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Long before quarantine, I always struggled with motivation. Putting things off to the very last minute was a common practice of mine, but it did not result in my best work. Recently with quarantine and working from home, my motivation has become even worse. Some days, I get a burst of energy and accomplish more things in one day than I have all week, but the next day I am completely mentally exhausted and get little done. Consistent motivation is a struggle for many and I became inquisitive as to why this is. I found myself spending hours researching tips to increase motivation and the science behind motivation itself. I read many articles on how exercise can make you more motivated, or on keeping a daily to-do list. Unfortunately, I have tried all these tips. They are helpful but they are not going to aid me to complete that three-hour reading I have been putting off for days because it merely does not interest me.

The most important takeaway from what I found is that motivation is mostly a mindset; the thoughts one has that fuel their urge to work. According to Scientific American, there are three fundamental elements behind motivation. By being informed of the factors of motivation you can start to change your way of thinking to help you become the most motivated you. 

Autonomy

Psychologists Edward L. Deci and Richard M. Ryan of the University of Rochester have found that when people feel in charge, they are more motivated. If an individual is pressured and told what to do, they will be less inclined to do it in comparison to having the freedom and autonomy to choose. 

A way of changing your thinking to feel more autonomous is instead of thinking “I need to…” to instead think “I choose to…”. This takes away any feeling of being forced to do something and, rather, replaces it with a feeling of choice. In reality, there isn’t anything you have to do in life, only what you choose to do. By slowly incorporating this thought process into your daily life, you will start to feel more in control of what you do because you choose to do them, not because you feel as though you need to.

Value

It has been found that people become more motivated when they stick with their values and beliefs. Assigning values to an activity can even restore one’s autonomy. If you don’t currently find much value in your work, luckily, it is seen that values can be changed and developed. A helpful exercise to do is simply reflect on why an activity is meaningful to you, and by doing this you can become more devoted to it. I personally find that if I can realize a connection between a task or assignment that I do not want to do and any future benefits, I become more motivated to complete it. 

By realigning your tasks you can feel more devoted to the task at hand and think about the later benefits. Think of those daunting hours of reading you were assigned for the week. If you complete them during the week, yes, you may be missing out on something during the week, but you will benefit over the weekend by not stressing at the last minute and being able to spend more time doing things you want to do.

Competence

The more skilled an individual feels at something, the more invested in it they will be. There seems to be a substantial connection between feeling capable and internal motivation. So if you’re not feeling motivated to practice a skill or do the homework for the class you are not the biggest fan of, do your best to learn more about the topic and practice the skill. Over time, once you become more competent in the subject, the work will become easier. In the end, people feel more fulfilled if they put in hard work. 

A great way to realize the benefits of effort is to track progress. This way, when a task feels difficult and you have no motivation to learn or complete it, you can look back at past work and recognize the improvement you have made over time. 

While there are many ways to help motivate yourself, a great start is to look deeper at the underlying circumstances that may be holding you back, and you can learn to alter your thoughts and actions to become the most motivated you can be. 

Charlotte Nielsen is a sophomore at the University of Wisconsin Madison. She is majoring in Retailing and Consumer Behavior with a Certificate in Design Strategy. In her free time she loves to cook, bike, and listen to music.
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