Staying Motivated and Avoiding Burnout

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This article was downloaded by: [Western Kentucky University]On: 28 October 2014, At: 18:47Publisher: RoutledgeInforma Ltd Registered in England and Wales Registered Number: 1072954 Registered office: MortimerHouse, 37-41 Mortimer Street, London W1T 3JH, UKKappa Delta Pi RecordPublication details, including instructions for authors and subscription information: Motivated and Avoiding BurnoutMax MalikowPublished online: 13 Jul 2012.To cite this article: Max Malikow (2007) Staying Motivated and Avoiding Burnout, Kappa Delta Pi Record, 43:3, 117-121,DOI: 10.1080/00228958.2007.10516664To link to this article: SCROLL DOWN FOR ARTICLETaylor & Francis makes every effort to ensure the accuracy of all the information (the Content) containedin the publications on our platform. However, Taylor & Francis, our agents, and our licensors make norepresentations or warranties whatsoever as to the accuracy, completeness, or suitability for any purpose ofthe Content. 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Terms & Conditions of access and use can be found at DELTA PI RECORD SPRING 2007 117BURNOUTStaying Motivated and Avoidingby Max MalikowNo professional needs to understand the theory of motivation and its application more than teachers.KAPPA DELTA PI RECORD SPRING 2007 117Downloaded by [Western Kentucky University] at 18:47 28 October 2014 118 KAPPA DELTA PI RECORD SPRING 2007The movie Cinderella Man (2005) is the true story of boxer James Braddock, who went from being an unemployed relief recipient to heavyweight champion of the world in 1935. Braddocks story is about motivation, the need or desire that energizes and directs behavior (Myers 2004, 455).Motivation is more easily defined than understood. That inner drive . . . that causes a person to do some-thing or act in a certain way (Morris 1973, 929) is always a matter of conjecture. Rare are the instances in which an assignment of motivation can be made with certainty. Consider the mountain climber, pinned by an 800-pound boulder, who freed himself by amputating his own arm with a pocketknife (Ralston 2004). Trapped for six days and dying, what else could have been the motivation for this daring surgery except survival? Less obvious, but still impressive, is the motivation of cross-country runner Ben Comen. During every competition, this young man with cerebral palsy alternately runs and falls for almost an hourthe time it takes him to cover three miles. His extraordinary drive does not lend itself to a simple expla-nation (Reilly 2003b, 78).Psychology is the science of mind and behavior (My-ers 2004). Most people are at least occasionally curious about why they think, act, or feel as they do. Even in the Bible, this mystery of the self to the self is evident in a lament of the Apostle Paul: I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do (Holy Bible 1973, Romans 7:15). Abraham Maslows triangular diagram of the hierarchy of needs represents his explanation of motivation and is ubiquitous in the social sciences (Maslow 1970). Another psychologist attempted to quantify motivation by constructing a list of the hu-man needs that drive behavior (Murray et al. 1938). In his riveting memoir, FBI agent Robert Ressler (in Ressler and Shachtman 1992) described his career as a profiler of serial murderers. An assumption of his work was that the motivation of their horrific behavior was discoverable and explainable. It is not an overstatement to suggest that, ultimately, all of psychology is the study of motivation.Personal motivation is critical to effective teaching. This article explores the complexity of motivation and its applica-tion to teaching. Then, nine principles are suggested to help teachers sustain their personal motivation and avoid burnout.The Complexity of MotivationAs previously stated, to define a word is not to under-stand it. In the movie The Shawshank Redemption (1994), Max Malikow is an Assistant Professor of Education at Le Moyne College in Syracuse, New York. Among his recent publications are the books Teachers for Life (Rowman and Littlefield 2006) and Profiles in Character (University Press of America 2007). Aside from teaching and authoring, he is a psychotherapist in private practice and serves as a member of the Editorial Review Panel for The Educational Forum, another journal published by Kappa Delta Pi.All the desires, joys and euphorias of a future life came rushing into me. Maybe this is how I handled the pain. Aron Ralston (in Reilly 2003a, 78)We are unknown to ourselves, we knowers . . . we are not knowers when it comes to ourselves. Friedrich