Maintaining Motivation in Graduate School
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Maintaining Motivation in Graduate School
Earning a master’s degree is not a walk in the park by any means. It may feel like a season of constant testing, filled with deadlines, instructions, expectations, research, reports, and so on. Clarke and Saxberg (2019, p.2) express little doubt that even those with an energetic personality and passion for learning will at some point feel overwhelmed while undertaking various tasks especially in the employment scene. The same is true for the amount of work and dedication required to earn a master’s degree. With these issues in mind, it is only natural that one may become unmotivated to complete tasks, or in a worse case scenario, give up on graduate school. With this understanding, it is important to understand that staying motivated and attaining success is possible with a little organization, trusting in one’s own abilities, developing interests outside of the usual curriculum, setting targets, and understanding that every successful graduate goes through the same.
Graduate school students struggle with motivation mainly because of the immense work that is required to attain the requirements of a given program. One of the most important skills that can increase the motivation to continue is being organized enough to have a target and stipulate what is required to achieve the same. Clarke and Saxberg (2019, p.1) define motivation as the willingness to continue with a task through starting rather than procrastinating, investing sufficient mental effort, and persevering in the face of numerous distractions. From this definition, the element of organization is evident. Organization can mean a simple daily or weekly routine of listing down all of the tasks required for the day or for the entire week (Clarke and Saxberg, 2019, p.1). A list is evidence of what is required and what has been achieved, something that can greatly motivate a learner to persist despite challenges.
It is often stated that the greatest motivation comes from within a person, a milestone attained through trusting in one’s own abilities. Shehadie (2021, pers. comm. 21 September) highlight the need for personal values including trust and self-efficacy. Trusting yourself is the greatest form of encouragement because it shows mental power. Clarke and Saxberg (2019, p.3) present an argument that a sense of self competence and confidence can greatly motivate a person to perform better and achieve great objectives. Self-efficacy enables one to believe that success at a given task will require only a fraction of energy and time that they already possess. It is a reassurance that one has the mental capacity to succeed. Therefore, trusting in one’s abilities and building self-efficacy is a sure way to retain motivation even as graduate school throws a mountain of challenges at every opportunity present.
A lot of emphasis is laid upon the need to focus on studies, to complete projects, and to ensure successful attainment of learning outcomes, yet having a broad set of interests outside of these areas is important in providing motivation. Creating time to have some fun and to engage in other areas of life allows one to take a breather (Shehadie 2021, pers. comm. 21 September). According to Clarke and Saxberg (2019, p.3), a broad set of interests opens up the mind, creating room for engagements that help in creating focus and staying motivated. For example, being an enthusiastic cyclist during the weekends and hiking with friends or pursuing a new artistic venture will keep the mind fresh and focused. It helps to take away the stresses of daily routine and maintain a level of excitement that is important for the human mind.
Setting targets may sound like a cliche but it is one of the most effective ways to stay motivated. Graduate school is full of pressures to perform, stay focused, attain good grades, keep up with one’s career, family and other commitments, and other personal issues. These productivity barriers are a struggle that can easily kill one’s momentum and motivation (Clarke and Saxberg, 2019, p.3). Setting targets is an effective way of staying on top of these productivity barriers and also ensures that one is a step ahead of pressure, reducing the interruptions that arise with struggling to retain relevance.
In summary, staying motivated may require a little bit of work. It calls for one to be dedicated and to work towards achieving a dream. It is also important that one realizes that beyond being organized, trusting in one’s own abilities, developing interests outside of the usual curriculum, and setting targets, success is not as easy to attain. Every successful person goes through the struggles and pressures of graduate school. Feeling unmotivated and secure is entirely expected, but one must use the tools available to them to secure a better life. Being motivated while studying a master’s degree gives people the discipline required to make it elsewhere in life, both in careers and in personal life.
Clarke RE, and Saxberg B. 2019. 4 reasons good employees lose their motivation. Harvard
Business Review. March 13.