How To Stay Motivated

Photograph of NC State Transfer Goodnight Scholar Breanne Aiken of the transfer class of 2022.

What keeps you going through school? For a lot of us, it’s the hope of a good-paying job, or the opportunity to do what we are interested in and passionate about professionally. But, those two reasons might not always be enough to keep you motivated. Sometimes things get hard and we can lose our motivation. A friend of mine recently asked me how it was that people find a way to stay motivated even when they are tired, or when schoolwork is piling up, or when they have simply had a bad week.

The thing that used to motivate me to work so hard was the desire to prove to myself that I could make it into NC State if I put my mind to it. I wanted to show myself that I could make something of myself. After making it here, maybe not surprisingly, I lost some motivation. Without having something to overcome, or something to prove, I had to rely solely on my interest in the field the I have committed myself to study.

I have found through experience and observation that people lose some amount of interest in what they are doing and might become “burnt out” if they don’t pace themselves or if the work becomes particularly hard. It seems then, to stay motivated, one needs to gather several motivators. This is just my two cents of course, but armed with this assumption, I have set out to find those reasons. What I have found so far is that the motivation that I hold need not always be grand but often is effectual even when rather small and mundane. It is not always the grand motivators in my life that keep me going in the little moments when things get difficult or just become a pain. I find that little moments of difficulty best require little pieces of motivation. Having a large, long term source of motivation is great to keep you going over the course of a year or some extended time. It is great to keep you coming back each semester but is it not always very effective for the short term like when you are tired and have just one more homework assignment left to do.

To find these little motivators to keep me going when the night is late and I have more work to do, or when I am especially tired and a day of lectures or studying is ahead of me, I think about what sparked my interest in my subject of study to begin with. One of the things that I enjoyed about my subject in the beginning was the opportunity to learn, and how cool the things that I learned were. I try to ask myself “what can I learn from this” rather than to simply slog through another lecture because it is on the schedule or because I will need the information for the exam. As my experience studying has grown and my methods refined, I have often forgotten to care about what it is that I am even trying to learn. So I have to go back and ask the basic questions for the benefit of my curiosity rather than for the benefit of passing an exam. After all, I didn’t become interested in my subject because I thought that I would get to take exams on the material, so why would exam related questions be the only ones that I asked myself? I have found just this little action, considering what about the information that I am assigned personally interests me, or what I can learn from it and what I can do with it, can be so motivating that it keeps me in the work and renews my energy.

I encourage whoever might be reading this to consider what it was that sparked their interest in their field of study and to reflect on whether they are giving proper attention to nurturing that reason. It might not be necessary for everyone, but it can be a tool in your utility belt of motivators that might come in handy if others should fail.

Photography credit: Jason Perry/Goodnight Scholars Program