Why do people do what they have to do?

Isn’t the answer to this question obvious? If you have to do something, you do it. But we often put off what’s even important and what’s required. I studied this question while altering a dress: Why am I doing what I have to do? I simply could not delay, for I’m to wear the dress at our granddaughter’s wedding tomorrow. So the process is a have to, not something I can put off until later. The date of the wedding is my motivation.

I pondered this question over 30 years ago when our soon-to-be son-in-law came for dinner. Paul asked, ‟How long before we eat?” He then used that bit of time to make phone calls to a few of his church youth group. Listening to his end of the conversation, I could tell he was connecting well, asking about their day and such. After he finished his calls I complimented him. Paul confessed that he did not like making phone calls. ‟Then why are you doing it?” He said, ‟Because the teens like using their phones.” These brief phone calls helped him stay connected with the youth. I venture to add that this practice could probably not be found in his job description, but Paul used it as a means for better relationships, even when he did not like doing it. That won my appreciation for this youth leader and future family member.

Those examples give us two reasons why people do what they do. One, there is a deadline, a have to get it done kind of thing. Two, we do what other people like or what makes them feel appreciated. We could add other examples to that latter reason. Husbands and wives, moms and dads, anyone on the job will perform unpleasant acts simply because the other person likes it that way. It could be how to fold towels, which way the toilet paper rolls, being on time for dinner, finishing an assignment before the deadline. You can add a dozen more samples. That now son-in-law doesn’t like to gather and take out the trash on Thursday nights. After some years of my daughter doing that task, Paul took over. He said, ‟It must be done, life goes on.”

Number three is duty, taking care of responsibilities, a great motivator. When our children participated in sports or gym at school, uniforms were required. I had to be on top of laundry requirements and get those gym shorts washed or get the grass stains out of baseball uniforms. One morning I awoke and remembered that one child needed cookies for school. It got me out of bed early. She had volunteered her mom to bake cookies for a classroom event.

So think about that question—personally and corporately—and see what answers you develop. Why do you do what you have to do? Apply the question to those at work and even to your children. What’s behind us, pushing us to do something? What drives us to perform?

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I love the Lord. To those I love I am wife, mother, granny, great-granny. To my corner of the world I am a writer.

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