How to develop your interest?

11, April, 2012, by Seema Bhatnagar

collection of books

I am not interested? I have a difficulty having interest in mathematics and physics. I hate mathematics and physics. I find all my office work boring?
How many times you have found yourself cribbing in this manner? I guess, during school/college days many of us have made such comments. During job, we often find certain activities quiet boring and slowly this boredom gets converted to some form of hatred which ultimately results in mild stress and depression.

Your knowledge is your power, but you would never enhance your knowledge if you do not have interest. A lack of interest means a lack of knowledge and lack of knowledge straightaway influence your self-confidence. If you want to feel empowered in any area then develop your interests first, only then you can enhance your knowledge.

Different people have different interest in different fields, this fact always fascinated me and I always wanted to dig deeper into knowing the truth. I always wanted to know if an individual can develop interest consciously in any particular field, irrespective of age or academic studies are the only way to develop an interest.

In context to developing interest, my thinking produced some questions for which I was seeking answers.
  1. Why, when so many women sacrifice their careers to become stay home mom to give the best possible support to their kids for studies, still in many cases, their kids' remain mediocre?
  2. Why many students score good marks in subjects but do not become expert in their fields?
  3. Why many people who claim to have interest in subjects are not able to produce breakthrough innovations in respective fields.
  4. Why even after spending thousands of dollars on higher studies majority of people are not able to make their specialization as the most interested thing to them?
  5. What is that factor which separates 20% people from 80%?
  6. Do people have innate interest? Can people develop interest in any chosen field?

I was curious to know what this "interest" factor is all about. What is that factor which determines interest? In my quest to answer these questions, I read research journals, articles and any book I could catch hold of. It was not a formal research but it was purely out of my personal interest and curiosity to develop my own view point.

My research helped me to conclude that people in any particular area/field/subject will not find anything stimulating until they have genuine interest in it. In absence of interest, majority of people will simply struggle to overcome the hurdles and intimidations and will not be able to enjoy their pursuits. "Interest" is basically that mental state when mind respond to inputs with ease without any confusion.

Why it is important to have interests?

Reason#1 - Streak of Innovation and creativity

If you have a deep interest in any subject/topic, you can be more innovative and creative in all your pursuits.
A classic example is of Steve Jobs, who created new fonts for MAC machine out of his sheer interest of calligraphy. Read this excerpt.
"Reed College at that time offered perhaps the best calligraphy instruction in the country. Throughout the campus every poster, every label on every drawer, was beautifully hand calligraphed. Because I had dropped out and didn't have to take the normal classes, I decided to take a calligraphy class to learn how to do this. I learned about serif and san serif typefaces, about varying the amount of space between different letter combinations, about what makes great typography great. It was beautiful, historical, artistically subtle in a way that science can't capture, and I found it fascinating. None of this had even a hope of any practical application in my life. But ten years later, when we were designing the first Macintosh computer, it all came back to me. And we designed it all into the Mac. It was the first computer with beautiful typography. If I had never dropped in on that single course in college, the Mac would have never had multiple typefaces or proportionally spaced fonts. And since Windows just copied the Mac, it's likely that no personal computer would have them. If I had never dropped out, I would have never dropped in on this calligraphy class, and personal computers might not have the wonderful typography that they do. Of course it was impossible to connect the dots looking forward when I was in college. But it was very, very clear looking backwards ten years later."

Reason#2 - Way to feel empowered

Your knowledge is your power, but you would never enhance your knowledge if you do not have interest. A lack of interest means a lack of knowledge and lack of knowledge straight-away influence your self-confidence. If you want to feel empowered in any area then develop your interests first, only then you can enhance your knowledge. Do not let any subject/topic intimidate you, for this; developing an interest is the only way.

Also, because of lack of interest our life becomes dull. It is extremely essential to have some interest. I have seen many people who have no interests, take refuge in watching TV or look for people to gossip around.
So, figure out what are your interests and develop them to more depth.

