During my pilgrimage in the Canadian Maritimes a few years ago, I met a wonderful woman who had suffered lots throughout her life, but nevertheless had found the strength and motivation to pray every day. She said: “Prayer changed my life. Actually, prayer saved my life.” She knew what she needed to do in order to succeed and find meaning in life; she needed to pray. She also knew she lacked the motivation, and for this she found her inspiration from seeing eagles fly. “When I felt that life was too much for me to handle”, she said, “I would go for a walk and contemplate the outdoors. I would always see a bald eagle and I would tell myself, ‘I have to soar. I may be living a sparrow kind of life, but if I let the Lord more deeply into my life, I am gonna fly with eagles.’”
She certainly found motivation in an unlikely place, but she stuck with it. Many of us have discovered habits and practices that are very life-giving for us, but we lack the motivation to do them. We know that exercising, eating a balanced-diet, getting quality sleep, praying, journaling, and other practices like these can help us live life in abundance. But we usually tell ourselves we do not have the time. What's stopping us is not the lack of time; I bet you would find time to do something you deem more entertaining. What we lack is motivation.
Every now and then, we complain that praying – or other life-giving practices – is too hard, and we do not know how to do it. It is true; with so many how-to books, websites and experts out there, we would have utilized these resources if we really wanted to learn. We just lack motivation. Occasionally, we let procrastination get in the way of exercising or journaling. That too is pure lack of motivation.
To be without motivation is to lack the reasons for engaging in a particular way. We are bereft of desire or willingness to act. Over the years, I have learned that very few things can truly motivate us. Having said that, let me share what I have found motivates me and other people I have gotten to know well:
- When our minds are engaged. When we recognize and visualize the benefit of whatever it is that brings us life, we make a conscious decision to act. In those moments, stay with that decision. Write it down. Create a plan.
- When our hearts are ignited. To me, this is the best way to be inspired. People seldom act because they find an idea appealing. They act because their hearts are touched. Imagination and love are the best ways to ignite a heart. The Heart of Jesus can ignite our hearts in ways that transform us and motive us. Let God set your heart on fire.
- Act. Nike got it right: Just Do It. Motivation actually emerges from the soil of action. Julius Caesar said it best, “If motivation is what you're seeking, it's a mistake to just sit around and wait for it to strike.” Don't sit and wait for the motivation to start praying. Pray. Transcend the thoughts and feelings at that moment. Do it.
When you struggle doing the things that give you life, find a good friend – a companion – who keeps you humble, accountable and joyful. It helps to share our progress with others, but also to be inspired and encouraged by others. With time, you might even develop a community of people looking out for each other. There is only one thing cooler than one eagle soaring: many eagles soaring high. Don't be afraid to fly with eagles. Open your mind. Let God ignite your heart. Act. Pray. Be joyful. Fly like an eagle.