A June temple wedding followed by a reception in a beautiful back yard replete with flower beds, roses, fountains, graceful trees . . . sounds wonderful! But last June the wedding was our son’s, and the back yard the reception was going to be in was ours! Yikes! Our yard definitely didn’t fit the specifications.

When we decided that we might as well do the luncheon in our back yard as well, the pressure increased. People would be coming in our front door and seeing our living room and halls, for goodness sakes. The luncheon would be eaten outside on the tables set up for the reception, but served in our kitchen (which meant every nook and cranny of the kitchen had to be “company-read.” Family members of both bride and groom were traveling long distances to be here; for two days we would be providing the gathering place. Are we talking motivation to make both house and yard look great or what?

Doug and I both made long lists of improvements and cleaning we thought vital for the fateful day. Many of the tasks were things we had procrastinated for years. I had wanted them done before, all right; just not enough to do them! Now suddenly the motivation was there. We moved into high gear, leaving other priorities in the dust. Family and friends volunteered help here and there, and we accomplished more in a period of three months than we had in the previous three years. Along the way I laughed when I heard the saying, “God created company so the house would get clean.” It was definitely working in this case!

When the guests arrived, the Isackson residence looked better than ever before in its history. And I was so exhausted and burned out I still haven’t fully recuperated. I had definitely been running faster than I had strength and who knows when I can motivate myself to tackle any more “improvements.”

Questions About Motivation

The experience left me pondering the whole subject of motivation-especially motivation to do more important things than home improvements. So far I have lots of questions and only a few answers. I invite your responses. Here’s what I’ve been asking myself:

Why do I do the things I do and leave others undone?

How can I get myself to do the things I really want to do but haven’t been doing?

How does discouragement whittle away my motivation?

How can I increase motivation for any righteous endeavor?

How big a part does energy (or lack of it) play in motivation?

Does it take the anticipation of positive feedback from other people to get me moving?

Are there secrets to motivation that can help me motivate others to good works?

What percentage of my motivation is external:  to get pats on the back, to get approval? External motivations aren’t always bad: with the youth, the Church uses special award programs to encourage good experiences and habits, knowing that good actions usually result in good feelings that provide the motivation to continue the good behavior. And doing things for lesser reasons can move us up to doing things for better reasons. Many are motivated to go on missions by peer or parental pressure, but end up serving from their own heart-commitment.

How much of what I do is motivated by my deepest values? Am I more motivated to please God or to please myself or others? Can those motivations be inter-twined? My friend, for example, said she agrees to go home teaching with her husband when his companion can’t go to avoid being in trouble with her husband, not because she really wants to. Yet she ends up glad she went because the experience is so satisfying. We may be doing good works in a calling only because we don’t want to flake out and look bad, but soon get the Spirit and do the service for the right reasons.

Root Sources of Motivation

I looked up the word “motivation” in the topical guide; not really expecting much because I thought it was a modern, not a scriptural word. I was right that the word itself could not be found, but on page 330, under the heading “Motivations” I found many thought-provoking scriptures.

Here are my conclusions from that study along with a few scriptures that give solid direction in regard to sources of righteous motivation.

The most effective righteous motivation is feeling the Spirit-usually from prayer and hearing or reading the word of God:

Nephi said, “And the words which I have written in weakness will be made strong unto them; for it persuadeth them to do good; it maketh known unto them of their father; and it speaketh of Jesus, and persuadeth them to believe in him, and to endure to the end, which is life eternal.” (2 Nephi 33:4)

Enos said, “And the words which I had often heard my father speak concerning eternal life, and the joy of the saints, sunk deep into my heart. And my soul hungered; and I kneeled down before my Maker . . . Now, it came to pass that when I had heard these words [the voice of the Lord] I began to feel a desire for the welfare of my brethren.” (Enos 1:3-4, 9)

Motivation is affected by our desires and our thoughts

Which brings up the importance of the word “desire” in regard to motivation. It appears that our inner desires play a big part in the whole picture. And motivation to outward acts is closely linked with the thoughts we choose:

Proverbs 23:7 “As he thinketh in his heart, so is he.” [It seems to follow that as we think, we do. Those who focus their thoughts on Christ are motivated to serve Him.]

Luke 6:45 “A good man out of the good treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is evil: for of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaketh.”

The truest motivation is love

The Savior’s unwavering service and sacrifice was motivated solely by His love for us. He is the vine.  I am the branch that withers when broken off from that love.

At one needy point in my life I found my service to a difficult class of Beehive girls motivated by an unspoken agenda: “Please change for the better to make me feel successful so my need to feel good about myself will be met.”

How different from service motivated by Christ-like love where the intent is to meet the needs of those served. Moroni 7:6 warns, “except he shall do it with real intent, it profiteth him nothing.”

So how do we get this love that it might be our motivation? 1 John 4 gives so many inspiring thoughts on love, such as, “And we have known and believed the love that God hath to us. God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him . . . We love him, because he first loved us.” (1 John 4: 16, 19)  God is the source, drawing near to Him the only answer.

The sweetest motivation is gratitude

When Ed Pinegar was a first-time mission president, he struggled, prayed, and pondered to know how to motivate his missionaries. The Spirit taught him that gratitude is the fountain of action.

In the case of his missionaries, the ones who felt heart-deep gratitude for the Atonement and all the blessings of the gospel could not be restrained from sharing it. The others could not keep their motivation level up.

Gratitude spills over into all of life. Gratitude creates a loving spirit, a positive perspective, a “trust in God” way of life. Gratitude motivates appreciation to all those around us. Nothing keeps the cycle of service going better than gratitude. Nothing sweetens the sour times or lightens the dark times more than gratitude. Cultivating gratitude thoughts as a habit may be one of the most important things we can do. Alma 37:37 says, “let thy heart be full of thanks unto God.”


Motivation sometimes seems to be one of life’s most subtle secrets. While most women agree that company is the best motivation for house-cleaning, what motivates us to other good works may not be so clearly definable. But we can bank on more motivation when we seek the Spirit through prayer and the word of God, turn our thoughts away from negativity and toward Christ, and cultivate the attitude of gratitude.


Note:  Visit Darla at her new web site: https://www.darlaisackson.com/index.php

Learn more about her and what motivated her new book Trust God No Matter What.

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