Sunday, April 26, 2015

Being Really Bothered

Motivation for learning may come in several distinct ways.  One which we've mentioned in the class last fall and then again in the discussion group this semester is intrinsic motivation stemming from curiosity about a subject.  Another, which we've only considered indirectly, is learning as social obligation, coming out of some form of gift exchange, such as between children and their parents, students and their teachers, or among students as they work on a group project.  Here we want to consider a third motivation, one more negative than the other two, but potentially more powerful, at least in some instances.

And with that we should consider two distinct ways one might be bothered.  The first is where something external has happened that the person considers undesirable.  This sort of being bothered encourages the person to be proactive and do something to change that circumstance for the better.  The other is where the person is bothered by his or her own performance.  The person hasn't lived up to standards that the person has set for himself or herself.  This sort of being bothered encourages the person to raise the person's performance level, dig in one's heels and improve by sitzfleisch.  (Definition 1 gives the literal translation of the word.  Definition 1.1 is the meaning intended here.)  You guys probably don't follow professional golf but one great example of this is Rory McIlroy's meltdown in the last round of Masters back in 2011.  He is now the #1 player in the world.  Both types of being bothered can serve as a spur to creativity.

Certain idioms in English point to issues about being really bothered.  One of those is:

Don't make a mountain out of a molehill.  

Another is:

You've got to roll with the punches.

Both of these are good pieces of advice, most of the time.  Most of the time you should not be really bothered, for if you were you'd be chronically unhappy and not somebody others want to be with.  Being bothered is the exception, but an important one.  A quote I like a lot about being really bothered follows.  Perhaps I've shared this one with you before.  I can't remember whether I have or haven't.

We need not to be let alone. We need to be really bothered once in a while. How long is it since you were really bothered? About something important, about something real?
Ray Bradbury (1920 - ), Fahrenheit 451, 1953

So a big part of the issue is: what is an acceptable trigger to then get really bothered?  You have to develop a sense of taste about it.  What makes for "something important?"  The other part of it is developing a sense of agency that you can do something about it once you get really bothered.  If you get bothered but remain inert because you can't see any way to make matters better, then it doesn't help your creativity at all.   All it does it make you depressed.  I believe there is some interplay between the two parts and as you learn about yourself you find you get bothered about things that you can influence and care less about those things you can't really affect.

At the end of our last session I mentioned that the discussion group itself is a consequence of me being bothered with how students seemingly go about their learning.  I don't know if the discussion group has been successful insofar as your processes have changed as a consequence.  But I do believe you are more aware of the issues as a result of our conversations.

Let me close by noting that I don't want to generate examples on your behalf as to when you've been bothered.  Nor do I want to tell you what to do about if, either individually or in a group with other like minded people, if there currently is something you find that really bothers you..  But it did occur to me that the University of China at Illinois piece we discussed near the beginning has a bunch of elements to it that one might be bothered about.  So if you're stuck on finding other examples, you might look there.

1 comment:

  1. For the two kinds of ways to be bothered, I feel that the first one could motivate people to create something to change the situation, while for the second one it might more tend to motivate people to work hard to reach the idealized standard.

    Actually the RSO that I'm involved in (Intercultural Community Development Initiative), which is mentioned in the "University of China at Illinois", is founded because we are bothered by the external environment. Yes, we bothered by the gap between domestic students and international students. However, the other important thing that bothers us is that including university, everyone sees international students are the group that need help to fit into the American culture, or American society. But the fact is that, international students can never be taught to become Americans. Instead educating international students, it should be a mutual relationship development. So this is the example I've experienced that being bothered intrigues creation.

    The second type of being bothered may be more common. It happens when students aren't satisfied with their performance, grades, etc. In that case, the cause of feeling of being bothered is the gap between desired status and current status. People may work hard to reduce the gap. While if the gap is too big, few people will be still motivated. Some might just lower the goal, or even give up because they are being so bothered.