(because hard work would have been well rewarded and, thus, would
have become rewarding itself). Unfortunately, perhaps, sometimes life
is easy and the law of least effort is operating. When people have been
able to get what they want without much effort, they haven't learned
to work hard, i.e. be motivated, nor have they learned to tolerate
tedium or the "stench and grime" of hard conditions. As an old farmer
might say, "They haven't forked manure or dug post holes in hard
Learned helplessness is the hopeless attitude of the pessimist or
the depressed person. Such a person is unmotivated (see chapter 6).
"Learned industriousness " is the opposite notion, namely, that hard
work that has paid off results in higher motivation and less aversion to
unpleasant but unavoidable work situations (Eisenberger, 1992). How
do you learn to be industrious?
You need some confidence in your ability to do the job (see self-
efficacy in chapter 14) but this doesn't explain great perseverance on
simple, tedious, and boring tasks. Clearly, you also need to be able to
handle--to tolerate--the aversiveness of hard work and bad conditions
when they are part of getting to your goals. The reinforcement of high
effort (worthwhile extrinsic and intrinsic pay offs) on a variety of tasks
seems to accomplish both, i.e. strengthens our general tendency to try
hard and to "stick it out" though rough times. The childhood histories
of motivated workers bear this out; they were highly rewarded for
trying hard. That's how the "work ethic" is created. If you were left out
of that process, you can still teach yourself the merits of intense effort.
"Effort training" consists of reinforcing hard, serious trying on many
tasks over a long period of time. There is evidence that such training
even increases our motivation on enjoyable tasks (perhaps because all
tasks and subjects have their dull and difficult parts).
You will have to select your own tasks to try hard on and to reward
well (see methods #15 & #16). While research has shown that
industriousness generalizes well from one task to another, it is not
known how far it generalizes. Thus, if I wanted to be more motivated
to study hard, I wouldn't just do my "effort training" in an exercise
program or in a sport, although that might be helpful. I'd write a hell
of a English theme paper, trying to enjoy it as well as giving myself
rewards (plus a good grade). Then I'd take on Calculus or Geography
intending to do outstanding work (again with satisfaction and
rewards). Followed by, a proud, concerted effort to make the next
Dean's list, etc.
Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like