I find that as the weather gets warmer and spring quarter reaches the halfway mark, students struggle more with finding motivation. At a loss for motivation myself, I sought out a guide to help students find and keep their lost motivation. What can we do when we simply can’t find the motivation to keep working? How do we find the spirit to keep moving forward in a world that only seems to push us backward? I asked Melinda Johnson, who works as a therapist with Bold Living Counseling, to enlighten our college on five ways to motivate ourselves and to keep motivated.
Tip #1: Show Up
“One of the simplest places I like to start is to just ‘show up,” Johnson began. “Many times when we are not feeling motivated, any task suddenly feels like [climbing] Mount Everest and it’s too much energy to even try and attempt. By being in the mindset to ‘just show up,’ you aren’t expecting yourself to do it all in one sitting, but you are going to attempt to do something.”
Most of the time when I’m not motivated, I end up walking away from the assignment or project because I don’t feel like doing it or I’m too stressed out. One of the most helpful things to do is sit down and get working. We just have to try. Nothing is going to get done if we keep walking away. But when we show up and try, even if minimal, we will start to boost our motivation just by being there, and we might actually get something done in the process.
Tip #2: Creating Discipline
We can show up every day to try and motivate ourselves, or we can set aside time to accomplish that task by creating discipline for ourselves. Johnson said, “Once we lose motivation, we stop doing the work. I think it’s more important to create discipline in our habits than trying to find motivation. Motivation is more based on a feeling. Discipline means you do the work whether you want to or not.”
There are some tasks that you’re never going to want to do. But some things, like taking out the garbage, doing your homework for a required class or studying for an upcoming test, have to be done. You can’t wait forever to feel motivated. You need to create a time boundary and discipline yourself to it.
Having an open-ended timeframe to get things done just draws out the process. It makes it easier to make excuses for yourself and you face no repercussions. But if you plan out how to use your time to accomplish a task, then you start to work accordingly. Some steps to accomplish this include writing out your goal, finding someone to keep you accountable and setting a healthy consequence for yourself if you don’t follow through.
Tip #3: Reframe Your Mindset
“Growth mindset is openness to learn, even in our failures.” The growth mindset is considered one of the best ways to find motivation within oneself. It assures that even in fear and dark times, that one can find a way to grow, learn and improve, rather than become victimized. A growth mindset is capturing all of the goodness in life and learning from the dark times of failure.
When we reframe our mindset to look upon failure as a chance to grow, it will help us do better in the future and will help us find the motivation to take a chance in the present. Most people don’t start or “show up” because they are afraid of failure. But when you capture the growth mindset and use it for all that it is (and anyone can have a growth mindset), then you are able to try your best and do the work because you know that no matter what the outcome is, you will only grow from it.
Tip #4: Big Picture
Acknowledge what the big picture is in your life. What are you trying to achieve? Why does this need to get done? Figure out the why behind where you’re at and make sure you know where you want to go. Having a path is another way that can help create motivation. Using a vision board to help you physically see your dreams can help point you in the right direction as well. Look at that degree, job, life or status in the future that you’re working towards. If that doesn’t bring you joy and cause a spike of instant motivation, then stop. You need to know the direction your life is moving in for you to regain motivation.
Tip #5: Rewards
A reward system can also help you find motivation. Sometimes grades and a paycheck just don’t cut it. I’ve tried setting plans with friends for the weekend knowing that I had to complete all of the tasks assigned that week to make it. Having friends to keep you accountable has worked for me. Johnson says, “Rewards help create associations in our brains that can also help to encourage us to try and do the task again (you are conditioning your brain). For some people, looking forward to something like [summer] break can be helpful because they see an end in sight and it helps them do a last big push.”
Another thing that you might not have known is that we have intrinsic and extrinsic reward systems. When we reward ourselves externally from buying ice cream or watching another Netflix show, we get our motivation from external rewards that are visual representations of how well we did. When we complete a task and then await our intrinsic reward, that comes from inside of us. Intrinsically means that knowing what we completed is enough. That satisfaction or sense of achievement is enough to get us moving again. Both reward systems work, so focus on finding what reward system will keep you motivated.
Johnson repeatedly said, “Starting is the hardest part.” Once you show up and begin working towards that end goal, the rest will kick in. “Whatever tricks you find to help you start, the easier it will be to continue with the task at hand,” Johnson concluded. Look towards that big picture and focus on the little pieces that will lead to that final goal. Remember only you can motivate yourself. Hopefully, by now you will be able to sit down and discipline yourself to start.