How do you motivate yourself to do things you don't really want to do but you should do?
Many of us struggle with this. After coming home from a tough day at school or work, sometimes all we want to do is relax, hang out with our friends, surf the web, read, watch TV, or do nothing. And usually the last things we want to do are our chores or homework or walking the dog or whatever else might fall under the "should" category. Even Paul says, "For the good that I would I do not" (Romans 7:19). And yet, these "shoulds" are really important. And there are some other important "shoulds," like being kind to others even when they aren't kind to us and talking with respect to everyone, even to those who treat us disrespectfully.
There are mental, spiritual, and practical ways we can motivate ourselves.
The most significant way we can motivate ourselves is to change our attitude towards the "shoulds" in life. This change can be as easy or as difficult as we want to make it. But to be effective, the change must be based on our understanding of God.
- When I was young, my mom always told my brother and me, "If you can't do something with joy, don't do it at all." And then we would come back with, "Well then, I guess I won't do it." Of course, as we stood over the dishwasher after dinner, she would say, "But you have to do it, so you might as well do it with joy." We didn't have a choice regarding whether or not we did the dishes. It was part of our way to contribute to our family. The real lesson was not to ignore chores, but to do them willingly and happily. So, we would sing or tell stories or talk about our days as we did the dishes. We understood that we were giving to our family. And giving is fun to do. Giving is not a burden. Giving makes everyone involved happy.
- Another way to change our attitude is to make the shift from "I have to do something" to "I get to do something." It seems simple and maybe a little fake, but it really works if you sincerely mean it. Instead of I have to do my math homework, try saying, "I get to do my math homework and learn about principles that actually do apply to my life, even though I may not understand how yet. I get to mow the lawn and smell nicely cut grass while making our home beautiful. I get to write my English paper and discover original ideas. I get to take care of my little brother or sister and allow my parents some free time."
- If you really try to see the purpose behind the "have to's" of life, it's easier to understand why they are important. And there will still be times when we don't understand why we have to do something. But trusting that God knows what's best for us sure makes life easier. The less we fight against the "shoulds," the faster we get them done and the more harmonious our lives feel.
- See and trust the promise in this passage from the Bible:
Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things. Those things, which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do: and the God of peace shall be with you. (Phil. 4:8,9)
What we need to do generally fits into one of these categories. The point is not just "to think" about these things, but to bring these good things into our experience. And if we do, the promise is that God will provide us with peace and will be with us always. What an incredible promise!
Then there are some practical ways to motivate ourselves.
- First of all, figure out what really motivates you. What do you like doing?
- We can make a pact with ourselves that we will reward ourselves with something we like after we have finished those things we need to do. It could mean taking time off to relax or go to a movie, etc. But we have to promise ourselves that we can't have our reward until our work is done and done well.
- It's also helpful to set a schedule that allows for breaks. For instance, do homework for 30 min., listen to music for 10; do chores for 30 min., ride your skateboard for 20 min.; homework for an hour, etc. Plan whatever works for you. But during that "need to do" time, you really can't day-dream. You have to stay focused.