Nietzsche (1994, 34)118 KAPPA DELTA PI RECORD SPRING 2007Downloaded by [Western Kentucky University] at 18:47 28 October 2014 KAPPA DELTA PI RECORD SPRING 2007 119KAPPA DELTA PI RECORD SPRING 2007 119associated with wind activity. The Hebrew word ruach and the Greek pneuma can mean either wind or spirit depending on the context. Like the wind, motivation is invisible and subject to inference from that which is seen: behavior.A complete understanding of motivation is impossible because of actions that occur in the absence of a rational process. Immediate cognition, or intuition, can move people to take correct action without having engaged in analysis or deliberation. Cognitive psychologist Gary Klein (in Gawande 2002, 247) told the story of a fire depart-ment lieutenant who averted a disaster by ordering his men out of a burning building; Somethinghe didnt know whatdidnt feel right. And as soon as they exited, the floor theyd been standing on collapsed. Even after trying to understand why he gave that life-saving order, the lieutenant could not explain why he ordered his men out of the building. About intuition, psychiatrist Andrew Hodges (1994, 34) suggested:There is a capable part of our mind of which we are not immediately aware through our conscious feel-ings. It is a second compartment to the mind, and it functions in a way all its own. . . . This hidden part of our mind is amazingly observanttruly a deeper intelligenceand it is always attempting to guide us, particularly at crucial moments in our lives.Application to TeachingI teach because I like to learn. Peter G. Beidler (2002, 24)The remainder of this article is intended to give to airy nothing a local habitation and a name (Shakespeare 1996, Act V, Scene I). Knowing the definition of motiva-tion and appreciating its complexity are necessary, but insufficient for the work of teaching. Educators also must explore how these concepts apply to their own motiva-tion and that of their students.A. Bartlett Giamatti, former President of Yale Univer-sity and Commissioner of Baseball, wrote (in Kelly-Gangi and Patterson 2001, 12): Teachers believe they have a a prisoner is asked at his parole hearing, Are you rehabili-tated? At first, the prisoner responds by saying that he does not know what the word rehabilitated means. Con-descendingly, one of the parole board members begins to provide a definition. The prisoner, a man in his sixties who has spent almost all of his adult life in prison, interrupts with an eloquent and moving description of what reha-bilitated means to him. According to his understanding of the word, rehabilitated means to be profoundly regretful at having acted foolishly and missed out on the life he might have had as a free man.Like rehabilitated, motivation is one of many words people regularly employ without having an appreciation for the complexity and deeper meaning it implies. Con-sider this question: What motivates people to eat? Even the obvious answerhungerhas an implied complex-ity. Hunger is explained by the physiological interaction between blood glucose and the lateral hypothalamus, the part of the brain that brings on the experience of hunger. However, a complete understanding of the behavior of eating requires further exploration.In the United States, eating occurs at culturally determined intervals: breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Hence the phrase, Its time to eat. Another cultural influence on eating is occasion. Eating popcorn while watching a movie and eating a hotdog (or peanuts and Cracker Jacks) at a baseball game are examples of foods associated with certain activities. Moreover, some cultures stereotypically are characterized as lov-ers of food (Italian) more than others (Asian). Further, eating disorders are not explained physiologically, but psychologically. The anorectics hypothalamus is in good working order, and many overweight people use food as an antidepressant.An indication of the complexity of an issue is when it becomes the topic of disagreements among great minds. B. F. Skinner (1953) believed that the study of human behavior should be restricted to that which is observable. In contrast to Skinners view, Sigmund Freuds psycho-analytic explanation of behavior (in Strachey 1953) relied heavily on things unseeable: id, ego, superego, conscious, subconscious, unconscious. One can imagine Skinner and Freud discussing motivation. In their conversation, Skinner likely would focus on the observable (reinforcers and ac-tions) while Freuds emphasis would be on the unobserv-able (inner conflict).Yet another means for considering the complexity of motivation is language. Interesting, but