President's Pen 12-11-17 (Autonomy, Mastery, Purpose)

As missionaries in the Texas Houston South Mission, we know our purpose is to invite others to come unto Christ, by helping them receive the restored gospel through faith in Jesus Christ and His Atonement, repentance, baptism, receiving the Gift of the Holy Ghost and enduring to the end. We do this through our constant efforts to find, teach, invite, retain, and activate God’s children; we love it, we live it, and we do it! “We begin with the End in Mind”, and see God’s children as he does. We are Disciples of Jesus Christ that teach repentance and baptize converts and the best missionaries in the world!

Dear Elders & Sisters,

I love ya!  Thanks for all you do to #LightTheWorld each day.  We not only serve for 25 days in 25 ways, we do it all day, every day, in so many ways, and I love ya for it!

When the cold weather at home forces me inside during the winter months, I put my road bike on a trainer and I spin for endless hours to try and stay fit.  It’s simply one of the most boring activities I can think of, but I know it’s good for me and I’m better for doing it.  To pass the time, and not dwell on how much time has passed, I will usually watch something that’s inspiring or gets me thinking.  General Conference talks and TedTalks are a good source of insight, as are the Discovery Channel, or something that isn’t mind numbing. 

Yesterday, the weather was too cold to go out, so I found myself spinning on the trainer again.  A topic of ongoing interest to me, not only at a personal level, but in my role as a parent, as a mission president, and as a business executive, is that of motivating people.  In other words, how do you get yourself to do something, and how can you get others to find the motivation to reach their potential and goals as well.  There are days when the natural man comes upon all of us and we struggle to find the energy, desire, and perseverance to stick to our goals and desired outcomes; we lack motivation.  At times the desire isn’t even there, and on those days duty will have to trump desire, and motivation will have to come from somewhere.

As I spun and sweat on my bike yesterday, I reviewed a talk called the “Puzzle of Motivation”. The premise was that the way we motivate and try to inspire employees is outdated and doesn’t work.  Examples of this might be rewarding people with money, trips, and or on the flip side, the threat of losing your job or being demoted.  While these motivators may work, they don’t have the staying power to keep someone engaged or even performing at the highest levels.  In fact, the data shows that sometimes these kind of motivation techniques prove to be detrimental and that people perform worse.  Having run a sales and marketing firm for many years, I agree that not all motivators are going to get people excited or doing their best.

The author of the talk reviewed what social scientists have determined to help create meaningful or intrinsic motivation.  This is the kind of motivation that gets us all to do something because it’s interesting, we like it, and because it helps us feel like we’re part of something important.  What the scientists have proposed is that to operate at high levels of motivation, we need three foundational elements.  They include: autonomy, or the urge to direct our own lives, mastery, the desire to get better and better at something that matters, and purpose, the yearning to do what we do in the service that is something larger than ourselves.  The scientists have determined that if we can live and direct our lives, continuously improve, and do something that helps us serve and bless others, our motivation in life will be more sustainable and create greater satisfaction…

As I listened to this talk, I honestly thought, these scientists should have simply called the missionaries!  We could have very easily and effectively taught them the principles of moral agency, repentance, and Christlike service.  These spiritual laws are the most empowering, motivating, and satisfying elements of the gospel principles we teach and we would have shared this information with them for free! 

For us to be fully motivated, we need to feel like we have the power within us to act and not be acted upon. The prophet Lehi taught this principle to his family because it underlies all the decisions we make.  If we feel coerced, forced, or controlled, we may act for a period of time, but we’ll dread it and go through the motions. Agency to choose and act is one of the greatest gifts, notwithstanding the recognition that agency will either liberate and free us or bring us into captivity.  As missionaries, you are free to choose (within the standards given, laws will always exist) to direct your day, choose your path, and either reap the blessings or miss out on reaching your full potential. You also bless others with the wisdom to use their agency more wisely.  Agency, however, is only one part of the equation as we work towards intrinsic motivation. 

As we all use our agency unwisely at times, falling short may demotivate us if there was no hope for improvement.  The next great principle in our path to motivation is our faith unto repentance!  To think that we can get better and better overtime is incredibly motivating.  Yesterday’s mistakes don’t have to stay with me.  While the consequences of poor choices must be experienced, I can learn from them and choose (agency) a better path.  My faith in the Savior helps me realize that I’m not stuck, doomed for failure, or have to carry feelings of guilt and shame.  As missionaries, you teach the motivating blessings of repentance and how we can all be made better through the Savior’s Atonement.  We are all motivated to get better, what we at times lack is the grit to stick with it.  This is where agency and repentance are linked.  The more I act in faith, the better I become…

Because we all have the light of Christ and divinity within us, we are blessed with the desire to serve our fellow man.  The natural man will fight this desire, but when it’s unleashed, it is liberating.  Living an inward facing life doesn’t bring happiness and peace.  When we experience how turning outward and blessing others feels, it motivates us to act (agency) and to serve more.  Service connects us to heaven, we feel, like King Benjamin stated, like we are in the service of our God.  Doing something that is bigger than ourselves is incredibly rewarding and motivating.  We all want to feel needed, appreciated, and valued, and as missionaries we help people see how serving and blessing God’s children can bring a life of purpose and meaning. 

Elders & Sisters, I have often thought I need to discover some form of liquid motivation for myself, my family, for missionaries, members and investigators.  As I pondered on this idea though, I have come to know that I already have all the elements needed to motivate myself and others to have meaningful and wonderful outcomes.  The gospel of Jesus Christ and His teachings provide all the critical elements for a successful motivational plan.  I am an agent to act, I want to become better, and I love serving God’s children.  Nothing can stop me from what I want to be and who I want to become, but me!  On the days I might have lower motivation, I can immediately go back to these principles and review in my mind that I am an agent to act, not an object to be acted upon.  I can change my current thinking, repent, and draw upon the Lord’s enabling grace as I do the best I can.  I can also remember my WHY, and go back to something that is bigger than me, the Lord’s plan for eternal happiness, redemption, and salvation. 

If you struggle with motivation, in any aspect of your life (missionary work, school, fitness, etc.) I invite you to remember and apply these principles.  No one can motivate you for the long term, but you.  The gospel, however, gives us the motivation to keep trying and progressing.  I testify that the principles of autonomy, mastery, and purpose are heaven inspired.  Who would have thought riding your bike could be so inspiring! We can all find the motivation we need to do God’s work, live better lives, and help others do the same.  Love ya!

President Hall