Motivating Yourself

Sooner or later, you’ll be in a position to have to motivate yourself. This will absolutely be the case when you’re between jobs. There’s no boss around when you don’t have a job. We’ll get to this in a bit.

We’re so used to having someone push us. It starts with dads and moms, then the baton gets passed somewhat to teachers, coaches, band directors and youth pastors. These are the early “motivators.”

Once you’re in college, you’re in a transition period, and the self-motivation needs to start kicking in or your whole career will be jeopardized. Many college kids don’t realize this. Staying at the task is second in importance to selecting the right career to go into, and thus the right college major.

…Regardless of who’s breathing down your neck, you need to be producing without the constant goading of a boss or supervisor.

I’ve found that regardless of who’s breathing down your neck, you need to be producing without the constant goading of a boss or supervisor. They are there for direction, clarification and information, but be your own boss! You should be smart enough to know what’s expected from you. If you don’t know ask.

Each and everyday, meet with yourself to lay out the day. Retreat with yourself periodically to lay out a plan. Review yourself for progress before it’s too late. In my latest meeting with myself (May 20, 2020), I resolved (in writing) to have a “bias for action,” to “let the chips fall where they may,” or in the popular vernacular, to acknowledge, “it is what it is,” and to “head ’em off at the pass,” the ‘em being anyone with the potential to hold me accountable.

I’ve always adhered to this Bible verse in my work life. Talk about accountability!

23 Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men, 24 knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance. It is the Lord Christ whom you serve. Colossians 3:23-24 (NAS)

But besides this, I’m constantly talking to myself and to God to stay motivated to do my work, knowing that, “the sluggard does not plow after the autumn, so he begs during the harvest and has nothing. Proverbs 20:4

I don’t want to be that guy!

But my heart goes out to the unemployed. Yet the message is the same. You have to keep after it! Let your predicament drive you. Let your plight motivate you. Roll up your sleeves and dive in. You might just adopt the three action points I laid out for myself as a good starting point.

How to Be a Self-starter!

Successful people are self-starters. They don’t require managers or supervisors. They wake up each morning bound and determined to get something profitable accomplished. They’re not happy if progress isn’t made. They show real initiative!

To guarantee success, a task needs to be broken down into steps, and the one-at-a-time approach will gain yardage if you stick to it. What if there are numerous tasks to be done? Prioritize and work your list, but don’t ignore the less pressing entries. A little done today will protect your backside if you suddenly realize that your priorities were off!

There will be a time when you approach completion of a task that’s taken some time to work through. That’s when you should break off and focus on this task until it’s completely done. I said completely! This sense of accomplishment will provide some encouragement as you move onto the next task.

I would warn that there will be a desire to kick back after a big task is completed. Instead of taking a mental holiday, it’s best to work on a few lower priority, less stressful tasks to fill the time. It’s important to be conscious of human tendencies and fight against them, or allow for them, with certain diversions and rest. When you work day in and day out, you cannot be expected to work at a frantic pace all day, everyday. This is a recipe for burnout. But most people aren’t nearing their breaking points! Every job’s tough if done for long periods of time. Develop the stamina you need to produce!

I glossed over the essential need to plan. From a plan comes priorities. To keep your plans well-conceived, there needs to be a level of seriousness applied to planning. To some, planning comes easy. To others, it’s just too easy to begin work on something that’s simple or someone else’s priority.

A word of caution. You’ve got to be careful not to take on other’s work. Try to stay out of someone’s path of delegation if at all possible. You’ll need to be assertive to avoid being dumped on. In many cases, this is impossible. This makes planning all the more important! There will always be “best laid plans” that are blown away before you can get started. There is a saying in war that goes something like this, “A battle plan typically doesn’t survive the first shot!” So, perhaps plans need to be fluid. The important thing is to always be adjusting and thinking how progress can be made by the end of the day. Planning is never ending. Planning is habit. Planning is at the beginning not the end.

Before planning you need to know your purpose. In many cases, your purpose is non-negotiable. For a law enforcement officer, it’s to “serve and protect.” This is a good example of a lofty objective within the confines of dispensing what could be unbending justice. We’ll always need to find the higher good in what we do. If there is none, you’ll have a hard time understanding your purpose. You’ll have to root it out or shoot for something else that has a higher calling. If you’re crafting the very best pillow in the world, every stitch will be important. Your purpose is that, not sewing.

