Rabbi, can you tell me what I need in order for me to be motivated through seder? I come to Seder, I go through the motions, but with no motivation. What is the trick?
This was asked to me by a 40 year old, Ultra Orthodox working man, who wanted to enjoy his learning more.
Motivation is tricky. I mean internal motivation. External motivation is not as tricky as Internal motivation. External motivation is sometimes just positive manipulation in disguise. Once the manipulative factor is gone, so is the motivation. Not that external motivation is not good. It is good for a jump start. But that it is all it will do.
What can we do to get someone internally motivated? Not just because everyone else is doing it, not because that is what is expected from him. But because the person really wants to be motivated (and does not want to just want to want) ?
Internal motivation starts from a freedom of choice. A person learns best what he/she wants to learn. Not what the system’s requirements are. In order to be motivated every day to learn, you need to want to learn what you are going to learn that day, not just “show up and follow predetermined curriculum”. So the first question of internal motivation really is, What? What do you want today? What do you really want? What do you want more than all the other wants that you have in life?
A certain girl I was helping did not want to go to school. She was just not getting the Hebrew language. She was failing Chumash. She was not interested in going to school. She was not even sure she wanted to meet me on skype. I asked her what she would want to learn in Hebrew. She said that she wanted to know the hebrew words of all of her favorite Mordechai Shapiro songs. I taught her the basic dikduk that she needed, in order for us to break down and master every word of every song. She was totally motivated until she got every word, and then she had more skill for her next chumash test, which she got a 94 on. She was motivated again for Chumash.
Motivation is then broken down to three questions. Why? Can? How? Let us try to use this tool for learning motivation.
Why? Why are you learning? Why do you want to learn this specific subject? Why will this help you, in any way shape or form? Why would you spend valuable time on this task?
A check on your Value system is the first step of motivation. Rev up your Value engines by asking “Why”s. Value is first of the three dynamics that motivate.
Can you learn this? Can you comprehend this? Can you remember this? Can you master this? Can you read on your own this text? Can you translate it to your life, or to the life of others? Can this information be something that will make a difference to you in your life in any way shape or form? How far can I stretch myself and reach my wildest goals?
Believing in yourself is the second dynamic of motivation. Frustration and Failure feelings can be the greatest nemesis of your Belief in self.
How can you learn this? How can you make this happen? How have other people who were successful in reaching their goals achieve what they did? How can I plan a winning strategy?
Strategy is the third dynamic of internal motivation. Fear of failure can be the greatest nemesis to your ability to build strategy.
If any of these three are not in place, it is very hard to stay internally motivated.
There are so many more elements of motivation. But I believe that these pointers are a fail proof place to start.