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The Motivation of Unfinished Work

What do the following words have in common: renew, allow, sauté, movie, and cater? These words were recent answers to the global word puzzle phenomenon WORDLE. As a self-proclaimed word nerd, I have been fascinated by this online, once-daily game since its launch. What started as a game between two people is now available in 61 languages around the world. How could something as simple as this catch fire so quickly? I did some investigation, and the answer I found was intriguing.

According to Dr. Tracy Alloway, a University of North Florida psychology professor, the game’s popularity may be related to something known as the Zeigarnik effect. This psychological tendency, similar to the idea of closure, is what makes the game so appealing.

Dr. Alloway says, “When something is unsolved, our brain fixates on that. The addictive quality brings us back.”

While this effect is generally discussed around a person’s short-term memory or the frustration surrounding intrusive thoughts about an incomplete task or series of tasks, I was struck by the notion of closure or unfinished work being a source of motivation.

For years, we in the vision sector have faced direct challenges to our mission of changing the world by improving eyesight. Evidence proves time and again that poor vision affects not only the individual but the world at large. While the progress made for good vision over the past decade has been undeniable, we are collectively driven by the dilemma of work still unfinished.

Last month, I virtually attended and had the privilege of speaking at the IAPB In Sight Live event. The collective energy expressed during the two days was palpable. Presenters delivered tangible ways that our sector can accomplish a unified ambition to end avoidable sight loss by 2030. It focused on utilizing the following three strategic steps: elevate, integrate, and activate.

For most of us, our organizations’ strategies reflect these three steps in some way, as our objectives and ambitions align. At the Vision Impact Institute, we employ these three steps in the following ways:

We believe that in order to elevate any cause as an economic, social, and development issue, awareness of the need is fundamental. Using an evidence-based approach to advocacy and awareness, we make the case for good vision to governments, decision-makers, and communities in an effort to drive lasting change.

We believe that good vision is a fundamental right, so we actively advocate for the equitable delivery of eye care services, the end of cultural stigmas, and early intervention in children and learning while partnering with others to ensure that vision is embedded in the global healthcare agenda.

We believe our greatest potential for creating impact lies in our ability to partner with and equip like-minded organizations around the world – public and private – to also make the case for vision through evidence and proven advocacy strategies.

As we continue taking the steps needed to end poor vision within a generation, our collective efforts will one day serve as a global report card to a world that may never know the hefty cost our society pays for uncorrected vision. I look forward to that day!

Accomplished English poet Christina Rossetti once posed, “Can anything be sadder than work left unfinished? Yes, work never begun.” Undoubtedly, we can all agree that we are doing the good work for healthy vision on a global scale. Yet, I would challenge that, like an unsolved word puzzle, it’s our unfinished work that keeps us coming back.