Nov. 28, 2018

Motivation: Your MO

When I get to know my own Homeroom students well, and they have confidence in being frank with me, they’ll sometimes say, “I just don’t feel motivated to do school,” (even though they say they genuinely like CalPacs) and this is the principle reason why they are disengaged and falling behind pace in their courses online.  

We live in a time when we are spoiled by instant gratification.  GPS, texting, fast food, Netflix, Alexis, and Uber are all amazing inventions that give us expediated response and service.  The problem is that we have trained our brain to get things quickly. However, when you toil, persevere, even struggle to obtain a goal, the ultimate gain far outweighs the trigger-happy dopamine release of immediate gratification.  

Playing “Prelude in C” by Bach on the piano, sustained weight loss, a happy marriage, becoming fluent in another language, bench pressing 200 pounds – these are the achievements of immeasurable satisfaction simply because they don’t happen overnight.  There you have the secret to success, but it’s NO secret!  It can be YOURS and NO one can take it from you.

This category of student becomes a “serial successful student” – they have worked for and tasted success – and they only become more and more and more successful.  What many students don’t realize is they can teach themselves to become intrinsically motivated instead of walking around like a Pavlov’s dog salivating at the sound of the dinner bell.  Here are some tips to becoming more intrinsically motivated.

Think big, start small.  Research tells us that adolescents make decisions in a 24-hour window-world with little pause for thought about what happens beyond those next 24 hours.  Parents and teachers can point out (please no preaching) the implications of choices that reach far beyond the next day or two, so that the student connects their procrastinating now with summer school six months from now.  It’s useful to get the student thinking about the future by asking about their aspirations, or dreams, or what their strengths and gifts are. Students, you can journal or brainstorm about what the future “you” looks like. Draw a picture of it.  Will you have a career? A technical trade? Will you look healthy and vital? Where will you live? What is your dream college? Then, zoom in and “start small” by asking what ONE NEXT STEP (only one) can you take NOW, toward that big future picture.

In additional to the “next step”, identify one tangible goal to achieve by the end of this week.  Write it down, state it out loud to your Homeroom Teacher.  This practice of “think big, start small” and declaring one weekly goal connects the brain to a larger cause, a life continuum, instead of a 24-hour vacuum, and that is where intrinsic motivation starts to take root.    

Annie Canosa