Finding your Motivation

As your classes come to an end and you are starting your push to the finish, I have heard from many of you that you are having difficulty with motivation. You are not alone! It can be more difficult to find motivation when you are not in face-to-face classes and are physically away from the academic atmosphere of Reed. To be frank, we are all dealing with various challenges now during this unprecedented time which makes it difficult to stay motivated. Your academic pursuits are nonetheless just as important as they have ever been. Many of you are completing the final touches of your thesis, starting on your final term paper, or beginning to study for your final exams. You can do this! You might be asking though, how do I find motivation in the middle of a pandemic?

First, you must tie your motivation to a “why” and change your “should” or “have to” to a “want to”. We are much more likely to do something when we change our mindset and make the task or outcome something we want. So, what is your “why”? Tie this “why” to a short term or long term goal and make sure it matches your values. If you come up with a “why” and still aren’t feeling inspired, you might need to change it. One student told me they have to finish their final paper because they need to pass their class. This wasn’t motivating them and they were frustrated with their lack of progress. I reminded them that this is a choice. After thinking about this more, they told me they are excited about the topic of their paper, and they want to pass their class because they have put a lot of effort into it. This mental shift to “want” and the change in the “why” really made a difference for this student.

Next, make a title or mantra for your pursuit. This can be a really fun way to inspire yourself. Years ago, I made a goal to complete a mini triathlon that summer. The mantra I created for the pursuit was “Just Tri”. Make it fun, write it down, and post it somewhere you can see while you are working. How about the “Covid Cram” or the “Pandemic Push”?

Many people think motivation comes before the task, but this is actually not true. Once you start to reap some positive benefits from a pursuit, then you feel motivated. Positive progression leads to more progression. So, how do you get yourself to start if starting is the most difficult part? Creating a “starting routine” can really make a big difference. Do the same thing, something that is pleasurable or neutral, every time you start the task. Your brain will start to link the starting routine to the actual work, making it more difficult to not do your task than to do it. One student gave me an example of their “starting routine”. They fill up their water bottle, get 10 Mike & Ike’s and put them on their desk, and turn on their favorite study music. They do this exact routine every time they start to study or begin a paper. Their mind is now wired to start writing or studying. They also have a positive connection to studying; their favorite candy and music. What will your “starting routine” be?

Once you have started on your schoolwork, your mind will likely make suggestions for you to quit. Sometimes hard work can be a little uncomfortable. Remember, these are just thoughts and they will likely pass in a moment or two. Accomplishing your task, completing your paper, and knowing you are prepared for your final exam feels amazing. Hard work does pay off and will leave you with a sense of accomplishment during this difficult time. You are worth this and so is your education. Try to channel positive energy as you find your motivation.

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