Wake-up and Win!

Without fail, my son Joshua will fall asleep in the car. I’m not talking about the peaceful kind of rest where you gently lean your head over to the side and wait to arrive at your destination. I mean the deep sleep where your mouth hangs open, you’ve worked up a sweat, and your body topples from side to side every time the car sways. That type of sleep should require a full day’s worth of tiring activities. Not for Joshua. All of thirty seconds past the driveway, he is completely knocked out…until last Wednesday.

This is our Spring Break week and we have a long list of fun things to do. On Tuesday night, we went to see KURIOS, a Cirque du Soleil show and stayed up until around one o’clock in the morning reliving the experience. We caught a few hours of sleep before meeting our friends at Pump It Up, the bounce house gymnasium, to burn a few hundred calories (or so it felt). Our Wednesday adventures wouldn’t be fun without comfort food, so we stopped to fill our bellies with French toast, sausage, and eggs at a local breakfast spot, then ventured off to the zoo. It took us nearly two hours to get there, though it was only four miles away, but we were determined to capitalize on half-priced Wednesday. It was a perfect-weather Wednesday and alas we headed home. Seven hours of activities had passed and the car was extremely quiet. I looked in the rear-view mirror and saw two-thirds of my clan sleeping, but Joshua sat in the middle wide-awake with his chin resting on his hands. I was totally surprised to see him awake, and his response to my inquiry was, “I have to stay up.” Why? Because he made a bet with his siblings and needed to win.

You see, while at Pump It Up, I laughed about how much energy the kids exerted and mentioned that they would all probably take a nap in the car. My older two rejected the claim but cited that Joshua would fall asleep. Apparently, the discussion escalated. They made a little wager that whoever stays awake the longest gets five dollars. Now if there is anything I know about my son Joshua, it’s that he loves earning money to afford the random snacks I won’t make or buy. Sure enough, he was the last man standing and indeed received five dollars from his siblings. Congratulations Joshua, on your impressive victory!

No doubt, the right incentives can help us achieve our goals. Joshua defied his very nature to win the bet, but I think it’s important to call attention to his source of motivation. I’m sure he looked forward to beating his siblings and appreciated my rear-view mirror pep-talk, but we were irrelevant to the candy Joshua had in mind. From that, I gather that we rely too heavily on external motivators to get the job done. Don’t get me wrong, we all need encouragement, and beating the odds is a form of victory in and of itself. But pleasing our supporters and proving our haters wrong comes with its own built-in pressures. To win for yourself is a win with no strings attached!

Connect your goals with something meaningful and be driven by the doors your success can open. Remember that money alone will not suffice; it’s only meant to fund your dreams. Pursue your education, get active, generate a budget, or fight for the cure to cancer knowing that a better job, a healthier body, financial freedom, or saved lives will offer you the quality of life that social media likes could never provide. On that note, do not allow people to serve as your source of motivation; their opinions are moving targets. The same person who cheered for you today might compete against you tomorrow.

Finally, be okay with the different phases of your conquest. There will be hills, valleys, and plateaus. Let the uphill battles build your courage to face opposition. The downward spirals will teach you how to respond to crises. Beware of the plateaus. This phase will ultimately test your endurance. Progress will seemingly come to a halt, and because you are above the valley, you’ll be tempted to quit with the belief that you maximized your potential, or from despair, because your journey is taking much longer than expected. Do as Joshua and prop your head between your hands to keep yourself up by fixating your mind on the impressive work you’ve done thus far.

You can defy nature with a little mind over matter. I bet if you remain steadfast and let God strengthen your heart, you will reach your destination before you know it. Now off to the candy store I go!

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