A good perspective is essential to operating as a self-starter. Once you find out what is “par for the course,” you’ll not get as discouraged. This requires awareness and observation. What are the certainties in your job? Will there always be customer complaints? Is there a creative way to head them off at the pass? I found out early to tell it like it is. We all want to avoid bad news, or to avoid vocalization of information that might evoke a negative reaction. For example, the price of something. Perhaps early on you set the stage for your cost issue by alluding to an item’s benefits as being expensive but well worth it. Or how about the riskiness of something. Is there a way to defuse a potential issue down the road? This is best done by educating the other party, the person you wish to persuade. Then you’ll feel like a problem solver, rather than a guy who’s hawking some product or a naysayer.

You keep a good perspective when you find out how to deliver your work at a much higher level. Be that person that when some irate person calls up about his internet going down, he hangs up thinking the person on the other end of the line at least had some empathy! But perhaps if you know that you’ll always be dealing with irritated people, you’ll learn some tricks of the trade. Experiment with your high calling in mind.

The chances of you having a good perspective are much higher if you are at peace. Inner peace comes from the assurance that God’s in control, that he can be appealed to, that he can resolve your problems. You acquire this peace through prayer. Purpose comes from him, wisdom comes from him, understanding comes from him. At a more basic level, simple roadblocks can be broken through with his intervention and power. Relationships can be strengthened with an awareness of what it’s like to walk in another’s shoes. Adversity can be withstood. Laziness can be conquered. Motivation can be infused where there is none. Energy can be restored. Anger can be abated.

It’s difficult to get started on your own. Many need a catalyst. For me, it’s my real boss, the Master whom I serve.

Work can be pure drudgery or an exciting challenge. Make some progress with priorities set through planning with a purpose. Get a good perspective from praying for the power to overcome life’s obstacles from the One who possesses an unlimited supply.

Full Employment

Of course, Christmas is all about gifts.

  1. At the center of Christmas is God’s gift to all, Jesus, the only way to eternal life. For us it’s prepaid—bought with no small sacrifice—free if received, and effective if employed.
  2. Christians are also guaranteed at least one spiritual gift, by the way, which is employed in ministry.

As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. 1 Peter 4:17

Since we can’t leave our faith at the door, a spiritual gift can be utilized in the workplace to further enhance your value, but such employment may be problematic in some cases, leading to persecutions (Mark 10:30). Still spiritual gifts employed have spiritual impacts and this can’t be bad!

  1. On the theme of gifts, with reference to what we do at iWork, everyone has some God-given talent or gift that can be employed to gain and sustain employment.

I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; wonderful are Your works, and my soul knows it very well. Psalm 139:14 

Have you discovered how fearfully and wonderfully made you are?

My frame was not hidden from You, when I was made in secret, and skillfully wrought in the depths of the earth. Psalm 139:15 

God was involved in your creation. He skillfully and artfully made you as would an artisan, as would a craftsman, with purpose and intent.

  1. Self-assessment by any number of means can help you discover your design. You may have more than one natural gift, and you usually do.

Let’s look at a few Bible characters to see what natural gifts they were given.

  • David had gifts as a musician, singer, poet, warrior, military leader, and politician.
  • Daniel was a skilled politician, diplomat and administrator.

God gave them these gifts to them to be successful in life, as well as to serve him, and they needed them all!

  1. Have you been shortchanged? No!

To one he gave five talents, to another, two, and to another, one, each according to his own ability; and he went on his journey. Matthew 25:15

I again saw under the sun that the race is not to the swift and the battle is not to the warriors, and neither is bread to the wise nor wealth to the discerning nor favor to men of ability; for time and chance overtake them all. Eccl. 9:18

Put everything you’ve been given to work!

Success in 3D(s)

A determined person gets far in life. Implied in determination is a goal, for why would we be determined if we have no objective? Determined people set out to do something. They’ll always get farther in life than the undecided or ambivalent. Implied is resolve. Implied is single-mindedness. Implied is the application of energy and movement. Implied is drive. Drive and determination go hand-in-hand.