not coincidental, is that in both Hebrew and Greek, the word used for wind is also the word for spirit. To be persnickety, actually no one ever has seen the wind blowing. Anyone who claims to have done so has made an inference from the effects Downloaded by [Western Kentucky University] at 18:47 28 October 2014 120 KAPPA DELTA PI RECORD SPRING 2007gift for giving; it drives them with the same irrepressible drive that drives others to create a work of art or a market or a building. Rereading Giamattis quotation with the word drives replaced by motivates clarifies the necessity for a teacher to have conviction about being in the right profession. A teaching of Buddhism is that the right path in life includes the right livelihood. The Buddha taught, each one must take up work which will give scope to his abilities and make him useful to his fellow man (Starkes 1978, 60).Intrinsic motivation for work is a considerable asset. Amy Wrzesniewski and her colleagues (1997) identi-fied three categories of occupations: jobs, careers, and callings. A job is a necessary way to make money, and a career provides opportunities for advancement. With a calling comes the experience of fulfillment owing to engagement in personally meaningful and socially useful activity.The importance of identifying and maintaining a sense of calling in ones work cannot be overstated and is the subject of psychologist Marsha Sinetars book Do What You Love, the Money Will Follow (1989). Her thesis is that being engaged in the right livelihood is a win-win situation. People who love their work will do it well and are likely to prosper financially. People who love work that does not lend itself to affluence will experience such contentment that money will not matter.People engaged in a calling tend to experience flow (Csikszentmihalyi 1990). Mihalyi Csikszentmihalyi found that the quality of peoples lives increases when they are purposely engaged. His conceptualization of flow came after studying artists who worked long hours at creative work and were unconcerned with external rewards such as money and recognition. Also, they were unaware of the passing hours. A characteristic of a flow activity is its ability to make people transcend time.The writings of Giamatti, the Buddha, Sinetar, Wrzes- niewski, and Csikszentmihalyi may seem to imply that some people are immune to burnout. However, even for those who love their work and are energized by it, burn-out is a possibility. Those who believe that burnout could never happen to them would do well to consider that an unguarded strength is a double weakness.Nine Principles for Sustaining MotivationThe principles that maintain health also effectively treat undesirable conditions. This section provides nine prin-ciplescritical to the health, well-being, and effectiveness of teachersfor sustaining motivation and preempting burnout. These principles also provide effective responses to a developing burnout. To ensure that burnout is under-stood in the context of this article, the following criteria 120 KAPPA DELTA PI RECORD SPRING 2007Even for those who love their work and are energized by it, burnout is a possibility. are provided: (1) emotional exhaustion, characterized by starting the day tired; (2) depersonalization, character-ized by strained relationships; and (3) reduced satisfaction, characterized by the perception that work is meaningless (Maslach 1982).1. Respond to the symptoms. If the criteria for burn-out seem to describe you, then consider yourself on the road to R.O.A.D. (retired on active duty). A saying among mental health professionals is: Denial is not just a river that flows through Egypt. The mere suspicion of burnout ought to be taken seriously.2. Know the critical distinction. Imperative for life in general, and work in particular, is that you separate the things you can control from those you cannot. A key to success for recovering alcoholics is the ongoing prayer for wisdom to make this distinction as well as strength to change some things and courage to accept others.3. Do not treat your car better than yourself. Hopefully, you take some care in maintaining your car. (If you do not, then both you and your car are in trouble.) If you doubt that attention to diet, exercise, and sleep would make a positive difference in your life, then per-form a two-week experiment. See whether 14 consecutive days of one improvement in each of these three areas makes a difference. If you refuse to try this experiment, then explain your resistance to yourself.4. Have a spiritual dimension to your life. Albert Einstein (1990, 202) wrote, Strange is our situation here upon Earth. Each of us is here for a short