Loyola Students have just gone through a period of midterms, or at least a barrage of due dates that filled up every waking moment and even stole some sleeping ones. This process was difficult for the C student, just as it was for the A student. Working toward long term goals such as getting a good grade in Organic Chemistry or graduating with a degree in Creative Writing are tough. While we are built for achieving long term goals (see: Pyramids, Great Wall of China, that 10 page research paper that wouldn’t write itself), it takes a certain amount of motivation to get there.
Motivation is tricky. I do not suggest using the same strategies that the builders of the Pyramids used to get A’s on your upcoming finals. I’m a pragmatist at heart, so truthfully I recommend anything that works – but let me tell you what experience and research say are the most effective.
Eat Your Vegetables:
Behavioral research shows that motivation to start and continue a task is best done through carrots… or reinforcements. Compliments, snacks, Netflix breaks, video game time outs, naps, walks outside, walks inside, skipping ahead to an easier assignment, talking with a friend, going to the gym, deciding to check Facebook or Twitter or Instagram and not because you did it compulsively, going for a meal with friends, having a cup of coffee that you enjoy instead of chug, getting a high five, receiving a high five, going for a drive, going for a streetcar ride… the list goes on… are all better ways to build rewards into your study habits rather than punishing yourself through procrastination, sleep deprivation, locking yourself in a room, failing a test, avoiding telling your parent why you got a D on that paper, telling your parent that you got a D on that paper, feeling guilty for taking the unearned videogame break, missing meals, gaining weight, isolating yourself socially, no one giving you a high five, pounding your 3rd Red Bull of the day, or writing run-on sentences. Why is this? Because we are better at avoiding punishments than learning from them. This will always be true, but it is especially true when we are not aware of why we are here.
Grow Your Own Carrots:
The other half of motivation is relying on an internal reason to achieve your goals. So why are you here? I went to college to make my parents proud. I went to make myself proud. I went so that I could make money later in life and I went to learn how to learn. I went so that I could write run on sentences as a rhetorical strategy and not because I have poor grammar skills. I went so that I could live a Liberal Arts life – using the depth and breadth of my knowledge to understand a complex and changing world. I went so that my critical thinking skills would surpass those of my high school self and so I could compete with those whom I admired. I went to dedicate my life to be able to serve students to the best of my ability. That’s why I’m here with you … now.
When your internal reason is your center, you can put the extra hours into studying and not feel like you are sacrificing. Studying and learning can become carrots or reinforcements in and of themselves. Pretty soon, you’ll be on your way to passing that Organic Chemistry test and designing plans for your next Pyramid.