You can read a lot of articles and listen to many videos touting that motivation only lasts for a period of time and you have to develop the right habits to sustain consistency long term through an obsession to continue to put in the hard work. I don’t disagree at all. However, sometimes and maybe most of the time you need to be motivated to begin, and by doing that it leads to the next step. Don’t discount motivation because that burst of energy to get started down a path is extremely important to not only those beginning days but as you keep the consistency up long term.
As I sat back and thought about this more it occurred to me that some of the times when I’ve been the most motivated I was being “forced” into it. Either a challenge, deadline or similar made me have to just get started even when I might not be fully motivated to do so.
One time, in particular, came to mind and it was Senior year of High School. In one of the most favorite classes for all seniors who took it, Public Speaking was a course about getting outside your comfort zone and being able to speak up and at an audience of your peers. It was fun but very daunting especially for a lot of us introverts. Larry Hynes was our teacher and he was widely regarded as one of the best teachers in the school and knew how to keep the kids engaged throughout the semester. He knew about using a motivation to make the kids learn.
You all have probably heard the poem or parts of it at some point in your life.
Invictus by William Ernest Henley
Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.
In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody but unbowed.
Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds and shall find me unafraid.
It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate,
I am the captain of my soul.
Well, Mr. Hynes used this poem as both an exercise in memorization and recalling that information when you were caught off guard and at your most vulnerable. The kids didn’t take the task lightly either as this was a good chunk of your final grade to pass the class.
After handing out the assignment during the semester, Mr. Hynes would then catch the students in the weeks to follow and make them, right there, on the spot, recite the poem. He caught kids in football practice, on the bus, in the cafeteria.
He caught me in a Social Studies class. I remember being one of the last handful on his list he hadn’t gotten and the days prior I was nervous as all get out. But it made me motivated to practice as I did not want to mess up in front of whatever group I happened to be caught with. I remember getting up and standing on my desk like a scene from Dead Poet’s Society and belting out Invictus confidently and articulately. At least that is what I told myself afterward as the embarrassment of the moment started to wear off. Nonetheless, I memorized it and passed his test that day.
But here’s something really funny, the lesson lasted a lot longer than I thought it would. Years after I’d randomly be thinking about that poem or the moment and was able to recite it without hesitation. 20 years later and it’s still ingrained in my soul.
Go ahead, ask me next time you see me. I’m confident I’ll ace the test again.
So that’s my point through this whole trip down memory lane. We all want to think that motivation has to come from within, and in a way, I guess it does when we are put to the test. However, that motivation sometimes comes from others around us and that’s okay too. You may not be remembering a poem years later but using the motivation to your advantage and seizing the opportunity can give you more confidence in your abilities short term and spark the path to new abilities, lessons, and experiences that help you continue your track of personal growth.
At the end of the day, remember, “You are the Master of Your Fate and The Captain of Your Soul”.