Tuesday, January 5, 2010

How Do You Stay Motivated?

The Question:

You are a very disciplined person. You set goals, come up with things that will make your family better, decide to make a change, and you stick with it. Talk to me about this ability. How do you do it? How do you not allow the craziness of life to throw you off course?

The Answer: Staying the Course

That's quite a compliment and I'm not sure it's deserved. You know better than anyone the many programs I've instituted that have been short-lived. But I have two thoughts about this that I hope will be helpful.

First, commit. I run most every morning with two or three partners. We meet at 6:00 am and go five miles. I've been doing this for about 5 years now. Running has taught me something very important about goal setting in other areas of my life. It's the great, wonderful secret to success. You have to absolutely commit to the chosen goal for 21 days, no matter what. So many people have joined our little running group over the years and they are very excited for about three days. Then they push themselves and stick for another three or four days. Then we never see them again. The reason 21 days is such a magic number is not just that you've formed a habit. It's that you begin to feel the benefits in your life. You really start to look forward to it. The soreness subsides, the hills don't bowl you over, you start to enjoy the fresh air, the birds, the sunshine. You've crossed that terrible chasm of rationalization and excuses and made it to a truly pleasant place.

The same formula applies to everything. Scripture study "beginneth to be delicious". Your family begins to enjoy the benefits of doing daily chores, caring for a garden or keeping the Sabbath Day holy. After you begin to experience the true benefits of your goal (the things you were hoping for when you set the goal in the first place), you don't have to keep motivating yourself. You look forward to doing it.

Just plan on a rough 21 days. Maybe it will be surprisingly less. And don't set too many goals or resolutions at once. This year, I decided that rather than form a huge list, I'd decide on one thing---just the one single change that I know will be the most life-changing for me. It might sound silly but it's to spend 10 minutes every night planning out the next day. Not really a schedule but a list of things I really want to accomplish. I've loved it so far. Spending those quiet moments thinking about what to fix for dinner, what my children need from me and how I might extend service beyond my family. It hasn't been even close to 21 days--just 5 and I'm already hooked!

The second thing I'd like to say, is that during the years that our homes are filled with little children, it's easy to feel that we aren't personally going anywhere. It's all we can do to maintain the balance of our lives. If we heap upon ourselves a lot of guilt about what we should be doing--running, studying, serving others, taking classes-- we can be debilitated.

If at the end of the day, you have not accomplished one single thing that seems permanent, if you have spent yourself rocking babies and wiping off countertops and changing sheets again, let me assure you that something truly wonderful is happening. Not only are your children growing and developing by invisible degrees, but you yourself are becoming a saint. I really mean that. Raising little children is selfless and sanctifying. You are developing the attributes of godliness--patience, long-suffering, temperance, brotherly kindness, charity--the very things we're on this earth to learn.

Keep setting goals and reaching for better things for yourself and for your family. But remember that the best things are already happening in your everyday life.


  1. I heard about your blog from Kylie Stewart (I'm her sis-in-law). I really enjoy the little gems. I have 3 boys, ages 5 and under, and it is sometimes easy to get bogged down in the details. Thank you for helping me remember why I do it and that I absolutely love it!

  2. I think that's what I love most about your answers. They always make me happy to be a mother and encouraged to do a little better. It really is inspiring. thank you!

  3. Thanks for these motivating words! (I'm a friend of Brooke Rasmussen and just linked over from blog).

  4. Thanks for all the great posts on this blog so far. We're having #8 in May, and we have more kids than anyone I know, so it's nice to learn from someone whose a bit further along in life.

  5. I look forward to this blog every Monday! Thank you for your sincerity and willingness to share.

  6. My favorite is the 2nd to last paragraph. I wish I had that on my fridge when my boys were growing up. I always knew I was doing very important work raising them, but I didn't quite think of it in terms of building my own soul. I love this!


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.