A Tale Of Two Tests


Psych 101, Iowa State University, Fall 1969.

Maybe 200-300 students in a creaky old lecture hall, professor droning, me taking notes with one question in mind: Will this be on the test?

Came home (yes, I lived at home) from my very first college midterm exam and told my mom I was going to flunk out of college. I’d NEVER taken a test on which I was more clueless, so imagine my surprise when grades were posted and my SSN appeared third from the top!

Lesson learned? I was very good at taking tests, even when I didn’t really understand the material. And since “good grades” was the whole point of school I spent the next four years refining my test-taking abilities. Learning became an incidental side benefit as I developed core competencies as an extremely efficient class-taker and grade-getter.

Fast forward a few years to a basic counseling course on the first day of my first class in grad school. Professor Ray Bryan handed us a form.

“This is the final grade form for this course. Hold on to it, or you you may complete it right now.”

We looked at one another as Dr. Bryan explained that we were indeed being asked to give ourselves our own grade for the course and it was perfectly fine if we wanted to do it today, before the class even started. I filled in my info and smiled as I darkened the bubble representing my first graduate school assessment.

I already knew how to get A’s, how to play the school game. Now I wanted to learn how to learn, to be a student, to become a counselor. I didn’t want grad school to become a quest for a “4.0.” So I gave myself a “B” and removed the pressure.

Two tests, and a lesson for you and me about external vs. internal motivation.

External motivation – grades, wages, approval, whatever – is always coercive. It’s always about reward and punishment. External motivation shifts focus from long-term process to short-term results, from core principles to conditional expediency.

Eternal motivation is ultimately, always, rooted in fear.

Internal motivation springs from love. Of knowing, learning, creating. It values process and principle. It’s never coercive, never about punishments or rewards.

Jesus – despite the portrayals of some followers – always seeks to inspire authentic internal motivation within His followers. His way is one of long-term process and core principles based on love.

He’s never about coercion. Or punishment. Or rewards. Or expediency. Never.

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I think a lot about inspiration and motivation regarding the FREEDOM TOUR. As we tell the story of the ride and the kids, I hope we speak in terms that are inspirational, that might plant within you a seed that will become your internal motivation to follow your own God-sized dream and perhaps to join us in some way.

Here one story:

Can’t see the video? Click here.

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