Opinion: Getting a feel for motivation

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Sometimes, we just don’t feel like it. We say it about ordering Chinese food on a Tuesday night. We claim it when asked if we’d like to help put away the holiday decorations. We routinely use the generic excuse for all matter of things, big and small. Are we going to vote? Are we going to get married? Are we going to get out of bed early and get in a workout today? Probably not. We’re just not feeling it.

Are we really making most of our life decisions based upon how we “feel” at any given moment? Or are we simply refusing to think instead relying upon the less complex emotional response to keep us from engaging more deeply and intellectually? With the coming of each new year, our culture has formed expectations about using the early days of the calendar for personal planning. What do we hope to accomplish in this trip around the sun? Are we going to lose weight, read more, learn piano or spend more time with family? Whatever it may be, we set our sights on some aspirational goal. Still, most of us have scant chance of realizing the objective.

We work at it for a bit, even joining a gym or planning a family meal. But then we start to lose steam. Where is our motivation? Why don’t we feel like making our dreams come true? Why isn’t someone motivating us? Why is the world making us feel demotivated? As we lurch headlong into another year, perhaps we should start our quest for self-improvement by setting some ground rules. Do we sponsor our own fire or wait for others to bring it to us? Is motivation internal or external? What can we expect and how can we think through to better outcomes?

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