One thing they didn't study is that the listeners are likely to experience less stress or frustration than non-listeners. Why? Because the listeners are doing something they want to do rather than feeling helpless and frustrated about being stuck in traffic and unable to do what they want to be doing.
It's easier to learn something really well when you listen to audio programs in your car because you're more likely to listen to them several times than you are to read a book several times, and repetition is an important key to retaining information. In a study on memory, researchers found that when people listened to information they'd never heard before, two weeks later they could only remember two percent of it. But if they listened to it on six consecutive days, they remembered sixty-two percent of it two weeks later. Repeated listening is an effective way to learn.
You have an enormous variety of material to choose from. You can increase your vocabulary, learn a new language, or learn more about your field. Books you've been wanting to read but can't seem to find the time are probably available on audio. They even have college courses on audio. The Teaching Company in Virginia records the best professors around the country and sells you their lectures on CDs, DVDs, or streaming. So you could literally get a college education in your car. Many libraries have these courses available to check out.
You can also use audio programs for motivation, and that may be the most valuable use.
Mary Kay Ash of the Mary Kay cosmetics empire told Zig Ziglar she would never get into her car without an audio program she could listen to while she was driving. H.L. Hunt, who was worth three billion dollars by the end of his life, was a big fan of motivational audio programs. Wallace Johnson, one of the co-founders of Holiday Inns International, even at eighty years old, still listened to motivational programs every day. He was one of the first to do so. Back before they had books recorded by professional readers, he had one of his employees read nonfiction books onto tapes for him. "The reason many people don't succeed or are unhappy," wrote Johnson, "is that they have sour, negative, resentful attitudes." In his speeches, he always tried to emphasize what he believed was the most important thing in life: "the development of the proper attitude." One good way to develop a better attitude is to listen to motivational programs in your car.
Alan Bean, one of the twelve astronauts who walked on the moon, said he listened to motivational tapes in his car on his way to his NASA training while he was preparing for his space flight. Does that surprise you? The Apollo astronauts were the most confident, competent, healthy people on the planet. They had passed severe physical and psychological tests, and then were trained intensely. It might seem surprising that Bean would listen to tapes to increase his motivation, but one of the reasons he made it into the space program is that he knew how to keep himself motivated and focused. Listening to audio programs in the car is one very effective way to do that.
Most of us are aware that working toward a big goal is where the fun is, but motivation doesn't seem to last. People go to seminars and hear motivational speakers and get excited about their goals and their life, but the motivation and excitement fades. What we need is the ability to stay motivated — not faking it, not forcing ourselves, but really feeling motivated. Audio programs do the trick.
Motivation fades only if you stop motivating yourself. You can't get motivated once and expect it to last a lifetime. That would be like being nice to your spouse once and expecting your marriage to be blissful for the rest of your life. It doesn't work that way. It would be like trying to exercise once and being disappointed you don't stay in shape. It would be like watering a plant once and wondering why it eventually wilted. You get the idea.
Whether or not you stay motivated is up to you, and it requires as much "work" as any other worthwhile state you're trying to maintain — a state of harmony between you and your mate, a state of health for your body, a state of ease in your life. They all require sustained action to maintain. The good news is that it isn't really "work" because the benefits so far outweigh the cost in terms of effort. You get immediate rewards for your effort to stay motivated: You get to feel motivated, and that's a wonderful way to go through the day.
The content of your mind determines whether you feel motivated or not, and listening to audio programs is an excellent form of training for what to say to yourself. Recordings of good motivational speakers can help you learn how to stay motivated and focused on your purposes. For example, when I was going from bookstore to bookstore to convince them to carry my first book, I listened to an audio program on selling that said, "it doesn't matter whether this customer buys anything. It is the process of going out and calling on people that does the trick. Any particular call is unimportant." I used that motivational material in my self-coaching when I was visiting bookstores. Instead of getting anxious about this bookstore and whether or not they'd say yes, instead of feeling depressed if they did say no, I relaxed and reminded myself it is the process of going to bookstores that works, regardless of what this bookstore did.
Listen to audio programs for an infusion of motivation, focus, and a reminder of principles. It is an aid to autosuggestion, boosting and magnifying your efforts. Listen to them enough and certain phrases will become memorized, coming back to you when you need to hear them. It is a useful form of (semi)autosuggestion. If you don't like some of it, edit down your own version. Make your own from good books. Motivation is nothing to take lightly. Here are some motivational programs I recommend:
The Science of Personal Achievement by Napoleon Hill
The Psychology of Achievement: Develop the Top Achiever's Mindset by Brian Tracy
Lead The Field by Earl Nightingale
How to Stay Motivated by Zig Ziglar
The Psychology of Winning by Denis Waitley
They all basically say the same thing: Choose good goals, stay focused on them, imagine the way you want things to go, take plenty of action, and talk to yourself in a way that maintains strong motivation and confidence. Some give bonus tips. But more important than the information they give you is that while you're listening, you're thinking about your goal. That is the most motivating thing you can do. And they tell you stories about people who overcame setbacks. It doesn't matter that they all say basically the same thing. After you listen to something ten times, you might not want to hear it again. But if you want to keep motivating yourself, you can put in an audio program by a different author and even though he or she may be saying the same thing, it's a different voice and it's being said in a different way using different illustrations, so you really listen, and become re-motivated because it makes you think about your goal.
The fact that you spend a considerable amount of your time driving alone can be a wonderful opportunity to increase your knowledge and keep yourself motivated. Don't waste this valuable opportunity.
Listening to audio programs lowers anxiety by:
- Taking your mind off thoughts that produce anxiety and other negative emotions, preventing extra stress hormones, even while stuck in traffic.
- Altering the content of your mind. The content of your mind in the present is all-important. Listening to a tape is a very easy and direct way to control the contents of your mind in the present.
- Having more to talk about when interacting with people.
- Increasing your competence and knowledge at your job, making you feel more confident and secure (the opposite of anxiety).
- Increasing motivation. Desire displaces fear. Motivation displaces anxiety.
Adam Khan is the author of Cultivating Fire: How to Keep Your Motivation White Hot, Principles For Personal Growth, and Slotralogy: How to Change Your Habits of Thought. Follow his podcast, The Adam Bomb.