If you’re not interested, get interested.
~ Katherine Cook Briggs
Why Get Interested?
When I was hired to teach basic computer skills, I wanted the job for the money and experience. I wasn’t passionate about teaching people how to use the mouse and keyboard.
Yet I believe the foundations of good teaching include a passion for your subject, a clear understanding, and an ability to clearly communicate that passion and understanding. I didn’t want to short change my students. I wanted to believe that my students needed to be there and that our class was important, so I could communicate that passion to them.
How could I make this an energizing, vital experience for them? How was I possibly going to feel truly passionate about teaching file management?
I’m sure you can relate. There might be a task you want to take on, a project, a class, a hobby. For whatever reason, you’ve chosen to embark on an endeavor that doesn’t interest you very much. What can you do to make this a rich experience, rather than a dull slog?
First, vow to take responsibility for your own level of interest. This is your life. You might as well enjoy it.
Six Sure Fire Ways to Boost Your Interest
1. Develop curiosity. Find something you don’t know and ask yourself questions about it until you feel just little bit curious. Then try to find the answer.
When I used to read textbooks, I would pause before reading the end of the sentence or paragraph and try to guess what the next revelation would be. Quizzing myself and coming up with my own best answer helped me feel some curiosity. It was a way in.
2. Gain understanding. When you understand something more, you’ll like it more.
Maybe you can’t fall in love with just anyone, but you can learn to care about almost anyone. When you understand someone more deeply, you can feel an unexpected compassion, affection, or admiration for them.
Similarly, maybe passion for a goal requires a seed of compatibility, but you can develop at least an interest and respect for almost anything through understanding. Try looking at your subject or activity from different angles. Look at the history, the small details, the big picture, how it connects to other areas, the people and characters involved, the practical use of the skill.
If you don’t care about swing dancing, but you’re doing if for your sweetheart, can you delve into the history of Whitey and the Lindy Hoppers in 1930’s Harlem? If you don’t like excel spreadsheets, can you find out how some people organize baseball stats on Excel? Or, like my mom, how people organize The Bachelor contestants on Excel?
3. Enjoy other people’s enjoyment. Do you know someone who thinks cross-stitch is a hoot? Do you know someone who can not get enough of physics? Do you know someone pumped about making sales calls? Talk to them, enjoy their enjoyment, and see if it can rub off on you just a little.
You’ll learn more by talking to people, and you take advantage of your little mirror neurons; your ability to laugh with those who laugh, and cry with those who cry.
I love watching dry British humor with my mom. It mildly amuses me, but it tickles her, and I enjoy her enjoyment. I loved my passionate running coach who was cheesy but inspiring. I’ve thought differently about forklift operators ever since I saw an interview with a man who said he loved moving big rocks. It was his dream job! And I was surprised and happy when my chef Granddad told me he wanted to be a chef ever since he was a little boy! Who knew someone’s dream job was cooking?
4. Find out how it’s useful to you. What do you really want out of life? How is this going to help you get it? How is this going to help you contribute what you want to contribute?
Remember the game “Six degrees of separation?” If there doesn’t seem to be an obvious connection between this activity and you, make some non-obvious connections. Ask other people. Ask your teacher, “What’s this got to do with my life?” and be sincerely interested in the answer.
Brainstorm ways that this will be useful to you. Getting interested taught me that one of my core interests was human well-being. If I could find a way that something I was learning could make people’s lives better, I could get interested.
5. Take action. When you get better at something, it can be a little fun to do, even if you weren’t interested at first. The fluidity of skill feels good. Your brain clicking along and discovering something new feels good.
Of course, when you first start, just like when you first start physically working out, it can feel frustrating and painful. When my computer students felt frustrated, I told them, “That frustrated feeling; that’s called learning.”
It feels sort of uncomfortable and irritating when your neurons have to make new connections. It’s like crossing your arms the opposite way or learning to ride a bike. But when you get going, you want to ride all over the neighborhood! Your new skill gives you new freedom and that feels great.
Your brain can become stronger, just like your muscles.
6. Tap into what you value. Through this activity or topic, can you express one of your core/higher values?
I saw a bus driver featured on the news who was friendly to everyone. He used his job as a bus driver as an opportunity to reach out to people, encourage them, and brighten their day. Maybe he was never going to be passionate about driving a bus, but he could be passionate about connecting with people and lifting them up.
This was how I became passionate about teaching my Basic Computer Skills class. I thought about what I deeply wanted for my students. Most of all, I wanted them to be happy. I didn’t want them to be lonely; I wanted them to make friends and feel connected. I wanted them to feel confident as learners; knowing they could succeed at anything they set their minds to. I wanted them to learn how to learn.
I organized my class to meet those goals. I created a curriculum that included lots of interaction, student participation in teaching, and mastery of a skill before moving on. It worked! My students became close. A pair of women in my class became best friends. There was a lot of laughter. My students enjoyed the class and each other, so they were willing to put in more effort. They excelled at computer skills, surpassing the state mandated learning objectives. And I found my topic more interesting as I created ways for my students to learn and succeed.
Get Interested in Writing
Ironically, I wasn’t feeling interested in writing this article. I got a newsletter today from writing coach Daphne Grey-Grant titled How to Get More Interested in What You’re Writing. The serendipity of the topic spurred me to finish this article. I recommend checking it out if you have a writing project and need a boost.
I also increased my enthusiasm for sharing these ideas with you when I thought about how much the ability to get interested has blessed my life. I loved school because I made an effort to find almost every topic interesting. I do my best to get interested in my daily tasks. I used to resent cooking and dreamt of hiring a personal chef, but I learned to how to enjoy cooking.
Is cooking one of my passions? No. Would I still like personal chef? Sure! But since I want to eat home cooked meals, and I choose to cook, how nice that I can enjoy it. Why not? Why not enjoy life a little more?
You Can Enjoy Your Life More
If you choose to do something, take responsibility for upping your passion level. This will make your world so much more interesting! It will make your life so much more fun. And it will make you feel more vibrant and alive.
The Passion Series