Motivation, Defined
I stumbled across an interesting entry over on Edwahoo's blog that brought up an issue worth consideration. Here I offer only further thought and reflection, no solutions.

The American Heritage Dictionary's definition of motivation is essentially worthless. Who can make anything out of this:

a. The act or process of motivating.
b. The state of being motivated.
2. Something that motivates; an inducement or incentive.

I strongly dislike definitions which presuppose an understanding of the word you are looking up.

Obviously, there is a root idea of motion. So my definition, which is as good as anything I could find, shall be: that which sets something in motion, or compels to action.

I bring this up because motivation is such a tremendous issue in society today. Motivational speakers make big bucks speaking in business, schools, clubs and even homeschool groups. Many of the blogs I read mention motivation (or lack thereof) as a significant factor in their home education. Parents seem to be craving knowledge on how to motivate their children to do just about anything. In fact, a simple google search brings over 2 million websites (200,000 more than googling motivational speakers).

I would be quick to argue that it is good for students to be motivated. But I also believe great care must be taken in our attempts to motivate them. All of us should act with a driving force, a sense of purpose, a set of values which compels us to action. But from whence do you derive your motivation?

Intrinsic motivation comes from within. It is your heart, your conscious, your will acting to effect your environment. It is acting out of conviction and your personal judgment of the right course of action in a given situation. Often, however, our primary motivation is extrinsic, or external. We set rulers over ourselves. We choose our course of action based on what others will think or the rewards/punishments that we imagine will result. Ironically, we seem to serve as our own extrinsic motivator as we set up our own rewards to give ourselves when we do what we think we should be doing.

Is this because we truly are what we eat? Are we merely a product of our environment? If we are successful in altering the external environment of an individual, will we be able to truly produce a better internal character in the individual? This is the main tenet of socialism...alter the environment and we can shape the individual.

Or is it because we, too, are indoctrinated somewhat into this system?

How can we go about appealing to the internal aspects of our children? How can we inspire them so that they form convictions which they will act on, despite the environmental influences going on around them.

Our sermon on Sunday related a story that really affected me. A man was beaten nearly to death in Iraq. His aggressors demanded he renounce his faith. He refused and the beatings worsened until he was finally left for dead. Friends found him, and luckily he survived. After recovering, he praised God. Not for sparing him and aiding in his recovery, but for giving him the strength to not deny his Lord in the face of death.

He was not able to confess Christ in this moment because of any perceived benefit or fear of punishment. He was motivated by a strong conviction that compelled him to speak the truth, despite the circumstances.

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