“You better lose yourself in the music, the moment / You own it, you’d  better never let it go,” sings Eminem in a song most of you probably know. I don’t listen to Eminem (other than right before the Cross Country State Meet), so I can’t really say for sure what he means. However, I know all about losing myself in the moment, and you might know too.
Mrs. Bradbury, Mrs. Ramos, and I are reading a book on motivation called Drive by Dan Pink.  (Go to http://www.ted.com and search his name to hear Pink give a presentation on the book.)  Research on motivation has yielded some surprising results. External incentives such as rewards and punishments can 1) kill your internal motivation, 2) weaken your performance, 3) stifle creativity, 4) inhibit moral thinking, 5) encourage dishonesty, 6) become addicting, and 7) encourage short-term thinking.
Need an example of an external incentive? Grades come to mind. When students have their minds on grades (short term) rather than on learning (long term), they can see school as a chore, learn less, focus on routines rather than higher-level thinking, think that the ends justify the means (an attitude), cheat, crave A’s at the expense of wellness, and memorize to pass the test rather than to master the material for future use. Perhaps you’ve experienced some of these negative effects of grading in your time at school.
What works better in the long run than external motivators? Internal drive! In his book, Pink uses the example of Wikipedia, whose contributors don’t get paid. Say what?! The people who write the biggest encyclopedia in the world don’t get paid? Well, why do they bother then? Do you use Firefox to browse the Web? Nearly all of its producers work on a voluntary basis. Have you seen the video for “This Too Shall Pass” by OK Go, the one with the Rube Goldberg project? Its fifteen designers shared a relatively small sum to create it, but the additional forty-five workers who helped them build it did so for free, at night, after having worked at their normal jobs all day (as reported in an interview on The Nerdist podcast). Why would someone do anything without asking for something in return?
For fun! For fulfillment! Pink highlights three conditions that lead to this internally motivated behavior: autonomy, mastery and purpose. He writes that this behavior “is self-directed. It is devoted to becoming better and better at something that matters. And it connects that quest for excellence to a larger purpose.” Wikipedia and Firefox both have contributors who choose what area they want to work in, they want to make the best product possible, and they want to make their respective domains (knowledge and the Internet) the best they can be. The builders of the Rube Goldberg for OK Go? If you’ve seen the video, you know that they built a project that runs for the exact length of the song in sync with its beat–a nearly impossible task, but a worthy one. They wanted to make a viral video (26,464,452 views!) and master an impossible challenge.
Internal motivation can lead to a mental state called “flow.”  When you experience flow, you become so engaged and focused on your task that you can see your goal clearly, what you have to do and what you can do perfectly aligns, and you lose yourself in your work so deeply that you lose your sense of time, place, and even self–you lose yourself.
Have you experienced flow? Have you ever lost yourself in a task that you found fulfilling, one in which you sacrificed more than you seemingly gained? Perhaps you have. If you’re an athlete who’s passionate about your sport, you’ve experienced flow. If you   act, you’ve experienced flow. If you have a class that you enjoy, maybe you’ve happily lost yourself in learning the material or working on a project.
I’m talking about passion, people! Yes, if you go to school, you’ll get graded, and one day you’ll need a job that pays in order for you to lead your life. But once you can find a purpose in your life that matches your passion, you won’t need a lot of external motivators like cash or grades or gratitude; you’ll be so fulfilled that the work itself will serve as your reward. I sincerely hope that one day, all of you can find flow. You’ll lose yourself in a really good way.

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