IN A RECENT MESSAGE from my daughter she wrote, “Come Dad, motivate me!” is rather unusual appeal comes from a student preparing for her first-year university examinations. If one does not know my daughter, one would think that this is a rather desperate plea.
I saw it as a rather tongue-in-cheek message but with a grain of truth in it. I still recall what a hard slog it can be studying to prepare for examinations. So I did my fatherly duty and sent her a reply.
I said that I could motivate her by reminding her that she has had her bit of fun with the number of short trips she had taken fairly recently. The implication here is that it was time to roll up the sleeves and get to work. I then mentioned that many others would be envious of her opportunity to study abroad. The unsaid message was that she had better “count her blessings” and stop whinging. I finally mentioned that I would not say all of this but instead encourage her to make the most of her opportunity to study and to learn. I went on to urge her to find joy in the process of learning new things (as opposed to learning simply to pass an examination).
This exchange led me to reflect on the topic of motivation. As parents, we use a range of methods to get our children to do the things we want them to do. We try to instruct, persuade, cajole, use a variety of rewards or threats, model the behaviour we want, to just name a few measures.
But ultimately we know that the best motivation comes from within themselves. No one can motivate us, other than we ourselves. An inspiring coach can motivate his players at key points in a game. A tyrannical boss can strike fear and bully his staﬀ every now and then. But true persistent motivation comes from within us.
But what happens when this inner motivation is lacking or is not enough to translate to action? Paul in Romans 7: 15-25 talks about the conflicts within himself to not only want to follow the will of God but to actually do it. He concludes that his old carnal nature is still active within himself. The apostle Paul is voicing what many of us also experience. We struggle every day not with knowing what to do but to actually find the will power to do what is right.
So whether it be a student having to study for an examination or an employee facing unfair practices at his workplace, we all have our share of the battle to want to do what is pleasing to God and to actually carry it out.
The good news is that God does promise to give us the desire and strength to do His Will. In Phi 2: 13 we are reminded that if we strive to please God, He will give us the motivation and ability to do so.
Benny Bong is a member of Kampong Kapor Methodist Church, is a family and marital therapist.