What motivates you?

Chilly Cape May Warbler during Biggest Week in American Birding - Magee Marsh - May 2013     photo by Greg Miller

Chilly Cape May Warbler during Biggest Week in American Birding – Magee Marsh – May 2013 photo by Greg Miller

When it comes to motivation there are many factors.  But which factors are the ones that motivate us to action?  Many things inspire us and make us feel good or positive but often we just talk about those things and not much happens.

So how does a dream become a reality?  How do you make anything happen?  How does anything get done?  Wanna achieve something great?  What are you doing today that counts?  Great questions.

Wanna know one of the most serious motivations that got me to actually do a Big Year?  Oh, sure I had already daydreamed about a big year–trying to see as many birds as I could in one calendar year.  For me there were several factors that added up to the point where I heard a story–a story that helped put me over the edge.  I will share it here.

In the late 1990s I remember talking to my cousin and birding friend, Kent Miller.  He related a story about people he knew.  I may not get the details quite right, but I hope you do not miss the point.  Because it is the meaning of the story that caught my heart and helped motivate me to action.

Kent told me the story of an older married couple.  They were birders.  They loved to go birding together.  But they took no big birding trips anywhere.  Instead they saved up for a glorious retirement together.  They dreamed of traveling to many places and birding together when they had the time during retirement.  And they saved their money.  They worked hard for many years and stored their money for a grand retirement of years birding together.  It is a great dream!

Then retirement finally came!  They started taking those birding trips together.  The trips they’d dreamed all their lives of doing.  And the birding was fun, of course.  But it came no where close to meeting their expectations.  Declining health was one of those unanticipated things.  They found they couldn’t hear the birds as well as they had hoped.  And their eyes were not as sharp.  And they just could not get around as easily as they had expected.  To top it all off, their money did not go as far as they had imagined.  In short, the very life they had dreamed of for so many years was a disappointment.

That story hit me with such great clarity.  Enjoy what you have while you can!  Oh, I am not saying you should not save up for retirement–because you should!  What I am saying is that we should acknowledge that we are not invincible.  We don’t know what tomorrow holds.  We cannot predict the future.  Sure you should save up for retirement.  It will take a lot of money when you get there–if you get there.  Balance what you save with learning to enjoy what you have right now.

Live your life with no regrets.  When you get to the end of your life and you look back on the life you lived, do you wish you would have done this or that?  I dare say one of those things you probably would not say is “I wish I would have spent more time at the office”.

Can you see with your eyes?  Be thankful.  Can you hear with your ears?  Be glad for that.  Can you walk with your legs and feet.  Be happy.  There are those that don’t have what you have.  Focus more on what you have now than the things you do not have.  Every day I am happy to wake up and have another day to live.

Today I will be happy to see and hear whatever birds are near me.  It truly is one of the most simple joys of life.

The birds are not worried about the stock market.  They don’t read the newspapers.  They are not laden with the cares that we take upon ourselves.  I heard a Northern Cardinal sing this morning.  And I was inside.  The windows and door were closed.  It was loud.  And it made me happy.  If I didn’t know any better, I’d say Mr. Cardinal just came over to Greg’s house and sang a song to make him happy, too!

Are you feeling ordinary?  You don’t feel important?  Is today boring to you?  You are in a good place.  Everyone faces their own ordinary, unimportant feelings.

Know this: Life is not made up of super humans running around in capes and doing super human deeds.  It is about ordinary people doing extraordinary things with their lives.