It’s been 4 years since I’ve written Part 1. No, it wasn’t that I was unmotivated to write a Part 2, but I noticed that since the original “I’m Just Not That Motivated” had quite a few clicks, I thought it deserved a sequel. Hopefully a blog sequel will be better than a sequel to the movies.
In the original blog, I explained that we are naturally motivated to do what we want. When we choose love for God or others, this motivation can certainly carry us a distance. This blog will not be about motivating ourselves to love, but about overcoming the obstacles that prevent us from doing what we ought.
There are times where we know what we ought to do. It’s practically right in front of us, but it is out of reach simply because there is an obstacle in the way. Until that obstacle is removed, it is impossible to reach it. So, we have a choice: either remove the obstacle, try to go around it, or give up (or delay) doing what we ought.
Our obstacles can be distracting activities (games, social networking, or entertainment keeping us from work), sinful activities (pornography) or even people (keeping us from doing what we ought). The problem with these obstacles is that they don’t seem like obstacles at all. We like them. We may even feel we need them. They don’t feel like they’re obstacles because they bring us joy, laughter, and reward. They may even be addicting. As a matter of fact, whatever we are supposed to do seems more like the obstacle from doing what we want. Yet it looms over us and beckons to be done. “Oh, I really need to get to that…maybe a few more minutes or a few more chips…or whatever.” Ten minutes later. Twenty minutes later. Thirty minutes later. And so on…. We delay more and more. We procrastinate and create a crisis so that we have no choice but to remove the obstacle…or fail entirely.
When the obstacle becomes the main attraction and that which we ought to do becomes the interruption, our esteem plummets as we fail to do what we ought, and at times, our relationships suffer as well. Sometimes it feels like we just can’t help ourselves. We’re stuck. We’re addicted. We’re unhappy. And we do it again. It reminds me of Paul’s words, “I do the things I don’t want to do. And what I do want to do, I don’t do… Who will save me from the miserable wretch that I am? Thanks be to God who delivers me through Jesus Christ!” (see Romans 7:14-25).
Removing obstacles is such an easy concept, but so difficult to do because we’ve developed an apparent need for them. The more important the obstacle is to us the more difficult it is to remove. In addition, our constant use of them has behaviorally trained us to keep going back. So, how do we remove these obstacles in our lives? Here are a few thoughts:
1. As they say, “admitting it is the first step.” Admit you have a problem and seek some help and support. Some of us don’t have the internal motivation or gumption to say “no” to the distraction when it comes . We need help and accountability. Don’t be afraid or ashamed to ask for help from God or others. We were not meant to live our lives alone without help. If it’s a sin issue, confess it before God and seek His forgiveness and then set out a new course without the obstacle.
2. Challenge and change your perspective. We need to see the obstacle as that: an obstacle. An enemy. Since the more you love it the more difficult it is to remove, you need to teach yourself to see it for what it is (see my blog, “How to Hate The Sin You Love”). In C.S. Lewis’ Screwtape Letters, a Senior demon is writing to his nephew (Wormwood) training him on how to help a Christian slide away from God. Listen to his words, “You can make him waste his time not only in conversation he enjoys with people whom he likes, but in conversations with those he cares nothing about on subjects that bore him. You can make him do nothing at all for long periods. You can keep him up late at night, not roistering, but staring at a dead fire in a cold room. All the healthy and outgoing activities which we want him to avoid can be inhibited and nothing given in return, so that at last he may say, as one of my own patients said on his arrival down here, ‘I now see that I spent most of my life in doing neither what I ought nor what I liked’. Activities where we waste our time are part of the tactics the enemy uses to distance ourselves from God. We truly need to see these obstacles for what they are.
3. Make the decision to get rid of it permanently and stay committed to this decision. I’m reminded of a friend of mine who, at 50, decided to train for the Spartan races. I asked how he had the resolve to eat well and train regularly for it. He said this, “I made the decision to do it and told myself, ‘I will not waiver.’ When I became tempted, I told myself that I already made the decision beforehand and stuck with it.” He remained firm in his commitment and followed through. The decision was already made, so future temptations to give in to laziness or other activities were reduced. He followed through with his training and succeeded! Job did something similar when he made a covenant with his eyes so he would not look lustfully on women (Job 31:1). He made a promise or commitment and followed through. Set a goal for yourself and don’t depart from it.
4. Decide if there needs to be a Permanent or Temporary Removal. Everything is permissible, but not everything is beneficial (I Cor 10:23). Some things need to be removed from our lives permanently (Heb 12:1, Mt 5:30). These are things that are sinful, idols, and that keep us from a close connection with God. Other things can be removed temporarily or best if limited, such as distraction that keep us from a goal. These obstacles simply get in the way of us doing what we need to do. We would either need to a) remove them from our location, or b) remove ourselves from their location. Either way, it is best to keep a distance from distraction. While you are working, keep your electronic device in a separate room, in the car, or at home. If at home, limit your time and perhaps set a timer and make the predetermined decision to stick to it.
5. Continue to ask yourself, “Do I want to change?” Do you want to feel better, succeed, or have better relationships? Do you want to honor God, do more for Him, and live to love others? If we truly want to change, we will go beyond minor skirmishes and go all out nuclear war against such obstacles or struggles. Keep this question in front of you (Do I really want to change?) at all times to help gauge where you are. Changing must not simply be a behavior change, but a heart change. And only the Lord can change the heart. Therefore, pray. Pray something like this: “Yes, Lord, I want to change. Help me to love what you love and hate what you hate. Help me to say ‘no’ to the things that keep me from you, and ‘yes’ to the things that honor you.”
Well, there you have it. Here are some suggestions for removing the obstacles in our lives so that we can do the things we ought to do. The more we love these obstacles, the harder they are to remove. The more we love them, the more likely they are to be idols in our hearts and lives. Try to go a few hours without them. One day. Three days. Seven days. Maybe even one month and see how it goes. Ask for accountability and help and seek Him during this time.