Finding Strong Motivation

Summer is halfway over in our house.  Halfway? Already? Just when I was getting settled into the routines of summer, now I feel this pressure to make sure my summer to do list is halfway done too.  So what have I done this summer?

Every morning I walk into my kitchen passing the side of the refrigerator.  It’s here that I’ve placed my sticker charts for the boys. Their goal: to earn 100 stickers. During the summer only, we have these charts posted.  This summer they get to pick a Lego set for reaching their goal.

One thing that I’ve always struggled with about summer is the lack of routine.  I like routine and a predictable schedule. Before kids, I taught high school. The first couple weeks of summer were always very difficult for me.  I didn’t know exactly what to do without “the job.” It’s almost like a would have a little mini-bout with depression until I found my bearings.

So now as a mom of school-aged kids, I felt that same sense rising up in me at the beginning of summer.  So to counteract that pattern, a couple summers ago I concocted this summer plan to earn stickers for following a daily morning routine.  And I made a list of about 20 other ways to earn stickers (a combination of boredom fighters, educational options, behavior traits that I want to see, and values that I want to grow in their hearts).  

My husband and I also plan out a summer Bible study that we want to do with the boys.  That has been really fun for us to work together in prayer and study and decide what our boys need to learn most.  This summer each week has been dedicated to one of the ten commandments which has been a blessing to us and the boys.  Plus when they memorize our weekly verse they get another sticker!

This routine has been great for the boys.  They know what to expect. They like earning stickers.  They have a lot of control of when and how they earn them.  It’s also been great for me. It has helped me not slip into old patterns.  It helps me stay positive and reinforce those positive traits I want to foster in my children.  It’s really been a great motivational tool for everyone.

But that gets me thinking.  Thinking about motivation. Stickers and Lego sets are great external motivation for kids.  It visibly shows them how they are moving toward a goal. I like that. But am I training them to only be motivated by external factors?  I mean, as an adult, will they only be motivated to accomplish a goal to get a reward? Is that a bad thing?

So these questions get me thinking about myself and what’s still on my list of to-do’s.  What am I motivated by to complete them? How am I motivated to accomplish these goals?  What does that say about me? About my faith? And as I ask difficult questions, I have a tendency to want to compare myself to others.  To what they are doing. To how others are living. This comparison often leads me to a place of guilt.

Let me try to show you an example of my thought process.  First let me say, as a people-pleasing extrovert, I am highly motivated to clean my house, (at least the part that others see and use) when company is coming over.  I have a deadline of when they will be here, so it’s easy to let that pressure motivate me to finish cleaning and tidying up. That external motivator helps me get my house the way I like it.  (Even if I am grumbling to myself all along that I should have never let it get this bad.)

And how did I “let it get this bad”? Well, I’m not going to lie.  Having four high-energy young boys under one roof challenges my motivation to stay clean especially when there is no company coming over.  If I ever get a room picked up and clean, it takes less than 3.5 minutes for it to get a spill, a bin of toys dumped in it, sand trucked in from shoes, or some other unexplainable mess to happen.  My efforts feel fruitless. And that can be very defeating. So defeating that sometimes I find it not worth the effort the next time. Plus I find myself saying things I don’t want to say to my family like, “NOOOO!!  Why did you do that? I just cleaned this room up!” when for the 72nd time that day, someone drops a precious Lego creation on the ground and it busts into tiny pieces that fly from one end of the room to the other. And even though we try to find all the pieces, inevitably, we miss one or two and without fail I will find them with my bare foot later that day as evidenced by my wince of pain of dramatic sucking in of air through my back teeth.  Because that makes it all better, of course.

And while I could spend all day cleaning up the constant messes, or training the boys to help me, I want to do other things with my boys like read books on the couch, ride bikes around the neighborhood, or watch them create and execute American Ninja Warrior courses in the backyard.  And so I often push messes aside instead of taking care of them the right way to first time. Which is faster in the moment, but eventually leads to an overwhelming mess that I avoid because it’s overwhelming. I lose all motivation when I feel overwhelmed.

