I am confident of this, that the one who began a good work among you will bring it to completion by the day of Jesus Christ.
Philippians 1:6 NRSV
Motivation. It’s a big deal and I don’t think I’m alone in spending time thinking about it. I’ve often struggled with understanding the motivations of others or being able to tap into some sort of internal well of motivation within myself so I can get the thing done that I need to get done. Lately, the more I’ve wrestled with motivation, the more I’ve determined that I do not believe in it. Or, at least, not in the way we are so accustomed to relating to it.
For some reason, we live with the idea that motivation will just show up whenever we desire it or need it most. We just expect it to be there, to get us through something, to get us to do something, to energize us. Sometimes, that can happen and it really does feel like magic. Usually, that is not the case. I have spent more times than I would like to admit wallowing away a day just waiting for motivation to show up. The beauty of that kind of thinking is that when it happens, I do not need to actually take responsibility for it. I was just waiting for motivation. It was motivation’s fault for not doing what I expected it to do when I expected it to happen. But now? Now, I am moving past this kind of thinking. Motivation is not magic. It does not show up like a genie out of a bottle to get the thing done that needs to get done. Understanding someone’s motivation is also not magic. Yes, you may understand them better, but it does not fix the issue at hand. It does not lead to common ground, unity, or a solution unless you are both invested in that outcome.
Rather than motivation, I recently find myself focusing on presence. Rather than looking ahead to the thing/s that I am also waiting for motivation to do, I center myself exactly where I am. I find a seat, take deep breaths, write in my journal, let my senses shape the present moment in which I sit. I think of time as my friend, rather than competitor in which I am racing. I practice presence. And motivation arrives, not as a sweeping gust speeding me onward, but as a response to the deep truth from which I live, infusing my action for the day.
As this practice of presence has found its way to my day more and more, my relationship with motivation has shifted and deepened. I wonder if motivation is a gift of the Holy Spirit and, like the Holy Spirit, it blows where it pleases. Rather than serving as a driving force of production, it is a byproduct of the work of God in which we are invited to participate, get swept up in, and join the flow. This is God’s work, which has already begun. This is God’s goodness stirring within us, toward a completion of which we have only glimpses and clues.
The next time you impatiently await the arrival of motivation, consider presence. Ground yourself in the presence of God’s goodness meeting you in the moment that you inhabit. Remember the truth of who you are and who God created you to be. Experience the gift of motivation that arrives not in answer to your command but as a source of God’s abundance, as an invitation to join God’s good work in the world.
Let us pray...
Open my heart and mind to your presence in this very moment. With every breath, fill my soul with your peace. Guide my work and relationships to serve as an expression of your good work in the world.