Someone famous can star
Let’s just go for it. With the imaginative title of Deeper Beginnings, I, II & III (Brad Pitt can star as me in the film trilogy), we can look at what I suggest are the three levels of and for motivation.
I was going to go into more detail on each level, but, you know, that gets a bit tedious and bogged down, and this is supposed to be about motivation.
Making a decision
‘Yes, Minister’ and ‘Yes, Prime Minister’ are two comedies that have stood the test of time, in my humble opinion. One of the main objectives of Sir Humphrey Appleby was to dissuade, delay and finally dump any decisions made by his long suffering political master.
Committees would be set up, bribery or blackmail subtly and not so subtly employed, endless talking would ensue – all to put off the government changing anything.
We have a thousand Sir Humphreys working inside and outside of us, all telling us that making a decision could be the worst decision we’ve ever made.
Mr Spock loses
And then, it gets worse: Mr Spock arrives. Ok, this is the last reference I shall make to my favourite TV series (well for a few reflections anyway). One of Star Trek’s most famous sons, Mr Spock, was all for logic, most of the time. There is nothing more infuriating than someone making a logical argument for why we should change, especially when we know they are right.
We look at the scales and know the logical thing to do is eat less and exercise more. We may even have tried it and it worked, and we felt so much better, so why not do it again? Why not, indeed?
Except there’s that part of us which rises up in rebellion, ‘Don’t tell me what to do!’
Even when it’s ourselves that’s doing the telling. It touches the stubbornness inside us, and the more others (or even ourselves) tell us that it’s the rational, logical, and…wait for it, reasonable (aaaaaggghhhhhh!) thing to do, we experience the equal and opposite reaction as the two-year-old in us emerges, NOOOOOOO!!!!
Let the insight build
I’ve found that getting back to stage one and relaxing, admitting the feelings, the frustration, the stubbornness, and just looking at the situation helps.
Without force and without judgement, just run your life before you for a while and then switch off the video. The insight builds. Gradually, it becomes overwhelming.
This is the intellectual part of motivation and initial conversion.
I’m borrowing, over-simplifying, distorting, and using for my own nefarious purposes (it’s called research) something from a Canadian philosopher/theologian by the name of Bernard Lonergan and another American, also a Jesuit, Donald Gelpi (if you suffer from insomnia get a hold of a copy of Lonergan’s work, ‘Insight’: by page 2 you’ll be sleeping like a baby).
Most of us think of intellectual work as hard graft, reading, writing, researching, arguing, and general ‘head nipping’, and we’d be right – up to a point.
The real breakthroughs happen when we have done all that, our remaining hair follicles have been torn out, and we’ve thrown the computer, book, report, whatever, out of the window (that’s why laptops and tablets are so handy because you can hold them in one hand and with the other open the window), and we give it up for a while.
Then, ‘eureka!’, it comes to you. What does? The answer to the ultimate question? Mmmmm, well, not exactly.
I love the story of the Hollywood producer/director who kept a notepad and pencil by his bed in case he had any great ideas for a film.
He woke up this night with an absolute stormer, wrote it down, and then went back to sleep. He woke up the next morning knowing he had the basics for a real money spinner.
He looked at his pad and he had written, ‘Boy meets Girl.’
Intellectual motivation for change comes when we see for ourselves the obvious. When the evidence is overwhelming and there’s nowhere to hide. The penny drops, and the plainest, simplest and most necessary step opens up before us.
We know what to do and we even know how we might do it. It doesn’t stop there.
We used to be encouraged as Catholics to have an examination of conscience every night. It was couched sometimes in quite negative terms, but the idea was good.
Play the day, a few days, the week, or more, over in our minds.
Let the film reel run a few times, without judgement, without employing the ‘shoulds’ and ‘should nots’, until we’ve become bored with it (boredom is a much-underrated force for good).
After a few goes, the obvious will emerge. Let it.
Offer the obvious to the loving God who sits down to watch the film with you without comment (and doesn’t steal your popcorn).