What truly motivates us?

A Christian Science perspective: Find the energy and inspiration to put off procrastination and laziness.

For many of us, there’s likely some room for improvement when it comes to getting certain things done. Maybe we’ve been putting off a necessary task because it seems unpleasant or dull. Perhaps we love our work, but just can’t find the energy to get going that day. Or maybe our efforts to achieve a particular goal have become lackluster. Where can we look for the impetus to do what needs to be done?

While simply willing ourselves to get through a task may feel like motivation, this kind of mental struggle between a pull to procrastinate and a willful attempt to resist it can be exhausting. If we’re looking to ourselves as the source of strength, we subject our efforts to the whims of human will and the results will be varied and fleeting. But discovering the limitless, divine source of our energy can actually transform our understanding of what motivates and supports us, enabling us to tackle every task with the energy, and even joy, that we need.

An experience I once had with a common household chore helped me come to a deeper understanding of our true source of motivation. For days, a basket full of clean laundry had been on my bedroom floor. The clothes needed to be folded and put away, but I kept telling myself that it wasn’t that important, or that watching a TV show first wouldn’t really do any harm. On the fourth evening, when I saw the pile of clothes still there, I suddenly felt disgusted with myself. I realized that while several days of a bad housekeeping habit seemed benign enough, the underlying issue – an acceptance of laziness that had slipped into my thoughts and actions – was more pernicious and something I wanted to address so that it wouldn’t become a habit.

I knew from past experience that regardless of how important or mundane a situation may be, quietly and prayerfully listening for divine inspiration is an excellent starting point, so that’s what I did. Christ Jesus taught, “He that is faithful in that which is least is faithful also in much” (Luke 16:10). Another statement from the Bible came to mind: “Now is the accepted time” (II Corinthians 6:2). “Now” – not “maybe later, if we feel like it”! Jesus’ own example was certainly not one of putting off what rightly needed doing. For instance, he healed the infirm man at the pool of Bethesda despite it being the Sabbath day (see John 5:1-17).

When Jesus was persecuted for this action, he responded by explaining, “My Father worketh hitherto, and I work” (John 5:17). The fact that our Father, God, “worketh hitherto” – is always working – is significant, because as God’s spiritual creation, made in His image (see Genesis 1:26, 27), we reflect Him. Since He is ever active, His spiritual qualities – such as activity, reliability, and vitality – are ours to express at every moment. This means that the true source of our motivation is infinite and unending – that productivity is part of our very nature as God’s likeness. So laziness or disinclination to do what needs to be done is unnatural; it is not a quality that is part of who we really are as God’s reflection.

As I prayed with these ideas that evening, I realized I no longer felt either a pull to avoid dealing with the laundry or self-condemnation for having procrastinated. I simply felt ready to finish the task – which I did. And in the years since, taking care of other obligations with a sense of diligence and even cheerfulness has enabled me to pursue new opportunities and devote more time to activities I particularly enjoy. The deeper understanding I gained of man’s true nature as productive and capable has stayed with me as a transformative blessing.

Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, writes, “Faith in divine Love supplies the ever-present help and now, and gives the power to ‘act in the living present’ ” (“The First Church of Christ, Scientist, and Miscellany,” p. 12). God bestows each of us with strength to do all we rightfully need to do, and we inherently have the capability to think and act in accord with this spiritual fact. Understanding our true selfhood as the ever-active spiritual reflection of the ever-active God can help us overcome the temptation to put off a responsibility or become distracted from fulfilling it, and instead demonstrate the energy and vitality that are rightfully ours.

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