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This morning in our sales meeting we were exploring the ability to keep many fronts moving at the same time; “spinning the plates” as we called it. As one of our team members that is especially good at spinning the plate was sharing some of these habits and practices, we all began to consider what makes someone good at spinning the plates?

Personally, I believe the ability comes out of our character, out of the person of who we are. But what shapes the person we are? Why are we who we are? Ultimately I believe that we are who we are because of our values and principles. When it comes down to it, our values and our principles are what guide us, motivate us, and build our character to make us who we are. The ability to multitask and keep many projects moving forward at the same time boils down to what we believe. If you are a good plate spinner it is because at some point a value or principle motivated you to build a habit/character trait that keeps plates spinning.

Consider the reverse. Imagine that you are not motivated to keep all of the projects you have moving forward. Why aren’t you motivated? Because either you don’t possess or you aren’t aware of the value. If you did see the value in it you would do it right? Not entirely. I have seen the value in doing something before and yet for some reason didn’t follow through. Let’s come back to this thought in order to consider an allegory.

There was once two fat guys. Both of them hated being fat. Both remembered a time in their lives in which they were in shape and felt good. Both hated not being able to fit into their old clothes and were dissatisfied with how they looked. Both wanted to be able to play with their children and do physical things without getting completely exhausted and having to stop. Even more than that both realized that if they didn’t change soon they would start having serious health problems. Not to mention the self-esteem and self-image problems they were both experiencing. One day, one of them woke up in the morning and something clicked. From that moment on he began dieting and exercising and got himself into shape. Whatever it took, he did. The other man remained in his condition never able to change.

Why? What was the difference between these two? They both saw the consequences. Both knew what needed to be done. Did one man have better reasons than the other? Maybe one just loved his kids more? Certainly not!? Obviously one was more motivated than the other, but why? What clicked in the first man that didn’t click in the second?

Motivation comes from desire. The desire for achievements, success, possessions, or whatever it may be. And our desire comes from what we value. When we can recognize the things we value then we can create principles and values – truths by which to live by. Those truths affect our character and habits. They affect what we say, how we act, and what we do. Our actions create outcomes and outcomes are what we desire! But still, the nagging questions remain. Often we still don’t do what we know is important to do. How do we become motivated to change? What was the difference between the two men?

I think it was because he somehow began a personal journey that got him more in touch with his desire than the other man. He began to consider his values and principles and went beyond just recognizing the value of doing something. He took those principles and values and began to let them change him. Who he was and what he valued needed to change and he saw that. He chose to let his guard down and allowed the reality of his situation to penetrate. Then he began to feed those values and principles to himself every day. He embraced his failures and accepted his shortcomings – not to become OK with where he was at, but to see clearly what needed to be done.

I believe that we must identify what our desires are, then constantly feed on those so that we are motivated to create the values and principles that will allow us to forge our habits and character into the mechanisms that will shape the daily lives we want to live. We should not become different people that who we are. But if we are honest with ourselves we will discover areas in our lives where we are not living who we are. Areas where we aren’t being who we already are. Both fat men had a healthy and fit person on the inside. But only one was able to take the personal journey to shape his habits and character into reflecting who he was already.

Finally, I will say also that there is a certain amount of pain involved. It is uncomfortable to have these considerations going on in our mind. It is painful to ask yourself these questions. Sometimes even more uncomfortable to answer them. Mark Twain said, “Do something every day that you don’t want to do; this is the golden rule for acquiring the habit of doing your duty without pain.” The more you consider and ponder your desires and motivation and arrive at the point of action the easier the process becomes!

“But pain… seems to me an insufficient reason not to embrace life. Being dead is quite painless. Pain, like time, is going to come on regardless. Question is, what glorious moments can you win from life in addition to the pain?”

– Lois McMaster Bujold