An Excerpt from The Wisdom of Morrie – Living and Aging Creatively and Joyously
Last updated 9/4/2023 at 1:36pm | View PDF
By Morrie Schwartz and Son/Editor Rob Schwartz
To rise to the challenges that come in later life, older people need strong sources of motivation. High motivation gives us the energy we need to pursue our goals in the face of ageism, loss and illness. Motivation is the inspiration to act — an urge that generates effort and focused action. It is the push to try, to assert oneself, counteracting unwillingness, resistance, weariness, inertia, fear and anxiety.
Some of us have a nearly endless supply of energy accompanying our high motivation. For others, the ability to keep on keeping on is unreliable: sometimes it’s there, sometimes it isn’t. Still others of us have a hard time mustering any motivation and are in a constant struggle to find meaning in what we are doing. For motivation and its accompanying energy to be present, flowing and continuous, we must believe in the value of what we are doing.
Regardless of our usual level of motivation, we all have in us a vitality, a life energy, an urge to act, to live and to feel some passion about others and the world. It is a force that can overcome resistance to doing those things we somehow find difficult or impossible to do. But our life energy may be locked in, just waiting to be liberated. It may be pushing to get out. But it’s up to us to tap into that source of life energy within us. It’s up to us to find ways to let it out, get it out, evoke it, coax it. To age well, we need to get in touch with this life energy, become familiar with it, nourish it, and invite it in as an enduring power in pursuing our goals and dreams.
And to discover the true nature of our motivation, we need to be asking the right questions. What gets you excited to confront your tasks instead of avoiding them? What pushes you to try to understand your feelings and connect with others? What gets you to assume responsibility for a plan of action that you deem necessary or desirable, or to answer another’s request for action? What pulls you to participate in the world around you — to engage in projects, meet challenges, seize opportunities and do something with them? What moves you to create, to assert yourself, to be ambitious about yourself? In short, what stirs the fire in your belly?
Is your motivation at the beginning of a project higher than at the end of a project? Do you depend on external sources or internal sources or both to get motivated? Where does your motivation come from, and how do you increase it or ensure that it continues?
Does your motivation vary in its availability and strength? Does it depend on the project, situation, or people involved? Is it a matter of your energy waxing and waning and you need only wait for it to return?
How is your motivation affected by:
. . . the nature of the task or project?
. . . the goal envisioned?
. . . your physical, emotional, mental state at the time?
. . . the rewards for getting involved in the undertaking?
. . . the wish to please someone?
. . . the importance of the activity to you?
. . . the sanctions you will impose on yourself if you don’t engage the project you’ve undertaken or the commitment you’ve made?