A challenge for all ministers is how do we stay motivated to do the work God has called us to do. We can say the right words about how God's call on our lives should be motivating enough, but anyone who has been in ministry for any length of time knows that ministry can wear on you pretty quickly. Church work can be just as political as anything else. Church leaders can be petty and controlling. Working with volunteers can sometimes be a struggle. Preparing messages each week that will be shared with the same people each time can be quite challenging. Being one of the few in a congregation who can see the changes that need to be made can be frustrating. When you factor in the additional stresses of serving as a bivocational minister staying motivated can be a challenge. In my own ministry there have been seasons when my motivation wasn't where it should be and I was only going through the motions, but over the years I have learned some things to help counteract that. I should add here that I have a personality that can be easily discouraged. As I've shared in some of my books, in the mid-1980s I went through a time when I was clinically depressed, and one of the things I learned through that experience was that it is very important that I remain aware of my feelings and immediately address any negative emotions I might feel. It has been very important for me to learn how to remain positive and motivated, and I hope what I've learned will be helpful to you.
Something that everyone needs to understand about motivation is that it is always internal. No one can motivate you, and you can't motivate anyone else. What we can do is to create a climate in which motivation can occur, and we can do that when we are wanting to motivate someone else or when we ourselves need to be motivated. Here are some of the things I do to maintain a climate conducive to motivation.
I try to surround myself with positive people. Life is too short to hang out with negative people all the time. Negative people aren't going anywhere, and they don't want others to go anywhere either. Negative people never see the good in anything. They can find a dark cloud in any sunny day and immediately predict rain. I try to avoid perpetual complainers and victims as much as possible. In the ministry that's not always easy because we tend to attract such people. I have found that the best thing I can do is to minister to them as best as I can, and then I need to get back to positive, upbeat people as quickly as possible.
Every since I was a child I have read a lot, and this is something I continue to do as an adult. I typically average reading one book a week. The vast majority of these books are non-fiction. I seldom read more than one or two fiction books a year. Most of my reading is related to ministry, business, biographies, politics, and self-improvement. I will read through the Bible or at least through the New Testament most years as part of my devotional reading. I believe the human mind is like a computer, and the principle of garbage in - garbage out applies to both, so I read books that have a positive message to help maintain a climate that keeps me motivated.
In our digital age I find podcasts to be a great motivational tool. I download several podcasts on my I-Pod that I can listen to while driving. The podcasts I currently listen to are from Dave Ramsey, Ravi Zacharias, William Lane Craig, Tony Campolo, Freakonomics, EntreLeadership, and a couple of church services. Occasionally, I will download some other podcasts to see if they are something I want to listen to regularly, but these are the ones I find most helpful.
About every two years I attend a day-long motivational seminar. I ordered my tickets yesterday for one I'll attend next month. The speakers at this event include Bill O'Reilly, Bill Cosby, John Calipari, Steve Forbes, Rick Pitino, Steve Wozniak, Danica Patrick, Stephen M. R. Covey, Krish Dhanam, and Dakota Meyer. At previous events I've heard Colin Powell, Barbara Bush, Laura Bush,, Tom Hopkins, and Zig Ziglar. You cannot leave one of these events without feeling like you could take on the world.
Does that feeling last forever? No, motivation does not last forever. But, as Zig Ziglar has said, neither does eating or taking a bath. That's why most people recommend that you do both on a regular basis. The same is true of motivation. To remain motivated it's important that you consistently maintain a climate that makes motivation possible and remove as many obstacles to that motivation as you can. These are some of the things that work for me.
One added note to the seminar I'm attending. This is always an event that my daughter attends with me. I paid extra for platinum seating which will put us in the first 20 rows and provide us with some extra perks to make the day a little extra special for us. This makes a great father-daughter day out that we both greatly enjoy and that creates positive memories for both of us.
Motivation is an inside job. What are you doing to maintain a high level of motivation that will enable you to be more effective in all the areas in your life?