time, sometimes seeming to divine a purpose. Einstein occasionally must have sensed that his work was part of something larger than itself. What is your philosophy of life, and what part does your work have in that philosophy? The stories of Holocaust and POW survivors include, if not emphasize, the role of spirituality in their survival. A spiritual perspec-Downloaded by [Western Kentucky University] at 18:47 28 October 2014 KAPPA DELTA PI RECORD SPRING 2007 121KAPPA DELTA PI RECORD SPRING 2007 121tive also can be valuable to teachers for coping with the demands of life.5. Try to have a sense of humor. In a recently completed study of the characteristics of exceptionally ef-fective teachers, 59 percent of the students who provided the data selected a sense of humor as a characteristic of effective teachers. In the study, sense of humor ranked second among the 36 traits cited (Malikow 20052006).6. Have a life outside of work. Journalist Richard Cohen (2004, 222) has written, Careers evolve into jobs, and sooner or later it becomes apparent to most of us that there is a lot more to life than professional recognition. Do you have relationships and recreation-al activities that physically and intellectually provide a respite from work? Consider that the word recreation comes from the combination of the prefix re (again) and create (to make).7. Be prepared for the punch that is likely to knock you down. An adage among professional boxers is: Its the punch you dont see coming that knocks you down. Be aware of the punch to which you are most vulnerable. Do you get discouraged when your diligence is not appreciated? (Especially discouraging is when someone else receives recognition for your hard work. When that happens, you will know how Paul Reveres horse felt.) Are you especially sensitive to criti-cism? Often people will disregard something you have done well and focus on a deficiency. There are people who could see you walk on water and would criticize you for not being able to swim. Are you a perfectionist? Perfectionists perform with excellence, but are vulner-able to discouragement and depression. Perfectionists are self-critics who always can imagine how they could have done something better.8. Know your limitations. Knowing your limitations means at least three things. One: you will not sabotage the things you do well by taking on tasks for which you are marginally capable. Two: you will not neglect your responsibilities by taking on someone elses obligations. Three: you will admit to being a limited resource and needing encouragement and advice to do your work opti-mally. Friends and colleagues provide such support.9. Know the difference between success and obe-dience. A reporter once asked Mother Teresa whether she was disappointed that her 40 years of work in Calcutta had not appreciably improved living conditions in the city. She responded, God did not call me to be success-ful but to be faithful (Mother Teresa 1997, 103). While success is given to variability depending on who is making the evaluation, like Mother Teresa, you always can know whether or not you have been faithful in putting forth your best effort.Closing ThoughtsWork that is satisfying and successful for teachers as well as students is work that draws on strengths rather than weaknesses. Marcus Buckingham and Donald Clifton (2001) reported that satisfied and successful people spend more time utilizing their strengths and interests than developing their weaknesses. This is not to say that weak-nesses should be disregarded. Addressing weaknesses and nurturing self-discipline always will be important parts of life. However, because research shows that intrinsically motivated people are more likely to experience satisfac-tion and success than those who are extrinsically moti-vated (Csikszentmihalyi 1990), teachers would do well to consider these four questions for themselves as well as for their students (Buckingham and Clifton 2001):1. What activities give me pleasure?2. What activities leave me wondering, When can I do this again? rather than, When will this be over?3. What sort of challenges do I relish and which do I dread?4. What sort of tasks do I learn easily and which do I struggle with?ReferencesBeidler, P. G. 2002. Why I teach. Kansas City: Andrews McMeel Publishing.Buckingham, M., and D. O. Clifton. 2001. Now, discover your strengths. New York: Free Press.Cinderella Man, 144 min., Universal Pictures, 2005.Cohen, R. M. 2004. Blindsided: Lifting a life above illness: A reluctant memoir. New York: HarperCollins.Csikszentmihalyi, M. 1990. Flow: The psychology of optimal experience. 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