Diligent people set their minds to do something and sustain their determination indefinitely without lag or loss. They keep fires burning. They’re like short order cooks. They don’t squander time. They make the most of it. In fact, they race against it. They don’t watch time from the grandstands like a parade as it goes by. Diligent people plan ahead. They’re prepared. Their brows drip from sweat, but they keep going. It’s a great feeling to see progress.

The disciplined are singularly focused. They’re unswayed by sideshows. You’ll not find them on rabbit trails or gazing into the sky. They’re all business. They don’t engage in small talk. They’re intense. They hate beating the air. Discipline is the engine of determination and diligence.

The detractors would say to all of this activity that you’ve got to stop to smell the roses sometimes. There are generations that can only pull this off for a few years before they must tour Europe. But the determined, diligent, disciplined person says instead that you can’t rest on your laurels. There’s another mountain to climb.

Read these words from the most determined, diligent, disciplined person I know. An apostle named Paul.

24 Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win.
25 Everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things. They then do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable.
26 Therefore I run in such a way, as not without aim; I box in such a way, as not beating the air;
27 but I discipline my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified. 1 Corinthians 9:24-27

Just a few words of warning on the application of another set of “D’s,” dedication and devotion. It’s dangerous to apply oneself wholeheartedly as described above for an organization or a boss. The favor may not be returned. All your work may turn out for naught. Always be aware that you are expendable. This may put you in a position to have to reposition yourself with another company or enterprise for which these industrious traits will be appreciated and remunerated! A good example is Jonathan. His father King Saul wanted David dead, leaving him a choice between loyalty to the king or God’s anointed. He chose the latter.

Here’s the key. Paul says, “Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance. It is the Lord Christ whom you serve.” In this way, you’ll not regret leaving it all on the field.


Stuck in the Gate

Therefore, to one who knows the right thing to do and does not do it, to him it is sin. James 4:17

This verse, of course, refers to serious matters where righteousness hangs in the balance. But there’s a worthwhile principle in here. Once you know the right thing to do in a particular situation, to not do it is foolish.

Wisdom is applied knowledge. The flip side, therefore, needs consideration. To not apply knowledge is to be a fool. There’s a saying about leading horses to water. Have you gotten excellent advice and not employed it?

Surely procrastination could be categorized in the Christian life as sin, especially if God has directed you to the right road, and you hesitate to traverse it.

There’s another saying about it being easier to steer a moving ship. Is it that you haven’t begun to move that’s making it so hard? Ponder the concept of inertia.

Inertia, property of a body by virtue of which it opposes any agency that attempts to put it in motion or, if it is moving, to change the magnitude or direction of its velocity. Inertia is a passive property and does not enable a body to do anything except oppose such active agents as forces and torques. A moving body keeps moving not because of its inertia but only because of the absence of a force to slow it down, change its course, or speed it up. Source: Encyclopedia Britannica

It’s demoralizing to stay at rest too long wallowing in self-pity. It’s discouraging to be stuck behind your intimidating fears and what-ifs. It’s high time to put the body in motion, or perhaps to burn an engine to gain more velocity.

It’s fascinating to watch the jockey guide his racehorse to the starting gates. A slow but steady walk. But once in the stall, it’s only a matter of seconds before a bell rings and they’re off!

Are you still stuck in the gate?

Author’s Note: In your career search, the right things to do are first to self-assess, then to strategically plan, then to select and seek out networking partners, then to generate sales tools (business cards, 30-second elevator speech, resume, Linkedin page), then to set narrow goals and go after them. In the meantime, you research the marketplace and your intended targets and read up on the trickiest interview questions. All this is done, as my old boss used to say, not in sequence, but in parallel. There, now you know the right thing to do and the onus in on you! I say this lovingly and empathetically, but somebody needs to light the fire under you!

Three C’s

The inspiration for this post comes from the biblical character Daniel. No, we’re not going to talk about him in the lion’s den, but the characteristics Daniel exhibited administrating and leading under four kings. This is a remarkable feat by itself. Basically the whole time Judah was in captivity in Babylon, Daniel was behind the scenes. While an incredible tenure, Daniel exhibited the same godliness and integrity throughout that time, unmoved by all his trials and tribulations.

