I’ve had several students at my college come to me lately asking what I do for motivation. I admit I am not a motivational expert. I don’t have any witty or sensational quips to offer them. Instead, I take a different tactic, one that involves a brief history lesson.
When we begin to doubt our abilities, we are discounting the many feats humankind has accomplished in the past, often with fewer resources and vastly less information. Our ancestors built pyramids, ziggurats, coliseums, and even Stonehenge without computers or power equipment.
I offer that little lesson as a means of orientation, a way of seeing that we have the ability to overcome great obstacles. But what if we just aren’t feeling it today?
Some days I don’t feel like being an adult or even get out of my cozy bed. Some days I don’t feel like training because my body hurts and I am tired from the day before. Marcus Aurelius, emperor of Rome, had the same problem and wrote about it in his Meditations. His solution was to be his own motivational speaker. Here’s what he would tell himself on those tough mornings: “is this what I was created for? To huddle under the blankets and stay warm?”
Then your brain tries to rationalize with you. Marcus writes, “But it’s nicer in here.”
That rationalization backfires on Marcus and his conscience launches a barrage of pointed darts: “So you were born to feel ‘nice’? Instead of doing things and experiencing them? Don’t you see the plants, the birds, the ants and spiders and bees going about their individual tasks, putting the world in order, as best they can? And you’re not willing to do your job as a human being?”
Again, his laziness attempts a rebuttal and says, “But we have to sleep sometime.”
Concession is made, but with a caveat. Marcus writes, “Agreed. But nature set a limit on that — as it did on eating and drinking. And you’re over the limit. You’ve had more than enough of that. But not of working. There you’re still below your quota.”
I am sure that if Marcus was standing in your doorway in the morning telling you, in what I would guess to be a perfect fatherly way, to get your lazy rear-end out of bed and attack the day, it might be more effective. But Marcus isn’t with you every day, so you will have to use his inner dialogue as an example.
So, you must be your own source of motivation. Have that conversation with yourself. Remember, the world was designed, decorated, and shaped by people who got out of bed, put their big boy and big girl britches on, and attacked the day.
We rarely, if ever, remember the people who slept in. Here’s your dose of motivation: Get up. Do the work. It’s your job as a human being.
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