Motivation: autonomy

The first motivating factor is autonomy. Autonomy is different from independence. We are not talking about the go it alone, rugged individual- ism of the American cowboy. Instead, it means acting with choice. We as humans, when we enter the world, we are wired to be active and engaged, not passive and inert.  One of the things I thought about when I was teaching was how to get my students engaged, how to make them autonomous, how to put them in charge of their own learning. Not a simple task with any- one, but especially difficult with teenagers. One of the keys of autonomy is a positive attitude.

To be totally honest with you, it is something that I continually challenge myself to be. When you are pessimistic, that is a recipe for low levels of wellbeing. In most professions, according to Mar- tin Seligman, the guru of positivity, having a negative attitude in your job is a recipe for failure. There is, he says, one glaring exception: pessimists do better at law.  The attitude that makes you less happy as a human being actually makes you more effective as a lawyer. Go figure. Over the past summer, a key member of our parish team resigned. We sent out notice that we were looking for someone to replace her, but there were several things working against us.

First, it was summer, most of the people who would have been seeking her position had already committed to their jobs.

Second, with All Things New, I think people were somewhat hesitant to commit themselves anywhere, at least until things got settled. It was a rough time.

I had a situation which was similar in the past and I learned to try to make do as best as I could. The one thing that I could not afford was negativity. Actually negativity is never really needed at any time. But this year, as everything around swirls in a bit of chaos, it is especially important to keep a positive and upbeat attitude.

This may seem a bit forced at times, but it is vital to keep moving and keep moving forward.

Having been thrown into the cauldron of administration, I found that the key to accomplish a healthy environment is rather simple. Hire motivated people and let them do their job.

One of the joys of being here at Holy is that I am convinced that the people who surround me are motivated. Without that intrinsic motivation, without that understanding that you are, in effect, your own boss, life becomes one long drudge.

Back in 1999, when Pope John Paul II came to St. Louis, I was asked to be part of a team that was in charge of what was called THE PRE-EVENT.

We were the warm up act for the Papal Mass. Because the Pope was not directly involved in our part of the day, we were given free rein to do what we wanted to do without any episcopal oversight. When we met, I was given the task to script a video about the history of the Archdio- cese of St. Louis, five to seven minutes long. (That is longer than you think, BTW.) When I fin- ished writing, I gave my script to a production crew who then asked me to narrate the video. It was terrifying. It was daunting. It was the hard- est thing I had ever done.

Now think about this for a second, even though this video would be shown at the Dome (and pos- sibly across the world…), I really did not think that anyone would be paying that much attention because it was scheduled to be aired at 6:30 in the morning. Nonetheless, I worked harder on those seven minutes that any other seven minutes of my entire life. Why?  First, it was all on me, I had total control. Second, it was fun, interesting. Third, I knew that I would still be talking about doing that video decades after the event was over. And I am. I was acting with choice. I was living out an autonomous life.

Oh, and how much money did I make? Nothing. Go figure.

Next week: competence.

Father Kevin

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