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Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Cultivating Motivation for Life Change

by Josh Glaser, Executive Director of Regeneration Ministries, Inc. Baltimore MD: “a nonprofit, tax exempt Christian ministry associated with Exodus International. We seek to bring God’s healing to men and women struggling with homosexuality, sexual addiction and other relational issues, and to help the Body of Christ in reaching out to these men and women”.  Reproduced with his permission.   I found this article to be quite helpful and encouraging - DDW+

Motivation can be present and powerful one day and as skittish as a mouse the next. I want to share some helpful truths I’ve been learning about motivation.

Buy, Don’t Borrow

Here’s the first: the most important question isn’t what someone else wants, it’s “what do you want?”

You have to own your wants.

 Think about how different the following statements feel: “You should lose a few pounds.” vs “I want to be a healthy weight.” “I wish you’d be home on time.” vs “It’s important to me to be home when I say.” “Don’t commit adultery.” vs “I love my spouse and want to be true to him/her.” Some of us try to skirt this kind of ownership by putting the emphasis only on what God wants. But he doesn’t run rough shod over us. Our choice matters to him.  Take a look through the gospels at how many times Jesus asked, “What do you want me to do for you?”

This is important because your wants are closely connected to your sense of who you are. When you know you want something, it shapes how you view yourself, and this makes a huge difference in motivation.

What if you have recurring wants that conflict with who you really want to be? (e.g. eating too much pie, flirting with another man/woman, or fudging on your taxes?) If they’ve been persistent enough, they’ve shaped your selfperceptions, and you may hardly be able to imagine yourself being anything different.

This is where owning what you want becomes especially vital. Owning what you really want (e.g. to be fit, to have eyes only for our spouse, to be a man or woman of integrity) helps to displace those faulty images of yourself by replacing them with truer, nobler images.

I think this is a big part of why Jesus asks, “What do you want? He wants us to know who we really are.

Take this challenge for the remainder of the week: Drop from your vocabulary statements like I should, I’m supposed to, or [someone] wants me to, and replace them with simply I want to. As you do, observe what happens to your motivation level.

Ditch the Fake ID

If you’d like to be more motivated in an area of your life, don’t try to drum up more motivation. Instead, focus on changing how you see yourself.

Whether you’re lying on the sofa in front of the TV or outside working in the yard, you’re motivated. Your motivation level is not the issue.

How you see yourself is.

Everyone’s internal motivation mechanism works like this: It perpetually tries to move you toward a more complete version of who you believe yourself to be. Not who you believe you should be (which is how most people approach motivation), but who you believe you are.

This dynamic is true whether talking about exercise, food, sex, spiritual disciplines, relationships – you name it. Whatever images you have of yourself, motivation, will power you up to act accordingly.

This is why religion isn’t great at truly changing people. Religion looks at outward behavior and judges accordingly. If you’re doing well, you’re good. If you’re doing poorly, you’re not. And either way, this becomes a self-perpetuating cycle. 

Life with Jesus is different. His cross affirms your worth before you’ve done a thing. And he takes, old faulty images you have of yourself and gives new and good ones in their place.

So, in those areas where you’re struggling to change, here are some steps that will help:

1. Figure out what negative self-images you’re carrying around. Get some help from a trustworthy friend or wise counselor. And ask Jesus to help you.  He knows what you’re seeing.

2. When you discover a false self-image, ask Jesus to take it. In prayer, envision yourself pressing each false image into Jesus and his broken body absorbing them for you.

3. Ask him to show you the man or woman he created you to be. Keep your ears, eyes, and heart open for new images. They may come through Scripture, stories, music,  friends, movies or some other way altogether. Jesus knows what will speak to you most

4. Practice believing what he’s shown you. Hold to these new images like a boat in the storm. And spend lots of time with others who believe what’s true about you, too.

5. Repeat steps 1 – 4 as much as necessary.

I’ve seen this approach make a huge difference in my own life as a man, a husband, a father, a leader, and as a follower of Jesus.

What about you? How has your image of yourself impacted what you’re motivated to do or not do?

Put On Your Shoes

Accept that what you do impacts motivation. What you do doesn’t have the authority to make you what you are. But it does have the power to give you its opinion about who you are.

It’s easier to believe you’re an active person when you’re outside hiking than it is when you’re in your arm chair flipping channels. And the more you repeat a behavior, the more likely you’re going to believe what the behavior is saying about you.

This is one reason breaking a habit or changing your lifestyle can be so difficult. Where have you been wrestling? In what area of your life have you been wanting to see change? Fitness? Integrity?  Love of the poor? Sexual purity? Devotion to Christ?

You won’t be able to change a lifestyle or longstanding habit all at once. But you can help facilitate change by doing things that affirm the truth about who you are. Here are some ideas of what you can do to facilitate change, even when the big change you’re after has not yet fully come.

Get out on the Trail. Physically go places that affirm the new man or woman you are.  

Practice. Accept that this is new and you’re not going to do it perfectly. Every step, even if you falter, is practice that will move you forward over time.

Do difficult things. Show inner-resistance you mean business. You’re the kind of person who is willing to do hard things.

When you fall, get back up. Getting back up is more important than never falling at all.

Enlist others. Find friends who believe the truth about who you are and can help remind you when you forget.

Cultivate Intimacy with Jesus. He knows who you are and his voice has both authority and power to call you out into life. 

Do something today. Without waiting for your feelings first, pick one thing you can do today that aligns with the new man or woman you are, and do it. This is about asserting for yourself, I’m this kind of person.”

What’s one thing you can do today to affirm the truth about who you are?


  1. The first part of this article really gave me something to think about. 'Take a look through the gospels at how many times Jesus asked, “What do you want me to do for you?”'--I don't think I've ever thought that Jesus might be asking me that. To express my hopes for spiritual growth in terms of what I want rather than what I should be avoiding seems like a great thing, and I'm going to work on that.


  2. Basically, Philip, what Josh is saying is that it's all about Jesus and it's all about grace