It makes one happy to stay consistent at something, maybe at a job for 20 years, or staying fit, for example. Godly living over 70 years with no blemishes on the permanent record is noteworthy. What in your life or in your vocation can you be more consistent? Such a change requires starting somewhere, so don’t quit something before you start mainly because you’ll have to do it for a long time for it to matter! There’s a saying about a journey of a thousand miles. It starts with one step.

I was also struck recently of something new in the familiar story of Daniel cutting a deal with the overseer under Alphanaz to  not eat the king’s food and drink the king’s wine. You’d say that a man so consistent would not be prone to compromise. But lest we forget, Daniel was first and foremost a politician–in a good sense. From his earliest years, he struck compromises that allowed him to stay true to his Lord, and still keep his head–until it was all about him praying to his God. What struck me is that the vegetables he ordered up were still prepared by the king! And the water, who can complain about just wanting water? So the plan was uncanny and it worked. The lesson: Are you sticking to your guns about something that might be holding you back? Have you thought creatively about the issue? Have you prayed for wisdom? You may have created an unnecessary logjam in your career. So try to find a suitable compromise.

Finally, everything that Daniel did from the very beginning required courage. Our crude society calls this trait any number of things, but like the lion in the Wizard of Oz, most of us lack courage to make the BIG DECISION, whether to own up or to step out on your own or to stand up for yourself. Whatever it might be, what would you do if you just had the courage to do it? Well, what are you waiting for!


Blow Your Own Horn

Those forced out onto the street may be forced for the first time to become their own publicist. It’s do or die time now. You don’t work, you don’t eat!

While you might not like to blow your own horn, you’d better get those chops in shape. No matter how many hot shots you may know, no matter how many achievements you’ve racked up, you’ll still need to sell yourself.

I love how the Apostle Paul makes his own case in 1 Corinthians 10 and 11. So worried that he’d sound full of himself, his preamble was loaded with disclaimers. He announced that what he was going would sound insane (11:23). But he spoke within his sphere (10:13), and within the measure of this sphere, he was a rock star. Not in his eyes, but in those to whom he ministered.

The takeaway is that he was a humble guy, aware of his shortcomings, like his contemptible unskilled speech (10:10), and perhaps his stature, yet he was super-confident. In his case, the power of God was behind everything he did, and his confidence was in Him. As such, he was able to take on the detractors, the naysayers, and the hungry wolves at his door (11:32).

When finally in front of a potential employer, it’s time, within your sphere, to make your impassioned plea. Your particular set of skills are worth a lot to somebody, but more so is your unbridled passion.

In Paul, this was clearly demonstrated in his many trials and tribulations. Don’t lose sight that despite the 195 gashes in his back, he was bound and determined to share the gospel to the Gentiles in the uttermost parts of the world, where no one dared to go. And he did, because he was worried sick about their welfare! (11:28)

Transmit your passion with what you’ve done, despite the obstacles and challenges, and you’ll impress!

Cast Your Bread

1      Cast your bread on the surface of the waters, for you will find it after many days.
2      Divide your portion to seven, or even to eight, for you do not know what misfortune may occur on the earth.
3      If the clouds are full, they pour out rain upon the earth; and whether a tree falls toward the south or toward the north, wherever the tree falls, there it lies.
4      He who watches the wind will not sow and he who looks at the clouds will not reap.
5      Just as you do not know the path of the wind and how bones are formed in the womb of the pregnant woman, so you do not know the activity of God who makes all things.
6      Sow your seed in the morning and do not be idle in the evening, for you do not know whether morning or evening sowing will succeed, or whether both of them alike will be good. Ecclesiastes 11:1-6

Cast your bread—market yourself.

You will find it after many days.

Divide your portion—on a number of fronts.

You’ll avoid misfortune.

Clouds are full, they pour out rain.

Be realistic. “It is what it is,” as they say.

You’ll avoid rabbit trails or chasing windmills.

Tree falls, there it lies—accept results and move on.

You can’t grieve. You must keep going.

You do not know—what God is up to.

Watches the wind…looks at the clouds.

Don’t just stand there. Have a bias for action.

God who makes all things.

Openings, interviews, champions, offers, etc.

Sow your seed—full time.

Morning and evening—until you’ve earned the right to take the night off!

Do not be idle.

You can’t be if you want to succeed.