A fascinating blog post was doing the rounds last week titled “Shut Up! Announcing your plans makes you less motivated to accomplish them” by Derek Sivers (whose entire blog makes for great reading!). The gist of it was this:
Tests done since 1933 show that people who talk about their intentions are less likely to make them happen.
Announcing your plans to others satisfies your self-identity just enough that you’re less motivated to do the hard work needed.
It seems to fit with my own experience, that the more I talk about my Bible-teaching computer game the more it becomes a “social reality” sometimes to the detriment of actually making progress on the project.
What I found interesting, however, was the tacit assumption throughout that the essence of motivation is essentially pride. If talking about our plans with others satisfies our pride sufficiently, why bother going to all the trouble of actually implementing them? The whole notion of “Bible-teaching computer games” is so other-worldly to the average person’s experience that I can convey the idea of Andy Geers the programming wizard without needing to demonstrate the least iota of actual talent, merely through so much hot air.
The conclusion of the blog post was this:
If you do tell a friend, make sure not to say it as a satisfaction (“I’ve joined a gym and bought running shoes. I’m going to do it!”), but as dissatisfaction (“I want to lose 20 pounds, so kick my ass if I don’t, OK?”)
As sound as such advice may be, may I suggest that it settles too easily for treating the problem rather than actually curing it? It concedes the inevitability of human pride and refocuses it into a form of motivation that actually works (now your reputation is bound up in actually succeeding, meaning you don’t get the pay off if you fail). Yet being content with our pride is a dangerous place to be – a topic the Bible has much to say about – that is likely to lead us towards our eventual ruin. I wonder if a better approach is to renounce our pride and turn away from self-glorification as a motivation, seeking the glory of Jesus Christ in sacrificial service of others instead. I suspect it might require a different kind of plan though: for most of us, it’s hard to see how “losing 20 pounds” can be a Christ-glorifying goal in its own right (though if our bodies are seriously struggling under the strain of an unhealthy lifestyle, we may well find ourselves with more energy to serve Christ and others if we were to commit to losing 20 pounds!) But maybe we could follow the example of a friend of mine, whose first instinct is always to ask “who could I do this with?” If you’re a Christian, why not find somebody who’s new at church and needs somebody to take them under their wing, then agree to play squash together once a week? The motivation then becomes serving this other person in the name of Christ, and losing weight comes as a handy side-effect!
A man’s pride brings him low,
but a man of lowly spirit gains honor.