Reason#3 - Old age companions

In your old age, your kids will get busy in their life and will leave the nest sooner or later, it will be only your interests that will become your old age companions and would help you to keep a good mental health which also means that you would spend a stress free life.

Linking and Thinking

Meaningful information is always linked and our mind finds it quite stimulating when it is able to link the inputs. There is always some structure gets created in mind which remain there permanently, which we call as knowledge.
What "structure" means is, there is a big picture (in context to a particular topic) in mind like a jigsaw puzzle.The basic blocks of this picture get created when the topic is introduced for the first time or you may say when the fundamentals are taught. If the basic picture is not coming in shape in the beginning then the future inputs will not help much because it will be difficult for mind to fit the new inputs in the right slot of a picture emerging from a jigsaw puzzle. So it is important to develop the right picture from the beginning which actually means learning the fundamentals correctly.

My curiosity to ask questions got killed since childhood when teachers made mockery on asking stupid questions in class and literally scolded for not paying due attention in class or for not reading the chapters well.

It is also scientifically proven, when we learn something new, our brain creates a new connection of neuron cells (a body cell present in human brain) which means that a new input gets stored in mind and can be retrieved anytime. In my words, I call it a picture, created by connections of inputs received. Each one develop a different picture based on understanding of concept, the two persons can have entirely different pictures about the same subject or inputs.
If you have some knowledge of software, you would know how computer stores information by storing memory addresses in registers and retrieve it by linking these addresses.
The key to understand the science behind interest is the creation of links. If you can develop meaningful links you will have better and sound knowledge.

My Personal Experience

"It must be remembered that the purpose of education is not to fill the minds of students with facts…it is to teach them to think." ~Robert M. Hutchins

Quite late in life when I started my career I felt a strong desire to contemplate about the reasons behind my being average student when I always liked to think scientifically. I knew my weaknesses very well, one of them was my inability to solve numerical in physics and chemistry and in mathematics it was my inability to handle numbers and complexity. They always intimidated me at the very first sight and never ever let my relationship grow. I also knew my strengths, like, my love, biology. So I had a good comparison base which could help me in seeking answers to my questions.

On thinking deeper and deeper I found that during my primary and middle classes, I had lot of curiosity to know about things but it got killed by the pattern of studies followed in schools. My teachers never bothered to pay attention if I have really understood the concept or not. They were more bothered about the completion of home assignments, marks/grades in the tests. Seeing, that curiosity does not pay much as compared to completing assignments and home works on time, some higher power gave me wisdom to follow the path of compliance. I became extra regular in completing home works/assignments rather than making sure that I have developed a deep understanding of concepts. Even on doing home work/assignments on time, I never fell in love with any of the other subjects except biology which remained as my only love.

My curiosity to ask questions got killed since childhood when teachers made mockery on asking stupid questions in class and literally scolded for not paying due attention in class or for not reading the chapters well. Because of this I always found myself at fault and never mustered the courage to ask stupid or any question in the class. The effect of this was that my mind could not develop the clear picture of concept and so could not grasp the fundamentals.

During my higher secondary school days I never liked mathematics, physics and chemistry though I opted for science. I opted for science because deep down my thinking was always scientific (even now also, it is so.). During this period, I developed an inch of liking for mathematics but there was never a warmth and comfort in our relationship and I always felt intimidated at the slightest possibility of extra complexity. Because of my love hate relationships with mathematics, physics and chemistry I remained as an average student and never ever topped the class. My only love was biology and I always loved studying it.

During job, I remember, in one of the assignments where I was supposed to conceptualize the solution, I did a fantastic job and delivered the best and everybody appreciated me for it. While doing that, I had a clear picture in my mind and had a harmonious flow of my hands and mind and even in today's date, I remember the smallest possible detail of that assignment.

Looking back and on thinking deeper, I found, whatever topics/subject I ever found interesting, whether in maths, physics, chemistry or biology or any xyz subject or any task at job, there was a deep clarity in my mind and I had an excellent level of structured knowledge which made me feel completely at ease while handling complexities. For any topic/subject/task for which I did not have a structured knowledge made me feel fearful about the complexities.

