You learn hundreds of things for hundreds of reasons. Still, the science didn’t catch up. It is usual for people who learn about other folks’ motivation to point to something as the “decisive factor.” For learners, there are probably many ideas which motivate them to learn. Here are six of them – some working in isolation, many of them motivating you in teams 🙂
1. and 2. Love and Hate
Language learners know the first one well: you meet a special person, and decide to learn their language just to share even more life with them. Or you fall in love with the whole country at once – and decide to learn its history, customs, culture and traditions just to one day be able to live abroad and feel like a local.
The second player in this pack doesn’t get the same kind of coverage. But it’s there nonetheless. Imagine a kid who spends his nights learning as much as he can, just so he can change schools and escape the bullying in his current class. Or a committed student who obsesses over history, language and economics of a country which oppresses his people – just to “know his enemy.” Just because these motivations are unpopular, doesn’t mean they don’t exist – you would do well to recognize them within you and around you.
3. and 4. Gain and Loss
In this case, both motivators should be quite familiar. When you are likely to gain or profit, you will be prepared to make sacrifices – you will be ready to do more. This applies to financial gains (passing an official exam to get promoted, finishing a course to be able to charge your clients more) but also to gaining things which are harder to measure – like practising a new skill in the sport you love, to gain more respect in your team.
Loss is also a powerful force and can make you do things you wouldn’t consider otherwise. The money problems are a well-known topic here: losing your job may mean that you learn a new trade to find work elsewhere. Losing your position in the market can mean more training, and more skills to remain the best. But as with gaining, sometimes you find yourself learning new things because you lost something that doesn’t come with a price tag. I heard a story, recently, of a novelist who realized she lost the ability to speak her mother tongue when she was five. This did not affect her financially, but the sense of loss can be a motivating thing then.
5. and 6. Buzz and Calm
This time we’re taking a more relaxed view. These are rarely “crucial” skills and “essential” emotions. But you cannot deny that there are some things which, when learned or mastered, can make you feel more energized – or calmer.
You can get the buzz out of knowing that your next German book won’t have to be translated – or that your next 5K run will be much more painless – or that your job is about to get more exciting because of your new training.
You can feel the calm as your chess endgame finally begins to make sense (even the parts where you get smashed now seem clearer). Or when spreadsheets do what you ask them to do, and don’t spill your data randomly. Or when your garden begins to smell and look better.
It’s great to feel both at once – but to start with, try figuring out which one you’re after for each thing you learn.
Any emotions you’d like to add to the list? Let me know on Facebook or Twitter 🙂
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