One of my biggest fears is that someone will ask what I’m listening to when they see me sitting in the library with earbuds. It’s not because I’m listening to anything embarrassing. It’s because, weirdly enough, I’m most likely not listening to anything at all. I assure you I’m not going through a psychotic breakdown (yet), but why else would I wear headphones sans music for hours on end?
Pavlov and his dog can answer that.
Around the turn of the 20th century, Ivan Pavlov conducted an experiment in which he continually rang a bell before feeding meat to a dog. He repeated this process over and over, bell and food, bell and food. Finally, he rang the bell without feeding the dog. Even without a treat, the dog began to salivate. It had been conditioned to associate the sound of a bell with food, producing physical results.
I relate to Pavlov’s dog.
Last Monday, I woke up on the verge of feeling overwhelmed. I wasn’t quite there, but I was pretty close. I was “verwhelmed” — just one letter shy of being totally engulfed with things that needed to get done ASAP. As soon as chapel ended, I headed to the library, found a table downstairs (because I truly detest the upper level), put in my silent earbuds and got to work.
Four hours later, I was feeling confident in the work that had been accomplished. With some focus and determination, I was officially treading water rather than drowning. I had made significant progress without hearing a single note of music.
For most of my freshman year, I spent my study time in the library, earbuds blasting electronic dance music. (Why EDM was my study music of choice, I’ll never really know.) Without fail,that is how I studied and completed all homework during that first year.
As I reached more difficult,upper-level classes, listening to music while studying became too distracting. However, studying without the slightly uncomfortable feeling of earbuds just wasn’t right. I had been conditioned to associate headphones with productivity.
Now whenever I really need to be productive, I use headphones without the distraction of music. Once I forgot to even plug them into my phone. Honestly, I feel a little embarrassed about it.
Motivation can come from the most unlikely places. Oftentimes, even negative situations can turn into powerful inspiration. When Searcy dropped to second place behind Durant in the Small Business Revolution, it definitely was not a happy day for those who had become invested.What happened though? For the next 48 hours, votes for #MySearcy skyrocketed. Falling behind Durant was not something anyone wanted, but it gave Searcy the push we needed to bounce back to victory.
Disappointments, tragedies and just weird experiences are all inevitable parts of life. They’re going to happen, and it doesn’t really matter how.
What matters is how we decide to move forward.
Where we come from doesn’t define us. Backgrounds can be messy; histories can be filled with mistakes and regrets. We all deal with things in different ways, from trivial study habits to serious ways we handle struggles — maybe even addictions. Rather than judging someone for where they’ve been, we should be spurring each other on toward better things.
Motivation comes from the most unlikely places; it’s up to us to make sure they’re motivators toward good.