Sometimes, I feel, had all those teachers encouraged me to ask the questions stupid/crazy/weird whatever, probably my knowledge and interests would have been completely different today. Probably, I would have become an expert in different field and could have used my undiscovered talents. But, never mind, I am a happy person knowing the fact I am discovering myself interestingly with my own efforts.

Personally, I feel a deep pain when I see students struggling to study for exams, because I know, they do not have the rightly linked information in their mind due to which instead of enjoying their studies they are more of struggling about it.
No matter how hard you study, if you do not have the right linking, you will never be able to have interest and would not be able to motivate yourself for studies and results would be average. If you want excellent results, start believing in linking and thinking.:-).

man playing guitar

How to develop interest?

Interest, not necessarily be in any academic field, your interest could be in any area or field. Do not limit yourself to have an interest only in academics, with the right amount of efforts and determination, you could develop any interest. Here are few tips which could help you in developing your interest. I have tried these tips on myself and these might work for you as well.

  1. Correlate things with concepts in daily life activities.
  2. Whatever we are studying is present in our surroundings, in some or the other way, it is only that we are not aware of it. If you are learning something new, figure out where it is present in your environment. Also, each and every topic has some logic and context behind it, if you know that, your mind will accept the inputs with ease. If you are learning science then our home and environment are the best labs for observations. Many of the concepts have evolved and originated out of our daily needs and hence they are easier to correlate.

  3. Draw picture using your understanding.
  4. Whatever you have learned new, try to draw its picture in your mind. "A picture is worth a thousand words", is a common adage and it is absolutely hundred percent true. Your mind works best with pictures. To give a quick test, say any word, for example "an apple" and see the image popped up in your mind. Similarly if you associate the concepts with picture, it will be easier for your mind to retrieve the details.

  5. Ask "WHY"
  6. The word "Why" has a power because the answer to it is always loaded with details. Make it a habit to ask "Why" for almost anything and especially the area for which you want to develop your interest.
    If you are a parent, encourage your child to ask "Why" for everything and help him/her to build a strong concept and structured knowledge.
    If you are a teacher, give your students an assignment to answer "why" for any subject/area of personal choice every day.

  7. Play quizzes
  8. Our mind works best when we are playing and any playful activity will help to learn the concept clearly and quickly. Whatever subject/topic for which you want to develop interest, play a quiz around it, write down your own questions and play with your friends or anybody you feel suitable.
    If you are parent or teacher encourage kids to write questions for quiz and help them to play.
    Most kids (even adults also) avoid quizzes because there is a fear of judgement, fear of exposure of knowledge and fear of losing the game. So, eliminate the criteria of marks simply encourage the participation.

  9. Have a discussion
  10. Discuss the topic/subject with your friends, teachers, spouse, peers, siblings anybody whom you feel comfortable with. The more you would discuss, the more you would get clarity in your mind and the more you would love it.
    Encourage everybody to focus on the details of the concepts. The objective is to understand the concept from all dimensions.

Start Now

Your interest in any area/subject/topic determines your motivation and your motivation is a key to your current area of pursuit and overall success in life. Your interest is a driving force of your motivation. In absence of motivation and interest you would not be able to deliver your best in your work or studies.
If you feel that you are too old to develop any interest, then it is simply a self limiting belief. There is no age of developing any interest. You already have a mind power inside you which you can harness any time it is only your willpower that matters. Nobody else will find your interests, it is entirely up to you to find and develop your interests.
In your capacity, encourage your kids, students, spouse, team members or friends to develop interest in order to harness the mind power.
You never know when your interests get transformed in to your passion. Keep exploring and keep trying and last but not the least keep encouraging others.

image©Ian Wilson
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Seema Bhatnagar
, Blogger, Writer, Life Coach and Founder of Abundance Thinkers, site for personal growth and development. Empowering people in achieving and living the best of personal potential.

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