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Wednesday, July 6,2022

Motivation!! How to Attain it, Sustain it, Utilize it

By Jonna Shutowick. M.S. Ed.  
Motivation: How do you attain it? Sustain it? How do you find what makes you tick?

In “The Seven Story Mountain,” Thomas Merton outlines his personal journey addressing these very questions. Merton contemplates his frustration that his chosen career path did not line up with his inner knowing about what truly motivated him. He had an Ivy League education and was well on his way to a “respectable” career, but what he really wanted to do was quit his day job and live in a quiet mountain town and become a monk.

Rather than trust his own instinct, Merton convinced himself that he must be wrong and continued to work as an English professor. He milled about writing novels and teaching, convinced that his true desire to become a monk could not be good enough. He became sick and depressed, because what truly motivated him was being ignored.

Did you ever feel the same?

The similarities between Merton’s story and Dante’s “Divine Comedy,” which can be traced further back to Greek mythology, remind us that this is a timeless human question: What is my purpose? I would argue (with full awareness that this is not a unique thought) that when we experience those feelings of “being in the zone,” or time standing still or flying by as we are engaged in a singular activity, that we have tapped into our purpose. And those moments are motivating!

Yet people who spend their lives mostly doing the very things that motivate them and make them tick consider themselves “blessed” or “lucky” to be able to do what they love to do. Why is this?

This got me thinking about the word vocation, and the difference between a vocation and a job. A vocation is something we feel called to do. A job, on the other hand, is an occupation. It occupies our time, keeping us busy with work that pays our bills, but is not what we would wish as our true vocation.

Side thought: Do we say vacation because it is the negative of vocation (the ‘a’ making it so, as it does in prefix form: atypical, apolitical, atheist... vAcation)?

Conclusion from side thought: When we take a vAcation from our occupation, we can spend time vOcationing! (Someone call the Oxford people!)

Back to the business at hand. Motivation. Attaining it, sustaining it, and utilizing it. I posit the first two have been addressed. Now, utilizing it. This can be tough, and maybe a bit controversial, depending on what makes us, versus what makes others, tick. We can all agree that we are motivated by what makes us happy. But when one person’s happiness conflicts with another’s right to life, liberty and pursuit of their own happiness, we can have problems.

So maybe we should stick to utilizing our motivation to make ourselves happy. If people are happy, they are less likely to be drawn into negativity, and more likely to share their joy by going through life less stressed, smiling, and with a propensity for patience and kindness. If we can utilize our motivation to keep us happy and full of love, we can keep making the world a better place.

Jonna Shutowick, M.S. Ed. is a high school history teacher for the Palm Beach County school district. She has created a character named Rosey Shades TM, whose philosophy teaches students about the importance of choosing optimism over pessimism by asking, “What color are the clouds in your world?”


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