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Friday, May 24
The Indiana Daily Student

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OPINION: Get moving!

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In an incredibly complicated world, few things are a part of every human's experience. Motivation is not one of those things.  

We all have it (or try to have it), but at some point, we lose it. Few things are guaranteed in life except for death and feeling completely unmotivated, despite glaring to-do lists and looming deadlines. As college students close in on the spring semester finish line, as the white flag waves, this rings especially true. Term papers, exams, auditions and of course, no shortage of homework are trademarks of this season. So how do you manage when giving up isn't an option?  

Motivation is a fickle thing. The American Psychological Association defines motivation as the "impetus that gives purpose or direction to behavior and operates in humans at a conscious or unconscious level.” In other words, it's what makes you want to do things. It's an intensely biological process. We have the motivation to eat because our stomachs send hunger signals to our brains. We have the motivation to sleep because our circadian clock tells us to. These are consistent "needs" everyone has, and so we always have the motivation to do them. Unfortunately, we have yet to evolve a biological drive for getting that essay in before 11:59 p.m., so motivation can be more fleeting in the academic department.  

So how can we get motivated and stay that way? The best way to start is by understanding where motivation comes from. There are generally two kinds of motivation: intrinsic and extrinsic. Extrinsic motivation is the external drive to participate in a specific activity because of an expected a reward or a punishment. For example, going to work so that you can get paid. You probably wouldn't go hang out at your work for eight hours a day just for fun, but getting your paycheck makes it worth it. This form of motivation places the highest importance on the outcome of an activity, rather than the enjoyment of doing it. 

Intrinsic motivation, on the other hand, stems from the fulfillment of the activity itself. For example, learning guitar simply because you've always wanted to learn, and you have fun doing it. In this instance, the experience explains the desire to do it. Activities you find interesting, satisfying, or meaningful are all driven by intrinsic motivation.  

But day-to-day activities rarely fit into either of these categories perfectly. Studying for a science test might be intrinsically motivational if you really enjoy science, but extrinsic motivators are also at play as you try to get a good grade.  

When faced with an activity you find unmotivating, try adding some extrinsic motivators into your schedule. For example, take frequent breaks and reward yourself along the way. It's easy to get carried away with this one (maybe don't take a 20-minute scroll through Instagram just for writing the title of your essay), but reasonable, healthy breaks can be extremely beneficial rewards as you chip away at that paper.  

You can also create some intrinsic motivation by making the task more fun while you do it. Hate washing the dishes? Turn on your favorite playlist and pick up that scrub brush-turned microphone, I guarantee those plates will seem a little less boring.  

Finding the motivation to study for that chemistry final might seem daunting, but getting with a group from your class can make the task a little more manageable. In this scenario, the addition of community to the tedious task can help you get through it.  

Motivation is complicated. Sometimes, no matter how dedicated you are to a goal or project, finding the motivation to actually do it can be tricky. As we near the end of the semester, acknowledge some days will be harder than others, and that's perfectly normal. What matters most is finding strategies that work for you in those challenging moments. Even if progress is slow, the key is to keep moving, whether it's breaking tasks into smaller, more manageable chunks, seeking support from friends or classmates, or permitting yourself to take breaks when needed. By understanding the complexities of motivation and being proactive in nurturing both intrinsic and extrinsic sources, you can navigate through those unmotivated times and emerge stronger on the other side. 

Ainsley Foster (she/her) is a sophomore studying elementary education.  

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