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Posts Tagged ‘Motivation’

A few days ago I had a conversation with a guy about getting back into shape, who said, “I don’t like running by myself. I need the motivation of running with someone.” I told him that I have run by myself for years since I never had anyone to run with, barring a few short stints. The conversation got me to thinking about what motivated me to run. Afterall, I am OK with running, but I certainly don’t love it. My motivation is a desire to stay in shape cardio vascularly speaking so that I can do the things I want to do, like hiking, playing with grandchildren, and approaching a climbing area. I don’t have the time or opportunity to do any of those things regularly enough to stay in shape that way. Running can be done on a local greenway or in the neighborhood where I work during lunch or around the house or at the local school track for a short period of time about three times a week, or simply, where and when I have time.

The questions that occurred to me were the following:

What is the difference in desire and motivation? Do desire and motivation overlap, and if so, at what points?

I start with definitions, not because I have no more creativity or original thoughts, but because many words and ideas have become confused, switched, and overlapped when they are actually distinct. For example, we say, “I feel guilty”, when guilt is a judicial problem, not a feeling. In reality, we should say, “I feel shame” about my guilt. I can almost feel some people’s response: “You know what is meant. What’s the big deal?” Well, guilty feelings, shame, may or may not follow guilt. Understanding the difference between a legitimate or false feeling and legitimate or false problem helps one to see the way forward in resolving either or both. If the problem is guilt, one needs to seek out forgiveness. If the problem is shame apart from unforgiven guilt, one needs to accept forgiveness already tendered, and forgive self. (1)

Desire is a longing or craving. Motivation is an incentive or drive.

So, it seems reasonable to say that desire is a feeling and motivation is a compelling cause behind the feeling. Where it seems to get complicated or confused is the source of the motivation. Feelings are internal, but motivation can be either internal or external. For example, running with others is clearly an external motivation. However, is it driven by a feeling or an internal motivation? Fear of being alone or desire to be with others are feelings, but they are also motivators because they push one to do certain things. But this just reversed the cause and effect in that now feeling is driving the motivation.

Desire can be an internal motivation, but so may cold logic about what is beneficial. And there may be a feedback loop where a desire causes a motivation and a motivation causes a desire. This feedback loop may be positive, more motivation produces more desire produces more motivation, etc. Or it may be negative in that a certain desire kills motivation which kills desire, etc.

It is at this point that the confused or credulous reader might ask what the usefulness of this mental exercise has been. If you know what motivation, internal or external is behind your desire, or conversely what desire is behind your motivation, you may be able to substitute other motivations or desires to change a negative feedback loop into a positive one.

For example, perhaps you are in the “Exercise Protection Program” as a friend of mine likes to say. The thought of exercise demotivates you. You consider all of the downsides of exercise: sweating, soreness, time, effort, ability deficiency. That kills any desire you have to exercise. If instead, you could focus on upsides of exercise: cardiovascular fitness, strength and coordination gains, body purifying aspects, goals you may set, good changes to your body you will observe. That grows you desire to exercise. Realizing even a few of the benefits further increases you desire, which is a further motivator to continue.

Which one comes first, desire or motivation? Some external push, a motivator, might get you started trying to learn a new skill like playing the guitar. But would you have begun if it did not touch on a desire you had to grow in that area or in general? Conversely, some internal pull, a desire, grows within you to stop, for example, speeding on the highway. Would you have that desire if you had not been motivated by hearing of a wreck or ticket or moral imperative to obey the law?

My intermediate conclusion to this discussion is that motivations include all external and internal influences. Desires are those types of motivations that are internal and sometimes first causes. (2) We can interject motivations that will change our course. Surround yourself with people who will cheer you one, or focus on outcomes that are beneficial, or pursue diligence until you acclimate to the desire for the activity. These are ways you may interject new energy into your desires and motivations.

  1. Sometime my examples or asides become the focus because a full explanation is needed for them to make sense. So much for brevity, conciseness, and clarity.
  2. THE First Cause of all things is God, but here I mean a first cause within the individual that comes from the will of that person unprovoked by outside influences. I do not here refer to moral freedom. I believe we have moral freedom, but there is a problem. Our natures are totally depraved. We always choose what we want to do, but our choice apart from the Holy Spirit of God is always wrong and in rebellion against God, since our nature compels us to do wrong. God, being totally sovereign rules over all outcomes and inputs, and we as moral agents work within the framework of His will and purpose.

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