“How do you stay motivated?” That’s what one of my mentees asked me last week while we were sitting around a fire in my backyard. He told me he struggled staying motivated to do anything for more than two weeks at a time before burning out and giving up.
It’s a great question. I know a lot of leaders, including myself, who have faced the same problem. One day, for one reason or another, We find ourselves fired up about a new training tool, or leadership method, or something. Then after a few weeks, they’re no longer even talking about the revolutionary idea we had been ranting about only weeks earlier. We’ve lost our motivation.
The shame in it all is that most leaders feel ashamed of themselves when this happens. They feel like they’ve failed in a way that directly reflects on their characters. But in reality it’s usually an issue of bad cultural habits that blow out the flame of our passion.
Today we have a worldwide culture that relentlessly pursues progress without consideration of the individual. We set impossible deadlines, burn the candle at both ends, over commit, under rest, and wonder what happened when we feel too tired for our passions at the end of the day.
In order to pursue our passions, we don’t have to change our whole way of life, which is good because many of us over commit out of necessity. But by simply being intentional about our habits, we can keep the fire of our passions burning, even through the winds of a busy life. Here are 6 things that’ve helped me keep the fire going.
1. Regularly draw from people who inspire you. Who inspires you? Is it a mentor, a friend, co-worker, a celebrity? Whoever it is, invest some regular time in that person who helps you see the potential for your passion. These people can help recharge your batteries when you feel like you’re out of juice.
2. Maintain your physical health. It probably doesn’t surprise you hear that your eating habits might be effecting your energy level. Most people know that regularly eating fast food isn’t a good way to boost your energy, but that still isn’t enough to make them do anything about it. That’s because our culture gravitates toward all or nothing thinking. We want healthy eating habits today. but it isn’t realistic to change all your eating habits in a week. So let me ask you this, what’s one small change you can make to your diet or exercise routine to build your physical stamina?
3. Draw from a long long long term goal. I bet you have weekly work goals, but do you have any 1 year goals? How about 30 year goals? I work toward saving for my senior years. Someday I will volunteer my hours to a church while living off the money I’m saving today. That very long term goal keeps me going daily. When I have days where I feel too tired to do anything, I just think about how great it will be to freely invest my time and money in God’s kingdom without having to worry about a paycheck.
4. Stop bad habits. Believe it or not, there are some other bad habits, other than food, that can keep us from being effective. I can’t tell you what it is for you, but for me it used to be pornography. I never knew how much I was giving up to carry on an addiction to porn. Aside from the spiritual implications of a sinful addiction to porn, regularly looking at it killed my stamina. When I stopped, I found energy that I never knew I had. Can you think of any unhealthy habits in your life that are costing you energy?
5. You have it, set it down. This is the one I have the hardest time with. When I’m passionate about something, I tend to work at it until I have nothing left to give. But in order to persevere, I have to learn to set down my passions and still have a life. If you’re like me, build yourself some structure, and stick to it. That way you don’t become the guy who’s always telling people about the same thing every time they see you. I can be that guy sometimes, it’s no fun for my friends and family.
6. Don’t ever, for any reason, give up while your heart is still in it. Matthew 25:14 begins Jesus’ telling of the parable of the talents. He talks about a master who gives his servants some money. Several of his servants use their money to make more and bring the master a return on his initial investment. The master rewards those servants by trusting them with more. But one servant becomes afraid and hides his money. The master deals out a consequence to that guy. It can be easy to talk ourselves out of our passions. It begins with little nagging questions, “Is my passion just silly?” “Am I really cut out for this?” Those questions are the beginning of fear, and when we nurture fear, it brings death to our dreams. And it’s important to remember, God works through our dreams. We have to submit our passions to Him, then work diligently to give God a return on the investment He’s made in us.
Question: What one passion have you been regretting keeping on the back burner?
Tim H. Swanson is the Music & Programming Director at Moon Valley Bible Church in Phoenix, AZ.