How many of us can say that school has ruined something you love? Maybe bones and human anatomy were so fascinating to you as a little kid, but now that you have to memorize all 206 bones and their corresponding muscles, it’s suddenly a little less interesting. Maybe you’re a morning person and getting up to sit outside with a warm cup of coffee was your thing, but now you can barely make it to your 9:45 class because you were up so late doing homework the night before.
Academia has ruined countless once enjoyable activities for myself and my peers. This issue came to my attention the other day in my personality psychology class. We were talking about intrinsic versus extrinsic motivation.
Intrinsic motivation is when you are motivated to do something because you love to do it or enjoy doing it and there are no outside rewards or encouragements to do whatever activity you’re interested in. On the other hand, extrinsic motivation is when something other than your own enjoyment drives you to complete the task such as a good grade or completion points or anything in exchange for your efforts in doing the task.
Having this conversation made me think about regular tasks that I do in my life that have switched from being something I am intrinsically motivated to do, to something I’m extrinsically motivated to do. The first thing that came to mind is reading.
I used to love to read. In middle school and late elementary school I devoured books to the point where the librarians and I were on a first name basis. I read because it allowed me to check out for a few hours and to indulge myself in someone else’s problems. You could say I was rather non-confrontational.
Now, as a junior English major, on any given night I could have anywhere from 50-150 pages of reading to do. That’s a lot. What used to be something I would do to help me relax, is now the source of my stress. What used to be something I loved to do, is now something I have to do because of school and because I need the good grades. Even when I do have free time when I could read, the thought of doing more reading is so ludicrous that it never happens and I normally just opt to take a nap instead. How sad is that?
Don’t get me wrong, I really do love school. The routine and constant flow of new information is exciting and keeps me on my toes, but dang, there’s got to be a way we can get back those things that we love.
Academia obviously isn’t going to change just because I now can’t read for fun, but maybe we all just need a reminder of why we loved the things we loved. Changing the source of our motivation is a lot of effort and will take time, but setting your alarm 15 minutes earlier so you can have that morning cup of coffee on the porch isn’t.
Let’s get back into our old healthy habits. Returning to some of your long lost loved activities can be a great form of self care and the perfect peaceful moment in a hectic day. So, watch that documentary about ancient Egypt, finish that canvas that’s been collecting dust in your closet and pick up a book and read without having to annotate.