One More Motivational Video May Not Do It
“The Only Way To Have Motivated Employees Is To Hire Motivated People”
I heard that quote years ago in a sales video. While it is a bit of a generalization and there are exceptions to every rule, the speaker was making an important point about sales and about understanding people in general: people will not change until they decide that they want or need to change. He explained that he could be successful in teaching motivated people tricks and tools to be more effective and more successful, but the motivation to learn and implement those tricks needs to be internal. There are different ways that a person can become motivated—some are highly motivated by nature, and some learn the value of motivation on their own and decide to change—but one person cannot ultimately be responsible for motivating another.
I was reminded about this sales video by an idea we encountered in our “Ethics Of The Father’s” class this week. The Talmud teaches us that Hillel The Elder would often teach, “if I don’t take care of myself, who will?” Rabbainu Yonah explains that Hillel was addressing the area of human motivation. Motivation that we receive from others is helpful for a short time but soon after we are motivated that motivation will fade. When we learn to motivate ourselves, that motivation will stay with us all the time and help us constantly grow. How many of us have watched amazing motivational videos or met incredibly inspirational people? We were better people because of those experiences, sometimes for five minutes and sometimes for five days, but the inspiration always fades. Hillel is teaching us that lasting change only occurs when we are internally motivated.
So How Do We Motivate Ourselves?
The worst way to motivate ourselves is to wait until we hit rock bottom. While hitting rock bottom is an incredibly effective impetus for change, it is incredibly painful and usually not necessary. Mussar teaches us that there is better way. We can see an idea, learn to aspire toward it, and train ourselves to do whatever is in our power to achieve it. How? Educate ourselves of its value and paint a picture in our mind of how amazing it would be to achieve it. Then, constantly review the lessons of its value and create a plan to get there. Imagine I wanted to overcome the negative character trait of laziness. I could study the parts of the Torah that talk about its negativity and work to understand the source of laziness and its root causes. I can then review and review again the lessons and character portraits in the Torah that address laziness. Finally, using cheshbon hanefesh (personal accounting) I can set attainable goals in character refinement and slowly modify my trait of laziness. That is what Hillel was teaching 2000 years ago and is still true today: if I don’t put in the time and effort to motivate myself, no one else will be able to do it for me.