“My True Rule is that persistence is its own reward. Somehow, the more you stay with something, the more you accumulate wisdom and meaning in whatever it is you’re doing. Just by watering that flower, you get really attached to that flower.” Bob Miller, President and Publisher at HarperStudios.
I can remember vividly all throughout my education being completely enthralled and excited whenever there was an overlap in ideas or concepts between various classes or subjects or between what I was learning in school and “real life.” I loved hearing about a new theory in science for example and then later reading about the same topic in a literature class, only to come home and see a different take on the same in the news that evening; or understanding an economics principle only to see how applicable it was to whatever we were discussing in psychology. And since then, I’ve always been enchanted whenever I get that feeling of déjà vu or synchronicity. And I often find that when I am encountering the same message over and over in a variety of settings, it’s because it’s important or particularly relevant. I had read the above quote by Bob Miller several months ago, which at that point reminded me of the importance of choosing rewards which are consistent with our end goals and the habits we are trying to build and the distinction between intrinsic versus extrinsic motivation. But more recently, this quotation came to mind as I read Curious, by Ian Leslie who discusses the “transformative power of attention.” And interestingly, when it comes to persistence as its own reward, curiosity can contribute positively to motivation, because what we attend to becomes more interesting.
Curiosity and a love of learning are some of my own top personal strengths, so I thought it appropriate to read Leslie’s book dedicated to the topic. He defines various different types of curiosity and the way that they might manifest themselves, along with providing a history on the notions and perceptions related to curiosity along with admonishments for the future as we continually expand the pure volume of information that is readily available to us. He makes a compelling case for the reasons why it behooves us to cultivate a “desire to know,” and also cites many examples which illustrate the idea that “the closer you look at anything, the more interesting it gets.” He tells the stories of many individuals who have excelled in making the mundane more interesting, allowing them to delve deeper into whatever tasks or activities were at hand. And in doing so many have gone onto make important discoveries and innovations or have been able to find deeper satisfaction and fulfilment in their work.
As Leslie points out, we all encounter particular tasks which we are compelled to do although we may find them painfully dull, but he argues that “we can… find ways to turn [these] mundane [activities] into something that stimulates our curiosity, knowing that once we get interested in it, we’re more likely to spend time on it.” He cites research conducted by the University of Chicago which analyzed students’ reasons for going to the gym. Half of them were asked to describe their goals (like losing weight, getting stronger, etc.) and then focus on the goals while they worked out. The other half were asked to “describe their experience – what it was like stretching and exercising at the gym – and to continue thinking about that as they undertook their session.” Interestingly, although the students in the “goals” group usually planned to run longer than those in the “experience” group, the actual time spend running was greater amongst the “experience” subjects and they reported enjoying the exercise more! As an extremely goal-oriented person, this piqued my interest.
Leslie says, that “it’s often assumed that motivating people involves getting them to think about the future – about what they can achieve or become. When teachers, life coaches, or personal trainers talk about motivation, they usually focus on the importance of goals… but the goal-focused approach to motivation has its problems, because when we set our sights on the future, we are less likely to enjoy the present, which can make what we’re doing feel less interesting and thus make us less likely to persevere with it…when all our interest is directed at the future, we get easily bored with the present… a subtle twist on the classic distinction between intrinsic and extrinsic motivation.” Although self-directed, the goals themselves became sources of extrinsic motivation. Those that directed their attention to the present, found it more interesting and made the reward for the habit, the habit in and of itself. They were in turn then more likely to persevere and enjoy the ride!
And it all connects into a web of things that I have learned throughout my journey over the past year – we need to slow down and to appreciate the process and path along the way. We should find ways to more deeply experience and savor the present. And we should never let the things that we want make us forget what we already have. But I am adding to those Truths of Adulthood now – the conviction that what we attend to becomes more interesting. The implications are big in terms of not only forming the habit of regularly working out, but also in terms of maintaining my marriage or just being able to enjoy the “boring” parts of my job or tedious tasks more.
I can certainly say that this has been the case for me in terms of my path towards a more healthy lifestyle. When I started out, I wanted to lose weight and started by researching different tips and tricks and nutritional advice out there (probably googling “how to lose 10 pounds” or something like that). From there, my passion for the topic has continued to grow and I am consistently seeking out opportunities to further my knowledge of nutrition and wellness and it has grown into a true passion of mine. But not only have I learned and come to appreciate the topic so much more over time, I have also come to love and appreciate the value and taste of real food. It doesn’t have to be complicated and it certainly doesn’t need any chemical preservatives or sugars to make it taste delicious. One such example: this easy Whole30 Avocado Egg Salad.
- Hardboiled Eggs - Cooked, Cooled, and Peeled 8 each
- Avocado - 1 each
- Dijon Mustard - 1 TBSP
- Juice of 1 Lemon
- Paprika 1 TSP
- Sea Salt 1 TSP
- Black Pepper 1 TSP
- In a large bowl, add all ingredients together and mash until well combined.
- Enjoy on top of lettuce wraps or a bed of greens - possibly with tomatoes if you like.