Thursday, October 3, 2013

What is your motivation to change?



Happy Lunch Time!  Yesterday I posted that I needed to be careful about attaching self-worth to roles I play and jobs I do.  I thought about that a lot yesterday and it made me think about something that I shared with a large group at a recent speaking engagement regarding Motivation to change.

I’ve been rather wishy-washy with my thoughts on the subject and debating it back and forth in my head.  When I was a child, I learned that “motives” can make or break a good deed. For instance, if I did something nice for someone just because “my mom said I have to” or if I said something nice that I really didn’t mean but was trying to use to get someone to do something for me, then the action really wasn’t a good deed after all because “God sees our heart.”  My mom was trying to teach me to do good and kind acts because they were the “right thing” to do, not because I was being forced to do them or wanted something in return.  Likewise, the words, “I’m sorry” were meaningless if I didn’t put some sort of action or resolution behind them.  I remember once when my brother and I were fighting (typical!) my mom made us kneel at the railing in the kitchen until we said “I’m sorry” to each other.  Wasn’t going to happen…..well,  at least until we figured out that a quick, meaningless “I’m sorry….(usually followed by a muttered “ you brat” or “other name” under our breath) would get us “off the hook” and back to playing.  Mom was wise, and very quickly figured out what was going on and then made us add a hug and an “I love you” to the apology.  Neither of us were willing to do that very easily, and we quickly learned that there was more to words that merely syllables.  We learned that motives behind words and actions are important.


As I became an adult, my mind-set changed a bit on the subject, especially when dealing with students and teenagers in my Religious Ed programs. Parents would often share that they had to DRAG their child to mass on Sunday, or bribe them to come to Religious Ed classes. I had to force Confirmation students to go with me to the Soup Kitchen or on retreat because it was MANDATORY for them to do so or they couldn’t receive the sacrament. Kids in the school would go out of their way to donate the largest amount of canned goods for the food drive, likely not out of concern for the poor, but rather because there was a pizza party on the line for the class that brought in the most items.

 Likewise, in my own life, I’ve done…and do….. plenty of things…in fact, if I were really honest with myself….A LOT of stuff, even now, out of obligation or guilt or for some other ulterior motive. I’m surmising we all do.  We call or send birthday cards or buy Christmas gifts for people we don’t really like….because we have to.  We attend church or worship services….when our minds are elsewhere….because we were taught it was a sin NOT to.  We say nice things that we probably don’t truly mean….because it would be “inappropriate or rude” to say what we were really thinking and we donate to charities or fundraisers….buy things we don’t need a Tupperware parties….attend events we don’t want to….because we don’t want to offend others or we feel obligated.

 If I were to apply my mother’s principle that “doing something for the wrong reason” isn’t pleasing to God theory and ONLY do things when my heart was truly in them, then there would be A LOT of kind acts that would go undone!  Like you, I am a work in progress.   BUT… if I look at the flip side….Even if I’m doing things for the wrong reasons….the good act still gets done, right?  The food still gets donated, the card still gets sent, I still go to Mass, and others still hear words that they may need to hear.  Hmmm…….isn’t that better than Nothing?  I don’t know.  In most cases, though, the very act of doing good, regardless of motive, CHANGES us, makes us better, transforms us and purifies our hearts…..So….I say…DO IT ANYWAY! 

When speaking to others about motivation to change one’s life, I still maintain that  it is VERY IMPORTANT to make changes FOR YOURSELF…..not for others!  Oftentimes, people try to lose weight for an event. “I really want to look great for that class reunion….or I’m going to lose weight for my grandson’s wedding…or I want to wear skinny clothes for my trip.”  That’s a great place to start and can be a great motivator, but what happens when the event passes?  What happens after the wedding?  Sometimes, you’ve gained weight back before the pictures are even back from the photographer.   Other times, people change….lose weight, give up drinking, whatever… that “someone will like them” or they can save their marriage or find a boyfriend or make someone else happy.  Well, you know what….you may get thin and your relationship might break up anyway! Your partner may prefer the “old you”…mine did; there was less competition that way.  People may or may not like you…or be supportive of your new lifestyle…….in fact, if people like you ONLY because you’re thin, rich, sober, happy….then it’s time to find new friends!  What happens then?  Do you go back to the old lifestyle?

Back to wishy-washy….Making changes for someone else or some event is GOOD in the sense that you still lost weight or (whatever) and it may have gotten the ball rolling….BUT….will it be FOR LIFE?  Will you still keep it up AFTER the wedding….AFTER the boyfriend moves in or on….AFTER your special trip or your child’s graduation?   I hope so….but I think it’s important to find reasons/motives for US!  For me, my journey was ignited by sibling rivalry.....I WAS GOING TO SHOW MY SISTER THAT I COULD DO IT….but very quickly, my main motivation was became that I WANTED TO WALK again.  I wanted….and still want….to WALK more than I want ice-cream!  As long as I continue to “want to walk”, I’ll likely continue to be strong in the journey.  Sure, I’ll slip up occasionally, but the enjoyment and freedom I get from being free of the chair/walker/cane keeps me going day after day.


SO….I ask you today…. What is your motivation?  Are you making changes for YOU….or for someone else?  It might be worth some thought…..but whatever your motives…..don’t give up!  Change is change regardless of the “why!”