Build Motivation

Sometimes one of the biggest challenges to attention is motivation. Here are some ways to make motivation work in your favor:

  • Remind yourself of the “why.” Let’s say you arrive in class unmotivated to be there. Ask yourself questions such as, “What do I need to get out of today’s class to be prepared for the exam or paper?” “How will today’s topics connect to what we covered in the last class meeting?” “How can I use this class to make progress in my major or towards my career goals?” These questions can quickly help establish the “why.” Similar questions can help increase motivation to do the reading or other assignment.
  • Set a goal. Go into each learning experience with something specific you want to learn, clarify, or accomplish. Try to find opportunities for the “ah-ha” moments that come with learning.
  • Be aware of your self-talk. You may hear your brain saying, “I don’t feel like doing this right now.” This becomes an issue of motivation to address. Perhaps you hear, “I’m afraid I’m not going to do well.” This is a natural fear that happens to every learner at some point. Tell yourself that you can and will succeed by committing your attention and effort.
  • Reward yourself! The brain is wired to respond to rewards, meaning it’s a powerful motivator. Make a favorite activity (spending time with friends, playing video games, going for a run) the reward for writing a paper draft, or even going to every one of your classes that day. Consider offering yourself an hour of Netflix after you have practiced teaching concepts during a group study session.

Consider Your Mindset

Learning means change, and often we are influenced by our “mindset” about our situation. What is your response to academic struggle? Are you tempted to give up easily or do you embrace a challenge? Students with a fixed mindset may be tempted to let one setback define them, whereas, a growth mindset is all about recognizing that setbacks or “bumps in the road” are part of the learning process. If you replace the “I can’t do it” with an “I can’t do it, yet,” the setback becomes an opportunity for growth.

To learn more about a growth versus fixed mindset, visit our Manage Your Mindset article in addition to the Mindset Kit at:

Outline of two heads (one blue and one black) with comparison of Fixed versus Growth Mindsets. Fixed Mindset, "Failure is a limit of my abilities"whereas Growth Mindset is "Failure is an opportunity to grow."

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