Finding the motivation from within

A lot of students come and ask me for help in getting motivated. So many in fact that the old cliché of if I had a dollar for every time someone asked me that I’d be a millionaire would apply. As I’m not getting a dollar for each question there is no point in keeping the answer a secret so I thought I’d share my thoughts with you all here.

A lot of people think that motivation comes solely from the reward. So in workplaces the higher the salary offered the better the performance. If we applied this logic then the higher the reward for students would be the higher percentage of your final grade awarded to the task. But this isn’t the case, in fact the higher the percentage of the final grade on one task often leads to increased anxiety, greater time spent procrastinating and worse performance. Why is this? It could be that when the task is simple and doesn’t require abstract, complicated, creative cognition required the higher the reward the better the performance but as soon as we move past mechanical skill into above rudimentary cognition this is no longer the motivator.

So if not reward then what? I’ve watched a TED talk and another Youtube clip this past week which indicates that the motivating factors include autonomy, mastery and purpose. Whilst these clips both refer to motivators in the workplace they are very similar to those at play in learning and education. When you are studying you are more motivated when you have some choice in how you learn, so allowing a combination of ways to access materials or a number of different assessment questions where a student can choose from can help this. However not all programs and courses lend themselves to this so you need to find autonomy of the task in other ways, like scheduling your own time to complete work or finding the best way to prepare for exams. When studying you also need to feel competent, so seeking feedback from academic staff on your direction for an assessment or performance in tutorials and labs prior to assessment due dates or exams will help motivate you towards goal completion. The opportunity to further develop a skill when you know you have already made some progress towards the end goal is motivating in itself.

Finally, the goal has to match your values system or your purpose. We all have a desire to contribute to something which is bigger than ourselves. So if you are struggling with motivation ask yourself why you started studying? Why you chose this degree? What are your big end picture goals? If it’s just getting the degree or ticking off a box maybe the struggle with motivation may be more about not being clear about that bigger picture.

Now that you understand motivation you’re all set for success right? Well maybe not all set, but a little closer. Check out these inspiration or motivational quotes to help you on the journey – there is something for everyone!


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