I’ve spent a few blog entries providing parents and teachers with tips to help improve their children and students’ academic motivation. Lately, I’ve spoken with several adults and college students that would like to find ways to increase their own motivation. In the most basic sense, being motivated means wanting something and being willing to work toward it. Often, college students lack motivation to do their homework because they are unsure what it is that they are actually working toward. In order to address this issue, there are several questions to consider:
- Are you studying because you are mastering material you will use in your future career?
- Are you working to get good grades so you can get into graduate, medical, or law school?
- Are you trying to finish the courses so college will be behind you?
- Have you defined your major and the career you would like to pursue and taking relevant courses?
Once these questions are answered, you will likely have a better sense of what you are working toward and the coursework is likely to become more meaningful. Also, you may wish to consider whether you believe you will be successful in academic tasks. Many students hesitate to begin tasks because they fear they cannot complete it well. In those cases, I would encourage to think about past occasions when you’ve been challenged and experienced academic success. Certainly, you’ve experienced success if you are now attending college! Remembering those times may help you to feel more confident when confronted with new academic challenges.
Next, you may be able to identify ways that you can make the task more enjoyable. For example, for classes that require written papers, you could take the time to select a topic that is of genuine interest to you. For another class that requires extensive reading, you could bring the book and a nice picnic blanket to read in the park. Then, for tasks that you struggle to enjoy, you may be able to increase your motivation by rewarding yourself for work completed. For example, you could decide that you will go and see a movie or go out for ice cream once your statistics homework is completed. It’s unlikely that you will find pleasure in every academic task or being internally motivated to complete each homework assignment. In those cases, it’s perfectly acceptable to provide yourself with external motivators. Once you begin to think of your own control over your motivation and the ways you can improve it, these strategies will become tools that you can carry past college into your working life.