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How can I reframe my study motivation?

by DivineMango1 min read24th Sep 20196 comments



Hello LessWrong! First time posting here. I am a second-year college student, and I am interested in doing independent learning outside my coursework. Books I've been eyeing / trying to read include The Sequences, The Selfish Gene, and Superintelligence.

However, I've noticed that it feels much more like an obligation, which makes the process much less enjoyable and rewarding. I feel like I want to have read, instead want to read. Particularly, I noticed that as I was reading The Sequences, I constantly checked how far away from the end of the current essay I was. When I got to the last page, it felt very good; but the reading itself did not feel as rewarding. At its core, I feel as though I want to have read so that I can feel like I've made progress. But it's dutiful and it's draining.

In short: how can I make the reading itself more rewarding and remove the 'ought' feeling, shifting myself into a more curious and motivated mindset?

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Hi DivineMango, welcome!

Nice reading list. I'm not sure if this will quite help, but Nate Soares wrote a lot of good stuff on motivation on his blog, www.mindingourway.com. A couple of relevant posts (but there's many more there):

Though neither of those feel like they quite hit the thing on the head. Here are some further ideas which have helped me a little:

Seems like maybe you want to rediscover/get in touch with the inherent enjoyment of those activities separate from whether they lead to any state of completion. Extrinsic motivations seems kill intrinsic motivation (even when you otherwise had intrinsic motivation) so perhaps something to try is not worrying about how much you complete, just trying to enjoy the experience of doing however much if you're doing - and allowing yourself to stop at any point if you really don't want to continue (Soares-style).

Books I’ve been eyeing / trying to read include The Sequences, The Selfish Gene, and Superintelligence.

These works are written for a popular audience, they only teach you to talk the talk. I think it's better to read textbooks and solve exercises, that way you learn to walk the walk. For some topics, like AI risk, there aren't any textbooks with exercises; but you'll still do good by learning adjacent topics like logic/computation/ML, for which there are good textbooks.

A good strategy is to read a chapter, then solve all exercises not marked "very hard" before moving to the next. Otherwise - no reading ahead. If some exercise is blocking you, you can peek at the answer, but only after spending 5 uninterrupted minutes trying to solve the exercise.

I'd ask yourself a few things: Is there a way to read those things that seems more fun? May be skip "boring" parts? May be read out of order? May be there's a chapter / section that caught your eye? May be there's a part that connects with something else you're interested in / something useful?

I'd also recommend to not read what you think you _should_ read, especially during your free time. Read what interests you. And if that's nothing, then do something else personally productive with that time.