Living Life on a Want to, Like to, Love to, Choose to.

By: Glenda G. Lofton, Ph.D.

Jul 15, 2019

Why do you do the things you do?  Why do you go to work each day? What motivates you to do better?  In the late 1980’s, thanks to the foresight of Mary Edwards, Director of SPUR, Louisiana’s highly successful school improvement project, I was blessed to be a part of an “Investment in Excellence” seminar developed and taught by the memorable and innovative Lou Tice (1935-2012). The seminars, conducted worldwide and with school districts throughout Louisiana, challenged individuals to “unleash their potential to achieve ultimate success, to be a peak performer, and to be a happier person with a more balanced life.”  In one of the sessions, Lou pointed out that there are two kinds of motivation—restrictive motivation which is imposed by others from the outside, and constructive motivation which comes from within.   

I literally had learned about restrictive motivation when I was only three years old.  I had a favorite pink wool Sunday dress that my mother had made for me.  While dressing to play on one of the hottest days in the middle of August, I found the dress at the back of my closet and decided I had to wear it.  After several unsuccessful attempts at explaining to me that it was not Sunday, and it was not winter, my dad “motivated me,” much to my mother’s dismay, to give up the dress.  The next time my dad told me to do something, I knew I had to…or else.  In observing the behavior of some children today, I sometimes think we need a little more motivation by threats and fear of punishment.  

While restrictive motivation may be appropriate for young children who have not yet learned to make rational choices, in the work place and in life, living on a “have to basis – I don’t really want to do this but I have to” – results in resentment, inflexibility, and routine work performance.  But even more important, it robs us of the joy that comes from being accountable for our own actions, from exercising the free will that God has given each of us, from determining what’s good enough for us personally and professionally, and then choosing to be better.  

It has been jokingly said that we don’t have to do anything but die and pay taxes.  In truth, we don’t have to pay taxes, but if we don’t, we must be willing to accept the consequences.  If the “have to’s” have become a habitual way of thinking and living for you, Lou Tice suggested living life on a “want to, like to, love to, choose to basis.” Begin by saying to yourself, “I don’t have to do anything.  I do this because I choose to, because I want good things to happen for me, my family, my coworkers, my clients, and my company.”  

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