Mastering Motivation

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Steve Mueller of North Carolina, a blogger on Planet of Success and author of the e-book “The Road to Success” felt stumped. Mueller describes an analytics project requiring him to analyze large amounts of data. Not a numbers guy, Mueller had difficulty staying motivated throughout the project. Mueller’s predicament sounds familiar to many college students. In a study conducted in 2011, The Harvard Pathways to Prosperity Project listed lack of motivation as the top reason students fail or drop out of courses.


Scientifically researched, the Self-Determination Theory of Motivation revolves around the idea of supporting natural and intrinsic tendencies in order to act in efficient and healthy ways. All humans have three psychological needs that must be met to sustain motivation, according to University of Rochester Professor of Psychology Edward Deci. Students need to feel confident, related to the people around you and participate in behaviors with a sense of engagement according to Deci. This theory heavily depends upon people immersing themselves in a social environment that is conducive to their learning experience.

“It’s so important that you surround yourself with people that are doing what you do, because whoever you’re around will start to reflect who you are and what you do,” motivational speaker DeLores Pressley said. It’s the individual’s responsibility to find an environment that suits them. This may be a group of friends, a supportive professor or even just one other person. Find confidence in the social setting that’s right for you by relating to those around you and feeling a natural sense of engagement so you remain motivated more easily.


The Goal-Setting Theory of Motivation states you should make difficult and specific goals to enhance performance. Doing gives a feeling of pride and triumph when you accomplish your goal. This spirals to the feelings of self-efficacy, self-confidence and assurance that you can accomplish any task assigned. Map out your goals out in a concrete manner, taking note of the task and the “accomplish by date.” Doing so will make you more focused and will feel like you’re held accountable to that goal, keeping your motivation high. “By following this system you’re able to visualize yourself at the end of that goal when you have completed it and are better able to materialize the achievement and see it in your head for yourself,” Pressley said.

Hope Kordalksi of Florida, a blogger on Tumblr said writing down specific and small goals on Post-it notes helps her to stay motivated. In fact, she motivated herself to go back to college. Goals are a form of autonomous motivation; something we do for ourselves for internal reasons.


Dopamine is a neurotransmitter within the brain that’s involved with motivation according to WebMD. One method to trigger dopamine is breaking a large task into smaller tasks, allowing dopamine to be released on many smaller levels with the completion of each task, subsequently building up your motivation to its full potential. Mueller explains when he faces a large task he breaks things down into easily approachable subtasks. Then he works toward the completion of each subtask and eventually the entire task is complete.

Indiana University Professor of Practice Jeffrey Huber gives another way to release this chemical in order to help you stay motivated. “Some of the factors that contribute to the production of dopamine are exercise,” Huber said. Regularly exercising floods the brain with dopamine, allowing for heightened levels of motivation and a stronger willingness to accomplish a task. It’s extremely helpful to take a break from studying and go exercise so dopamine levels rise while concurrently allowing your brain to take a break from the books. Coupled together, these things result in newly replenished levels of motivation.

Following these tips to tackle tasks with a clear and focused perspective, allowing you to push through any unforeseen difficulties that arise. Not only will they guide you through your college experience, they also help you face future tasks beyond college with a confidence that allows you to excel in whatever you do.

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