It may be weird to start an article with this but it’s important to realize:
Motivational quotes suck.
No… I know they make you feel good. I used to read them all the time.
The quotes from intelligent people would make me feel better.
Unfortunately, they’ll rarely help you study for your exam.
Most people don’t need an instant hit of oxytocin to get themselves to start studying.
Those words from the wise are just another way to give yourself an excuse not to study.
They’re just a more creative excuse than usual.
All the study motivation in the world can’t help you when you get caught in a “motivation trap.”
You need to escape these study traps to study consistently.
It allows you to study when you want to (now… instead of when you finally give up and realize you’re desperate.)
“The whole idea of motivation is a trap. Forget motivation.
Just do it. Exercise, lose weight, test your blood sugar, or
whatever. Do it without motivation. And then, guess what?
After you start doing the thing, that’s when the motivation
comes and makes it easy for you to keep on doing it.”
― John C. Maxwell
Does that count as a motivational quote? I hope not… but anyway…
You can avoid the “motivation trap.” It’s easy to avoid once you understand it but you first need to know how to solve a few other motivation problems.
Why You’re Not Motivated
When you feel like you’re lacking motivation, it’s usually one of a few related problems.
Lacking motivation isn’t the problem.
It’s just the symptom of a bigger and more serious problem.
The main problems that look like motivation problems are:
- You don’t see a purpose
- You don’t think it’s possible
- It’s too hard
- You don’t know what to do
- You tolerate excuses
Now we’ve got to dig into the details:
You Don’t See A Purpose:
If you don’t see a purpose then it makes complete sense why you’re not motivated.
People don’t do things when they don’t have a purpose.
The natural human state is inaction beyond the bare minimum stuff like breathing.
To do something requires a purpose.
Why are you studying for this test?
Grades? Well… why do you want grades?
If you can’t find how your purpose will make you happier then you don’t have a good purpose.
(Once you finally notice how it changes happiness can instantly improve your motivation.)
You Don’t Think It’s Possible
What’s the point of doing something that you think is impossible?
This is just your brain doing what it’s supposed to do.
If you don’t see how something is possible then you can’t count on being motivated to do it.
This can be a base confidence problem that’s worth addressing.
A simple short term solution is to focus on making a small impact on your total goal.
You may want to study for 6 hours to get a high score but it may work better to focus on studying 20 minutes to get started.
You can increase it later.
As long as you know you won’t finish the 6-hour session you’re not going to want to start (and inevitably fail.)
The long-term solution is to address whether it is even possible to do what you want. (Usually, I’m willing to bet it is.)
It’s Too Hard
This is the same problem as not thinking it’s possible.
If you think you’re incapable of doing something then you’re not going to want to do it.
Why do something you’ll inevitably fail?
The solution is similar.
What parts of what you’re trying to do aren’t too hard?
If you can’t memorize all the required terms then can you memorize the easy ones?
Can’t “get it?” Well, can you just memorize some important facts?
You Don’t Know What To Do
If you don’t have a good idea of what you need to do then you’re much less likely to do it.
You need to know the next physical action required to continue. Without that, all the motivation in the world won’t push you to start.
You can pump yourself up but you’ll end up wasting the energy when you realize you don’t know what to do.
It doesn’t matter if it’s something simple that doesn’t need a plan.
If you don’t instantly know what you need to do then planning is the first step.
Make a list of the first physical thing you need to do (even if it’s just in your own head.)
By creating that list you give your motivation somewhere to start producing results.
Once you start producing results your brain will be pushing to produce more of them.
By having a basic plan for everything you do you can always be pushing yourself in the right direction.
The Motivation Trap
Here is a fundamental secret to the 95% of successful students:
It doesn’t matter if you feel motivated.
I know… I know… that doesn’t sound very motivational but I promise it gets better.
Students that are consistent about studying don’t rely on feeling motivated.
They may be motivated but they don’t sit down to assess their level of motivation before studying.
There focus is on something way more important than that.
They just start.
Sure… they may not feel a huge amount of motivation but they made a plan and they work through that plan.
They don’t even question whether or not they’re “in the mood” to be doing it.
When you start wondering if you’re motivated you’re killing your motivation.
Imagine you’re on the couch with your crush making out and getting all inappropriate. Now imagine the other person asks you if you want to have children with them. “Whoaaaaa…. Now hold on a minute!” That’s pretty much what you’re doing with your motivation. You’re killing the mood.
Motivation is a delicate thing.
Motivated people don’t listen to pump-up motivational podcasts all day.
(They listen to these podcasts because they’re forcing that motivation. Sure… it’s there but only in a shallow sense.)
Motivated people do things without forcing it.
The more you try to force motivation, the less you’re going to be able to embrace it.
You Tolerate Excuses
There plenty of excuses not to start:
Accept these excuses are true because at least one of them is almost always right.
Taking this seriously will ruin your motivation.
The smart thing to do will always be to put off studying. (Until the last minute, of course.)
There is always a good excuse not to do what you need to do.
Now ignore the excuses.
It doesn’t matter if you’re trapped in the middle of the arctic watching a race to your death from starvation or freezing (which will win? Freezing. Duh.) You don’t need any books on you. You don’t need your computer. Once the time for you to study hits. You study.
Close your eyes and imagine the material if you must. Just study.
Over time you can use planned excuses but if you’re concerned about your motivation then don’t settle for any excuse.
It doesn’t matter how good it is.
Once motivation starts coming naturally you can make your exceptions.
For now, there are none.
How To Develop Consistent Motivation
You don’t need to pump yourself up with motivation.
Motivation increases naturally through action and consistency.
If you do something repeatedly, you’re going to have a motivation to continue doing it.
After a couple weeks, it can take a conscious effort to prevent you from starting to study.
This is particularly true if you make it a habit.
The human brain adjusts its hormonal schedule based on the habits you develop.
If you study at the same time every day then your body will adjust to produce the hormones you need right when you need them.
Consistent action is the natural solution to all your study motivation needs.
This is the kind of motivation that consistently good students are almost always using.
You don’t need to have an extraordinary motivation.
You just need to be motivated enough to study consistently for a few weeks straight.
After that, you’ll start falling into a habit that guides you naturally towards studying.
That habit will motivate you without you needing any kind of external motivation pushing you.
Motivation is a deep subject with a ton of variables but just acting is the easiest way to feel that motivation.
Don’t fight with yourself to get in the right mood for studying because that will be pushing you away from the mood you need to be in.
You can’t get motivated “to do” by thinking about how to get motivated to do it.
It is possible to motivate yourself to do something by thinking about it but you don’t need to.
The mind follows the body as much as the body follows the mind. If you go through the motions of studying then your brain will start feeling motivated.
You won’t even have to pump yourself up. It will just be.
Study motivation can be tough but it’s easy when you realize that your motivation is a direct result of what you do.
(If you look up motivational tips then you’ll be motivated… to look up motivational tips. If you study, you’ll be motivated to study.)
Do you want to read some of the most motivational quotes ever? Well… Too bad… If you’re just looking to get a kick out of a silly post then you might want to read The Most Awesomest Motivational Quotes From Smart People.
What do you do when you’re not feeling very motivated to study?
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Aaron Richardson took his grades from fighting F’s to Easy A’s. In the process, he read over 300 books on personal development. Today he’s founded 2 blogs on studying including Smart Student Secrets. He’s written 3 books on the subject. His work has been featured on some of the biggest news, psychology, and student sites on the internet.