Behind every great success is great motivation.

What’s your motivator?

An external reward or a pure JOY of doing?

The final moments of the BRAVO Youth Orchestra Winter term had finally come. All week the kids were wound up and excited. I would have imagined that the final moments would be a fight to keep attention and good behavior. What I experienced blew me away.

I began to lead Mozart’s Symphony #25, and could feel the full commitment from each of the 24 third- and fourth-graders as they dove into the driving rhythms and melodies with everything they had. Gone was their restlessness, and gone was our need to discipline. We were all playing for the JOY of it. It was awesome, and they felt it.

You have experienced this JOY.

Not the jump-up-and-down joy, or the mood or emotion.

Not the joy or bliss of a chocolate mousse or getting what you want.

The high-octane JOY from an upward current of energy.

The joy of being in the flow, where time doesn’t matter anymore. All that exists is what you are doing.

When your attention is focused with effortless pleasure.

When even tasks of work, practicing, or homework are filled with confidence and fulfillment.

Why can’t we always live in that flow?

The truth is, we can. All the great artists and geniuses are known for their single-minded focus that enabled them to do great things. They were highly motivated. But by what? Desire? Money? Fame? Power?

Motivational rewards are great for getting energy moving, but they don’t lead to greatness. Incentive plans do not work.

But to expect yourself to always be motivated without reward is not so much fun.

Let me be perfectly honest: I am not able to feel JOY every second of the day (YET!). Some days are incredibly difficult to get out of bed, meditate, feed my family, get my child off to school on time, commute to work and meet deadlines.

The less motivation I bring to these tasks, the harder they are.

But here is my secret:

I use motivational rewards to get me going, but switch over to JOY as soon as possible.

I know that once I feel the PLEASURE in what I’m doing, the easier it becomes. JOY is a large muscle, compared to the smaller muscles of rewards and dry self-discipline.

JOY gets things done.

So how do we get to JOY as quickly as possible?

1. Use your will-power to energize your body. Get yourself moving. This is a great time for self-discipline. Use rewards when necessary.

2. Once you get moving, engage the your power of perception. Feel for the first stirrings of upward energy.

3. Allow yourself to feel the ensuing enjoyment. Smile. Allow that JOY to begin to resonate within your body, your soul, your face, your eyes, your voice.

4. Don’t limit the JOY to a specific outcome. Keep flowing with that inner presence even in the midst of mistakes and failures.

This is what the great artists and geniuses have behind their great work: a tangible JOY that moves them through the challenges and roadblocks that always arise. But never for a second believe that they have something that you do not. JOY is our essential nature. JOY is within the great artists and geniuses just as much as it is within the young children I teach. It is ours to reclaim.

Your biggest motivational tool is pleasure. And the highest-octane pleasure is JOY.

JOY—the ultimate motivator
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