November 06, 2020
I remember the day before my first day in college. I excitedly packed everything that I needed, polished my shoes, tried on some clothes, and made sure everything was in order. I was on fire!
I knew that going to college was a significant milestone in my life and that it would have a tremendous impact on my future. So when classes started, I was very attentive in class and put my best foot forward. I actually aimed to be the top student in our class.
But that energy only lasted for a while. For some reason, I lost all the motivation I had at the beginning.
Has this ever happened to you?
Have you ever found yourself being full of excitement and energy at the beginning, only to catch yourself wanting to quit or getting bored along the way?
Motivation is like the gasoline that allows a car to move or operate.
A car’s gas consumption is affected by how and where a person drives. For instance, if the driver steps on the accelerator too much, he’ll accelerate quickly but doing so will increase the car’s fuel consumption. Similarly, driving the car uphill or on a rough road causes the car to consume much fuel.
The same goes for our motivation.
If we’re always rushing or if we’re doing things without proper pacing, we could end up losing motivation more quickly. Therefore, we have to develop certain habits that will allow us to better sustain our motivation for the “long drive.”
In life, there are other things that drain our “gasoline.” Frustrations, disappointments, tragedies, big failures, or trauma can drain our motivation slowly and gradually. These events affect us in subtle ways, like the small holes in a gas tank that slowly drains the gasoline from the car until it’s dead.
Sustaining our motivation is a daily challenge. Because of this, we need to be on the lookout for the subtle things that drain our motivation. Consider the following:
1. Losing your map.
When driving, I use Waze to help me navigate for convenience. Sometimes I still choose to make my own path, only to find myself wasting gas and going in circles. This is true with motivation.
Your sense of purpose, your personal values, and the clarity of your direction affect your motivation. We tend to get demotivated whenever we get lost in the mundane and forget why we do what we do.
When we forget our why or lose our way, we fail to see how the small things that we do matter. We don’t see the significance of the routine. We neglect the buildup to the climax. And eventually we feel that the things we do are insignificant and negligible.
For students, studying and attending your classes can sometimes feel like torture. But if you have a clear vision and direction for your life, fueled by a strong sense of purpose, you’ll find the strength to persevere despite the bumps and roadblocks along the way.
So, hold on to your map! Don’t lose sight of your purpose and vision in life.
2. Excessive stopovers.
I remember traveling with my whole clan using about eight cars on a convoy. Because of too many stopovers and unplanned bathroom trips, what was usually a five-hour trip became an eight-hour trip.
Sometimes, stopovers can become distractions. While there are necessary stopovers that can help you take a breather, spending too much time on breaks and detours tends to pull you away from what’s important.
For example, spending too much time on mobile games, Netflix, or social media can take away your energy, attention, and your precious time for the more important things. Rest and leisure are a must, but unrestrained leisure time can already be a major distraction.
In worse cases, some distractions can take your passion away from your primary goal, such as unhealthy relationships, a destructive habit, or an addiction. In these cases, stopovers have become complete detours.
3. Using the wrong tires and using the tires wrong.
Tires are important for grip and traction.
Did you know that there are right and wrong tires for your car? Using the wrong tires can cause too much traction, which makes it harder for the car to move, or too little traction, which makes your wheels spin or skid.
Using the wrong tires causes your car to use more fuel than usual.
Let’s think of these tires as the small steps that we set to achieve our goal. Sometimes the steps are too easy, so you eventually get bored and lose your motivation. At other times, the steps seem so impossible that you just give up altogether.
Our motivation can be affected by our ability to accomplish a task and the difficulty level of the task itself. If the task at hand is beyond our ability, we easily lose the drive to accomplish it.
Therefore, we need to ask ourselves these questions:
What goals have you set for yourself in the years to come?
Can your current set of skills take you to your target destination? If not, what skills do you need to develop?
Can your current lifestyle, habits, or level of self-discipline sustain you until you reach the goal? If not, what “wrong tires” do you need to discard in order to get to your destination?
4. Using the wrong gasoline.
Engines run on specific fuel. Diesel engines run on diesel. Gas engines run on different gas octane ratings. If you use the wrong octane rating, you’ll lose efficiency and, in some cases, damage the engine.
We’ve been using gas as an analogy to motivation. But the question is, what actually drives you? What keeps you going in the first place? What is your fuel, your motivation?
Oftentimes, our motivation to excel and succeed are driven by a personal desire for power, wealth, and honor. These things are not bad in themselves, but these types of fuel can only take us so far in our journey through life. Worse, these things can actually become wrong fuels that damage our engine.
In the end, the things we’ve amassed and accomplished in this lifetime will never make it to eternity. Material wealth and temporal power are meaningless in view of eternity.
But our lives, our work, our accomplishments, and our good name can have eternal value when we live to serve God and others.
Only what’s done for God’s kingdom and for others will last even beyond our lifetime. May this be the “gasoline” that fuels our motivation.
As we identify the subtle things that drain our motivation, may we become leaders whose desire is to serve God and others.
(photo by: Hannah Tan)