Then I feel terrible about my ability to be a housekeeper.  And if I let my thoughts go down that rabbit hole, I end up in a really bad place of thinking I’m letting everyone down because of my poor habits.  I am a bad mother for not creating a clean and nice environment at home. I get moody and emotional and mean. I feel stressed by my mess. It cannot possibly be anyone else’s fault, so it must be a problem I have to take care of on my own and in my own heart.  I wonder why I can’t rely on God better for self-control like Janelle and I wish I had time to figure out how to declutter my space and find what I really want to keep and enjoy like Courtnee.  And why can’t I find balance in my summer like Katie?  And did you see how comparison to others just slipped in there and caused me to feel even more guilty and overwhelmed than I was before?

Ok… stop!  Just take a breath.  How did having sticker charts for the boys (which is working well for them and their little hearts) get me here, striving to do things on my own and feeling guilty for “failing” and for not being like others?  The truth is God made me the way He made me and He has a better way than this. A plan made for me that might be different than the plan He made for others.

He has a plan for me.  (He has a plan for you.) The plan is good because He is good.  He needs to be my motivation. When I am able to take all these thoughts from the rabbit hole to God, he can show me the better way.  He can show me some truth.

Truth like this: God is still God if I don’t have a clean, organized  house.  God is still God if I lack self-control. God can help me with my self-control, of course.  But He is still in control no matter what my level of motivation.

Truth like this: God sees me.  He sees my efforts to train my boys in the way they should go.  He loves that my hubby and I are working together in this way. Not perfectly.  And sometimes late on Sunday night, but together. He extends grace to me and my family even when I don’t remember to follow the plan we come up with.  His grace is sufficient for me.

Truth like this: God made me to be a people person.  And He loves me this way. He knows that the consequence of this and the challenge of this personality is that tasks like housework will take a backseat to relationships. He does not condemn me for this.  Far from it actually.

Truth like this: His timing is perfect.  He will open up time and opportunity for tasks to get accomplished.  He will help me to accomplish the tasks he asks me to accomplish. There will be seasons that are busier than others.  But He is not shaming me for tasks that are unfinished.

Truth like this: His love is my reward. My great reward.  He is my motivation for everything. He is both intrinsic and extrinsic motivation for my plans.  He can help me in my heart and with the carrying out of my plans.

I hope as I rest in these truths that I’ll find less stress in my mess.  Patience in the clutter. And that when there is a season of less structured time, that I’ll remember who I am, and to ask for help from God and the community He’s given me to stay strongly motivated to accomplish the tasks He’s given me.  


Soaking in the Truth

Scripture to encourage you:

  • Whatever work you do, put yourself into it, as those who are serving not merely other people, but the Lord.  Remember that as your reward, you will receive the inheritance from the Lord. (Colossians 3:23-24a, CJB)
  • In their hearts humans plan their course, but the Lord establishes their steps. (Proverbs 16:9, NIV)
  • Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails. (Proverbs 19:21, NIV)
  • May he give you the desire of your heart and make all your plans succeed. (Psalm 20:4)

Music to inspire you:

Readings and Resources to come alongside of you:

Related Posts on Texting The Truth:

Living Out the Truth

Ideas to try:

  • I had a mentor mom at MOPS who said she timed herself doing the mundane tasks of motherhood.  She said that knowing it would take her 4 minutes to completely unload the dishwasher helped her realize that it wasn’t all that bad of a chore.  It motivated her to get the task done. I haven’t tried it, but I think it’s something I could do to help me with that sense of overwhelm that tries to creep in.
  • To help motivate my kids last summer, instead of a Lego set, they picked a family outing, so everyone won when one of them reached the goal.  It was a way to encourage them to cheer each other on. We still talk about how that this summer event though the reward is more individualized this summer.
  • A few more details about our Bible study if you want to try it: Monday we talk about the commandment’s meaning and introduce a memory verse that is related to the commandment.  Tuesday we tell a story about where people in the Bible were living out that commandment well. Wednesday we show a story from the Bible or from our own life where we didn’t live that out well.  Thursday we talk about how God forgives us when we fail at that commandment. And Friday we see if we have the memory verse down pat. And earn a sticker if we do!
  • We also set individual goals for each of our children.  (Learn to bathroom independence, learn to ride a two-wheel bike, learn to tie a show, etc.)  The reward for reaching this goal is a date with Mommy or Daddy. We have two goals each so each of us gets to go on a date with all the children.

Treasured Products we love:

{These suggestions are ideas from novice moms. Sometimes our life situations need more.

In that case, seeking out professional help is the right call.}



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