Monday, March 20, 2017

What is the Point? Why Do You Do What You Do?

I have been more focused than usual on how motivations play a deeper role into what we do and why we do it recently. I don't know if it is the books I have been reading or my subconscious asking myself why in the world did I in an effort to get away from the calculator and cubicle lifestyle of engineering decided after business school to go into finance. Seems counter-intuitive if that was my end goal. In any case, it has been on my mind a lot lately and has been the filter that I have been looking through.

In my professional life, why does my branch feel the way that it does? Why does it feel like we are continually understaffed? It is because we are. The operations department is the expense and the consultants are the money makers. If the company as a whole is to make a profit, the consultants need to do as much business as possible and minimize the local costs as possible. Why are we not more helpful to more people? Why are we so focused on efficiency? What is the purpose behind the quantity and not quality approach? It is because from where I work, I don't see the quality. I am in the quantity role. The consultants will sit down with the high dollar customers and I have to get people from the front counter to their next location, whether that is out the door, into someone's calendar or into someone's office, as quickly as possible. We lose money on so many of our clients through free services and products because it is with a very small percentage of all of our clients where we get the chance to really make any money. Since I don't contribute to keeping the lights on, outside of being my charming self, I need to be as efficient as possible while looking for new opportunities for the money makers in my office.

The same can be true for the basic ideology behind financial planning. People hear about new products or new ways to invest but the basic principles are the same. As you save in the present for future expenses, you also need to save in ways to replace the income streams you will give up once you retire. Why do people talk about real estate investing or annuities or pensions? You no longer get a regular paycheck in retirement. You have to replace that somewhere and it needs to cover your basic expenses in retirement. How does social security play in? Have you covered what you need for medicare? You are spending less time earning money and more time spending it in retirement. Have you calculated your change in lifestyle expenses into your total savings as well? Do you have flexible investments that can be more aggressive that will also cover your flexible spending/expenses? People will invest in different ways and with different things but in the end the most important thing is that we help people to plan because it isn't about their money. It is about their goals.

No one really wants to invest and no one really wants to talk with us. They don't really want us to manage their money. All they really want us to do is help manage their stress. They want us to make sure that their fears and hopes and dreams and the same things for their children have been planned for. They want us to help their kids get to college. They want us to help them have time to spend with their children and grandchildren. They want to make sure that when they lose their health that they don't also lose their house to pay for it. People really don't lose sleep over the manner in which they get their returns as long as it meets their expectations. We help people manage those expectations and plan for the unexpected. We become shortsighted when we think the behaviors are as important as the motivations.

The same can be said for religious practices - the spirit of the law is more important than the letter. That being said, how often do we question or ask what is the point behind all the things we do in the name of religious obedience? Why do we go hometeaching? Why do we visit the poor, the sick, and the widows? Why are we asked to worship together or meet together at all? Isn't religion supposed to be about the personal relationship between you and God? Two weeks ago, I was in a elder's quorum meeting where the presidency asked what we as a quorum could do to increase attendance in our meetings? What could they do to help improve sacrament meeting worship in regards to passing the sacrament? The typical answers were given: make a rotation, make a map and have people patrol the hallways and ask people to get to class. This hadn't worked in the past so why continue to try something that has proven to fail? What would possibly produce a new outcome?

People are generally logical and we are driven by our emotions. Why not use the time we had in our meeting right then to fix some of the problems instead of using conjecture or waste time developing plans. Let's change the expectations right then! If there is an opportunity to serve, the correct behavior is to step up rather than look around. Let's be leaders instead of followers! The regular elders will fill most likely fill the empty seats but let's at least have someone passing and then we can perfect the process later on by asking new people to serve. With the lack of attendance in classes, this is again a question of expectations. What is expected of our teachers? What is expected by our students?

We always want to assume that our teachers have prepared a lesson beforehand. We don't want them simply reading from the manual. We enjoy a discussion or activities or any request for us to become engaged. Our expectations however are the boring lessons that we get every Sunday or the one we could have if we read the manual by ourselves from our own homes. We go to those classes despite our high expectations because of our sense of duty. Our hope is that we will have friends or family that will attend as well because it is a well known fact that misery likes company. So why do people not go to classes? It is because we don't want to. Our friends aren't in the classes. Our friends are in the halls. They are on our phones. They are in different places. They are everywhere but in that classroom. So how do we change that? Get to know the people that aren't there before they escape out into the parking lot. Introduce yourself before church starts!

Why do we ask people to hometeach one another? Why are we asked to become a Zion people? Most of these people I wouldn't normally associate with. I wouldn't pick them out of a crowd, nevertheless, work to become their friends. However, this is exactly the point. Many people don't have a friend at church. They don't have someone that hopes or checks to see if they are there so God adds that to someone's checklist. It becomes an assignment to work to become someone's friend. It isn't the lesson that is important or that we see them once a month. It is to learn to love them and care about them. It is through these relationships that we learn patience, charity and become more like Christ. Socializing and serving others is part of the process of refining us and smoothing out our rough edges. We will never make it back to God one-by-one. Salvation is a personal process but exaltation is a family affair. Heaven isn't really heaven if we were meant to be alone.

This brings me to tonight. I went to a missionary fireside. The missionaries were asking us to sum up the principles or doctrines for missionary work. People described talking about what we do with more detail or inviting people to activities. They talked about what we should discuss when we preach the restored gospel or how we have a duty or that we have been commanded to share the gospel. Again, they understand the letter of the law or the duty. They missed the whole purpose behind the gospel and the reason we have been asked to share it, even the way we ought to share it, which can be summed up in the commandment that Christ gave to love our neighbor.

People don't care about what you know until they know that you care. You can tell them that we have the restored gospel and that we have the fullness but why did you have to tell them in the first place? Why couldn't they see it? Why couldn't they feel it? Do you even know how much they already know? Do you know what they already believe? Shouldn't you ask? The most profound and long-lasting missionary moments occurred when I began by showing that I cared before I ever tried to correct someone else's behavior. How many people are surprised when their doctor tells them they ought to start considering a diet to lose weight? Most of the time, they already know that they need to change.

If you are trying to help someone, you don't need to identify their incorrect behaviors. You have to go deeper than the surface. You need to identify or help people recognize their latent or subconscious desires or fears. What is the point? Why do we do the things that we do? What truly motivates us? If you can figure that out, you will know how the gospel can help you discover true joy and happiness. If you want to change someone's life, help them discover that connection on their own.

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