By Malkie Gordon Hirsch

Anyone who owns a Peloton knows who Robin Arzón is. But some might not adequately take in her soulful words of wisdom while breathless, sweating, and staring at the TV screen attached to the spin bike.

The beautiful woman on the other side of the screen manages to sound like Confucius but looks more like Confucius’s personal trainer (assuming he was into cardio) while she’s working as hard as you are, speaking all the while.

A lawyer by trade who became a triathlete makes her no regular gym rat, no, ma’am. Her gift of balancing the best of both worlds (being a motivational speaker and top-rate spin instructor simultaneously) makes me wonder where she holds the oxygen in her body that I can’t seem to get enough of as I struggle to keep up with her, just keeping myself on stride as I keep reminding myself to breathe through the temporary discomfort of the class.

Because discomfort breeds change. And if you’re not changing, are you growing? And if you remain stagnant, will you discover your greater purpose in life?

Are you improving and striving for better? In tonight’s class, she discussed the difference between motivation and purpose. About how while motivation is an outward stimulus, purpose is an inner stimulus. Motivation causes you to want to strive for better, healthier, more enlightened, and more balanced.

The bike is the tool to get you there. The desire to use the bike as a catalyst for those things is your outer stimulus. And I don’t know about you, but I’ve got a laundry list of things I want to do on the daily that I don’t get to.

I do feel motivated to do better but sometimes it doesn’t result in action. Because sometimes although the bike is motivating me to get healthier, the pizza coming out of the oven motivates me to eat it.

Outer stimulus is a great tool but presents you with a choice, and it’s up to you to make the right one for you. Inner stimulus, though, is a completely different thing. It’s that fire within you, stronger than motivation, stronger than outside influences. It is permanence and it lives inside of you, waiting to be recognized and utilized.

It can look like so many things—it can be the desire to break bad habits or to change physically, emotionally, or spiritually.

It can look like that innate need to feel better, and rather than using an outside stimulus to get there, you instead look within yourself to gain that insight and clarity needed to make the changes you’re looking for.

I always try incorporating her messages into my life and it’s on a broader scale than just the desire to improve my physical self.

Because messages can take on more than just one meaning. A message has the ability to change from simply being an outside motivation to an inner purpose. Motivation waxes and wanes, but purpose is steady and stable.

External factors aren’t always palpable, but inner truth is always accessible. One of the explanations of the original sin was that before the serpent interfered, there was a natural, innate human sense of morality, with an external distraction to sin. After eating from the Tree of Knowledge they switched places: the temptation to sin became internal and natural, while moral value now felt like an externally imposed “should.”

It became the obligation of human effort to change it back. To externalize temptation and internalize goodness, and make it second nature again. Or first. We do this by behavioral training and repetition, and by doing the inner work—reading, learning, meditation, processing knowledge in a way that gets integrated into our consciousness and actualized into our actions. What we think about, talk about, and practice, we become.

Helping people changed from being an abstract motivational force to being a visceral life’s purpose for me. It’s no longer something I believe I should do, but something I need to do, for myself as much as for others.

It didn’t start out this way because for a while I didn’t feel like I could be someone who could help others with what I had going on in my personal life. But like I’ve discussed in previous writings, I realized that my biggest supposed weakness was actually, ultimately, my greatest strength.

It changed from what most people experience as a motivational force in their lives into a deep-seated purpose to be there for women going through loss like I did.

It might have been forced upon my life at one point, when I wanted nothing to do with it, when I would’ve done anything to be rid of the pain that was placed inside of me, threatening to take over. We don’t always get to choose our purpose.

It might have been categorized as grief that was budding inside, branching out, and covering my life with its growth, but there was something else planted inside—this little flicker of purpose, a life force I didn’t understand the advantages of in the beginning of this journey.

Within the saddest and scariest time of my life was born the opportunity to create a new life’s purpose for me. It’s not something I feel motivated by; it’s something that imbedded itself into the fabric of my life, something I know better than most things at this point.

I don’t feel triggered when visiting a family whose same fate befell ours. If anything, I feel that shining light of purpose within me, a type of knowledge.

I’m able to feel instead of just know. I walk confidently to the front of the room, sit down, and start the important work of letting my new friends know that we’re in this together. I stand both humbly and proudly, bearing witness to the most important information they need to hear: I’m still here, living and giving, and that offers hope and possibility for them, too.

Like that multifaceted Latina woman who stares at you from the other side of a screen telling you that you can do the things you never imagined you were capable of, I can do the same.

It might be a different subject matter but it’s the same theme—believe in your ability to transcend the pain, to rise again, to feel different than the way society thinks you should.

Be reflective and appreciate what you had instead of what was lost. Understand that, sometimes, your greatest blessings can emerge from the saddest depths in life. Believe in a human’s capacity to change the way they feel simply by changing their minds. Take life’s struggles on as more than just an outward stimulus motivating you to survive. Instead, make it your purpose, your inner drive. 

Malkie Gordon Hirsch is a native of the Five Towns community, a mom of 5, a writer, a social media influencer, veteran real estate agent, and runs a patisserie in Woodmere.

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