, I’m more likely to finish studying on my own before seeing people.
Or, as is more often the case, the motivation to do either thing isn’t strong at all in which case I’ll drop it regardless because something else is more fun.
And if I try to honor God just to feel internally fulfilled, I’m going to be chasing that feeling. I will act based on what I think will give me purpose, instead of focusing solely on God.
Motivations affect our attitude
Sometimes, we do something we know to be right, even though it goes against everything we want.
We know we should serve God. We’re motivated at some core level. But we aren’t happy about it and we don’t want it.
Our actions are correct. Our attitude is not, because our motivations are in conflict with each other. One part of me wants to serve God. The other part wants to feel important at some level.
I can’t strive for both at the same time. And I won’t be at peace if I’ve placed too much importance on conflicting motivations.
As I have discovered, many of these internal battles (such as examining motivations and correcting them) happen over and over and over again.
It’s not a grand climatic battle. It’s a steady slog where we advance and improve, but the same enemy comes out again and again. We get better at defeating him, but he’s still there.
If we can sense our attitude is off about doing the right thing, chances are one of our internal motivating factors is also off and could use some tinkering.
Motivations affect our expectations
Our motivations play directly into expectations and the corresponding emotions.
If I’m motivated to finish writing a book, then I expect to write a certain amount of words when I sit down to type. My satisfaction is based on if I did that or not.
If I’m serving God in the hopes of feeling a particular way about myself and my purpose, then I’m going to be focused on that expectation. I’ll be stressed if it doesn’t show up. I won’t actually be focused on God in the end; just on what I can get out of the situation.
If my goal is to serve God and honor Him, then that’s what I ought to be focused on. If God is honored, it doesn’t matter what people thought of me or what I felt.
(Of course, quite often what we are seeking when it comes to internal feelings of happiness, satisfaction, and peace, show up after we’ve stopped trying so hard to get them. But that is a topic for another time.)
Remember, results are up to God. What we need to focus on is what we do. And how and why. Let God handle the rest.