Misdirected Zeal and Why We Keep Trying or Quit
It’s amazing to me just how important our view of reality is! And it is fascinating to me how involved we are in shaping our personal view of reality!
In choice theory-speak, the perceived world represents what we think we HAVE, or what we believe reality to be. (The quality world, on the other hand, represents what we WANT.)
I have read a couple of things recently that reminded me of the significance of our individual perceived worlds. One of the things I read is from Scripture; the other is from a study* out of Rutgers University on perseverance.
The apostle Paul, describing people who want to make themselves good by keeping religious rules, uses a phrase that got my attention. He writes –
I know the enthusiasm they have for God, but it is misdirected zeal. Romans 10:2 NLT
The phrase misdirected zeal conveys our ability as human beings to become convinced about an idea or belief that isn’t true. Our self-created convictions can lead to zealous behavior, but this behavior doesn’t make the conviction any truer. We see extreme examples of misdirected zeal when terrorists blow themselves up or when members of the Westboro Baptist Church put on hateful demonstrations. Their extremism, though, shouldn’t divert our attention to the numerous more common examples of how we create our own reality. That Fox News is now a major media outlet is testimony to the millions of viewers who view reality from a certain perspective.
For choice theorists the Rutgers study will not be earthshaking, yet it is worthy of our attention. The researchers’ goal was to find out what caused some people to quit, while others work harder and push on. The answer they discovered has to do with how much control people perceive they have over the situation.
The student who fails an exam because he feels he didn’t study hard enough will probably study harder, or differently, the next time. On the other hand, the student who fails an exam because he believes the teacher used trick questions on the test that didn’t really cover the content will probably give up studying or even drop the course.
Teachers may need to give students “bad news,” but it should be done in a way that conveys belief in the student’s ability to complete the task. Some possible approaches include –
+ “Let’s think of some ideas that will help you understand this better.”
+ “Would changing the way you study for this kind of test be helpful? Would you like to talk about different study strategies?”
+ Would you like another chance on this assignment? Do you understand it well enough to give it another try?”
+ “I think you’re very capable of doing well on this material. I wonder what is preventing it so far.”
Helping students to perceive that their doing well is within their control is really a key. The Rutgers research recognizes the value of providing constructive feedback that encourages students to persevere and keep on keeping on. We all like that kind of feedback actually. We all persevere with things we feel are in our control.
* An article regarding the Rutgers study can be found here – http://www.medicaldaily.com/whether-you-quit-or-persevere-depends-your-perception-control-what-make-us-try-again-301706