How to Stay Motivated

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Psychology Today defines motivation as “the desire to act in service of a goal. It's the crucial element in setting and attaining our objectives.” So how do we get motivated? Perhaps, more importantly, how do we stay motivated? First, let’s consider the sources of motivation.

  • Extrinsic motivation: when a person is inspired by outside sources such as other people or rewards (Psychology Today)

    • Examples: money, approval, job title, awards

  • Intrinsic motivation: when the inspiration comes from within (Psychology Today)

    • Examples: joy of learning, competition with self

Spend some time considering what are your extrinsic and intrinsic motivators. How can these motivators be applied to your academics? Before starting an assignment or studying for an exam, keep your motivators in mind to answer the question “why is this important to me?”

We recognize that thinking about motivators is helpful but is not always going to work. Motivation can come more easily when we enjoy the task, it is easy, or the award is immediate. It is certainly harder when a task is boring, challenging, or the reward is a long way away. Reflect on ways that you can make a boring or challenging task fun or easy. Try studying with friends, changing up your environment, or build in your own reward system. 

James Clear, author of Atomic Habits: An Easy and Proven Way to Build Good Habits and Break Bad Ones, suggests the following ways to find and create motivation:

  • Get Started

    • Clear encourages readers to set a 10 minute timer and give full effort to the task. You may find that motivation comes after you start rather than before. If you are able to start, you may be able to finish. Clear draws the comparison to Newton’s First Law: objects in motion tend to stay in motion. 

  • Schedule Your Motivation

    • Schedule time in your day to complete the task rather than waiting for the desire to start it.

  • Create Motivation with Routines

    • You can find motivation by connecting an existing habit to a desired habit. For example, you could decide “after I go to Physics class, I will go to the library to start the homework assignment for one hour.”