Suggestions, a Vocabulary Lesson in Motivation

I’m not a big believer in fate, the kind that dictates everything we do is pre-destined, but I like to believe that there are directional suggestions if we pay attention. These suggestions aren’t meant to be road signs. They’re more like Easter eggs in video games, cool bonuses that deepen the experience of living.

Lately, I’ve noticed a few of these suggestions coming in the form of really cool Greek words.

The first one I came across while researching for a book I’m working on. Like just about every other American, I’ve been struggling with the divisiveness in our country since the presidential elections. And as an educator, it is my duty to help promote a path to community and understanding, so I asked what the best way to do this might be. Here’s the suggestion I received in reply:

Metanoia: Meta is a prefix that means self-reflecting. Noein, or in this case, ‘noia’ means to have mental perception. So the definition is the journey of changing one’s mind, heart, self, or way of life.

Of course! The best way to change our situation is to change ourselves. My mom used to tell me that, although I couldn’t change the circumstances, I could change how I responded to them. I think we can take that a step farther and say that by changing our reaction, we set in motion a way to change the circumstances.

The take away is, if we desire to change something, we must first look to ourselves. I don’t mean protesting or arguing with someone else to change their mind, although those can be noble efforts. Nor am I saying we have to agree with or accept another’s point of view.  I’m talking about changing the internal dialogue so that we come to a situation with an awareness of the Other. Only then can the path toward reconciliation begin.

Lately, I’ve been doing a lot of work with the idea of the soul. Ancient Greek society believed the soul to be more of an empty vessel that the gods and other wonderful beings would fill up with wisdom, joy, or power. They believed that the gods influenced all of humanity’s actions, good and bad.

A few weeks ago, a colleague lent me Elizabeth Gilbert’s book, Big Magic. I finally got around to reading some of it, and an old story I once heard her speak of in a Ted Talk came up. Along with the second suggestion:

Eudaimon: Eu means well, and daimon is a spirit. It is a derivative of the Greek word demon, which means “replete with knowledge.” This is not to be confused with the modern Christian use of the word demon, which is an evil spirit.

Essentially, this word means “Well-daemoned.” Lucky Odysseus was given this privilege when Athena blessed him with strength and beauty. But how is this relevant now?

Ms. Gilbert has a theory about ideas, and I think she’s on to something. She says ideas are much like those external geniuses, the ones that supplied the artists of antiquity with their material. They exist outside of us and come around when they want to be expressed. They find us and politely ask if we would be willing to work on their behalf.

We’ve all had those what I call shower fairies show up with a fantastic plan. Or a sleep fairy drops off a blockbuster idea right before you drift off… I once knew someone who swore he had a driving fairy. He would get amazing inspiration and would have to pull over to write it down. It took him 45 minutes to go 20 miles, but he said it was worth it. He didn’t want one of those ideas to slip away.

Have you ever had an idea tucked away for a long time only to see it come to fruition in someone else’s work? No one stole it from you. The idea just got tired of waiting and moved on to the next receptive person. Ms. Gilbert has a lovely story in her book of her own experience with this phenomena.

Personally, I like the idea of, well, ideas having a life of their own. It takes some of the responsibility off of my shoulders and makes the creative process more special. I take on the ones I can, and someone else will pick up the slack.

Talk about community building.

Okay. The last word isn’t Greek, but it is derived from a Latin root, which is also cool. It should also be familiar.

I am a full time grad school student, parent of a special needs child and a teen (which is special in its own right), teacher of five classes per semester, and caretaker of my grandpa. I also find time to write creatively in the form of novels, short stories, and poetry. People ask me all the time how I manage to fit all that in to my schedule and still find time to sleep.

I have no idea, honestly. But, while contemplating an answer, I came across a quote about:

Passion: Most people regard this word as strong pull of emotion, a euphoric feeling that leads to a fulfilling experience. Its root, however, is “pati,” which also provides the English language with the word patience.

Pati means “to suffer.”

Phil Tippet, a successful special effects artist and movie director, once said that “Passion has little to do with euphoria and everything to do with patience. It is not about feeling good, it is about endurance.”

Endurance is my best friend. And that’s how I do it.

So what did I take away from these suggestions? These three words all have to do with sustaining the creative process. Inspiration is great, but it is only through discipline and practice and self-reflection that will lead to success.

I’d love to hear about some of the suggestions you come across. Feel free to leave them in the comments.



Teacher, writer, person. Mostly caffeine and sarcasm.

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