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getting motivated for another semester…

August 26, 2012

As I was making my way up the hill today, I was thinking about motivation. What motivates me to spend a gorgeous Sunday afternoon planning psychology lab experiments? What motivated me to renovate my basement on my own this summer (and fall. and winter) given my own paltry building skills? How can I better motivate my students to be more active participants in their learning? I had already decided to address the topic of motivation earlier in the semester in my Introduction to Psychology classes this semester, because I think a better understanding of the drives behind what we do will allow the students to better situate later information about social influences, the brain, development, cognition, etc.

why am I doing this?

Anyhow, as I was piecing together resources on the topic for my students, I came across an article titled “Tough Track: How—and why—an average guy became an ultramarathoner”. I don’t think there is anything terribly profound in the article about motivation, but it did get me thinking about my own running and how some of the motivations I have “cultivated” in my running carry over into my more work-a-day life. As I have written other places here, I run for a number of reasons. Sometimes when I am tired, or it is dark and raining, or other activities consume my time, I consciously think about why I run. The satisfaction I gain from simply moving through the world at my own pace. The increased strength and fitness I feel (at least when I am not exhausted from running). How I have incorporated “runner” and all that it entails into my self-concept. Endorphins. When I find myself in a tough spot at work – I am “not-quite-as-interested-in-the-topic-at-hand” as I could be, I’m worried about the potential of rejection of a paper I am writing, or it just seems like so much work to get a line of research off the ground – I think about the motivations that get me out the door on a run. It helps me re-engage at the office and work through the things I have to do. I mention that I do this consciously – however, I do think there are many times that this “adoption” of motivation occurs outside of my awareness as well. The fact that I am motivated to run, and this motivation has been a consistent aspect of my life in the past decade, makes a difference for how I deal with initiating behavior in all situations. Of course, that idea opens up a whole new crop of questions and ideas that I can’t address right now because I need to get back to those lab preparations…

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