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Just Getting Started

Continual learning is the key to motivation.

I am one of those crazy people who has completed a doctoral dissertation. As part of my PhD in Leadership studies, I surveyed more than 200 youth workers in 41 states who had served at least a decade in the field.

Why? My goal was to determine which traits helped youth workers endure or outlast others. (The average church youth worker lasts less than three years.)

Two traits emerged from the study. The first was somewhat unsurprising: Youth workers who lasted longer ranked much higher than average in administration. They were simply more organized and therefore didn't crash and burn out like many of their counterparts.

The second trait, however, was a bit more revealing: Youth workers who lasted had a higher level of education. In fact, more than one-fourth had completed a graduate degree and about five percent had a doctoral degree. The connection between learning and lasting was unexpected, yet clear.

Why does this matter for you? Because the evidence shows (both in my study and in other accounts) that leaders who last are lifelong learners.

A story is told of an a lady in her eighties who was asked how she was doing that day.  Her answer was, "I'm just getting started!" I love that. No matter our age, we can live with an attitude that we're growing and improving, making the greatest impact on a daily basis.

If you're feeling stuck or simply don't know where to begin to increase motivation, here are three ways to start:

1. Read (listen or watch) something that inspires you.

There's an old saying that, "Readers are leaders." I've found this true in my own life and in observing the lives of other leaders. Followers talk about the weather, sports, or movies. Leaders discuss what they are learning, their vision, dreams, and ideas.

If you want to grow, you need to associate with material that helps you get there. Most people spend more time planning their vacation than on personal growth (though the two can be connected). Seek ways to grow through books, online content, podcasts, or videos that will help you make progress.

2. Connect with inspiring people.

Inspiring people inspire others. The best coaches are those who inspire their team. The best managers inspire their employees. The best teachers inspire their students. In many fields, the difference between first place and the rest is based on those who are more motivated than others.

If you want to win an NBA championship, you'll desire to play for a team that has been there and knows what it takes. If you want to start your own business, you will find encouragement from time with other entrepreneurs. Don't wait for someone to come along; seek inspiring people and connect.

3. Do inspiring things.

What inspires you? Have you always wanted to travel to exotic locations? Did you grow up wanting to parachute from a plane when you were a kid? Is your dream to hike in the Rockies? You may not be able to achieve every goal on your list, but pick something and go for it.

For me, one goal was to finish my PhD degree. I had been out of grad school for a decade and had almost given up hope. Yet I took a chance at a new opportunity, pushed hard, and endured to the finish. I'm now officially a doctor, though my kids still just know me as "Dad."

No matter your situation, inspiration does not come to those who wait. Inspiration comes to those who seek motivational input, invest time with inspiring people, and who take on inspiring experiences. As you do, maybe you'll be one of those senior adults who continues to say, "I'm just getting started."

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Just Getting Started
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