As I sometimes struggle to start writing a paper, or to study for an exam, I find that I have to do some mental somersaults. I jump through some hoops, procrastinate a bit more, and eventually I come out ready to write. I find the most effective way to convince myself to start assignments comes in thinking about their context.
We respond, for the most part, predictably to stimulus. Someone suddenly jumps out from an alley way at night: we recoil. We eat our favorite food: we feel content and delighted. What’s interesting is if we think a bit more about the context surrounding the stimulus, we can approach or perceive it in a radically different manner.
The beauty of this is:
- It’s completely personal. I don’t need someone else to confer with. But, it can also be useful to speak with others to see a bigger or more detailed picture.
- I can do things outside of my ‘cage’. I can think about things in a different light, I can validate myself in pursuing them. Conversely, I can scrutinize and decide to continue or cease actions.
- There are so many ways to think about context, and none of them are wrong!
When I approach a paper I might not enjoy, I think through contexts in which I might be bubbling with enthusiasm to begin. I may think more big picture: it’s worth doing this to get a nice grade, which means more opportunity, more success in the future! I might think more short term: I can get this out of the way and then enjoy some free time! There are many paths to traverse.
The qualities of the paper may cause certain innate responses. I might see the 50 page length and think, wow, how incredibly demoralizing, what a major bummer. Never fear! There are benefits in recognizing the contextual aspects that influence my perceptions. I can skew my thinking to view the aspects in a manner that is the most beneficial for me. There are infinite possibilities in perception.
Imagine your favorite movie as a different genre. I picture La La Land as a horror movie. Would it suck? Would it be even better? That’s tough to say. But in thinking of it in a different context I can appreciate the aspects of it that work and don’t work for me. I can understand why I feel motivated to sing along to parts of it, or why I always cry at the end. In understanding context, I understand myself.
There is value in realizing that context can be shifted. The application of this realization has changed my life. I once struggled through certain activities I didn’t want to do. Some might think, ‘That’s called growing up!” I’m suggesting that you can do more than force yourself to get through something: it is possible to find enjoyment and reason to do anything through a shift in how you perceive and react to context.
Side note reflection. I remediated from video to text: translating the ‘big picture,’ and less the exact images. I think this remediation is a bit different from the video in content, but it is ultimately still on the same topic and I think gets at the valuable meaning of this concept (for me, at least).