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How to Motivate Yourself and Succeed

University can be a time of learning and fun—and stress. Looking for ways to motivate yourself? Check out these 7 must-know tips to motivate yourself for success.

Sep 6, 2023
  • Student Tips
How to Motivate Yourself and Succeed

If you think you need to be passionate about something to be successful, think again. While passion helps fuel success, it’s not necessary.

Think about it: you may feel ambivalent about academics, but you can still be successful at them. School not your thing? Don’t worry about it—don’t slack off either.

A recent study by Jihyun Lee of Aeon shows that some of the most successful students have no passion for school. She shows that there’s no relationship between a student’s academic success and their attitude toward school.

If there’s no relationship between the two, then what drives students to succeed? Inward reflection and motivation. Let’s take a look at 7 ways to motivate yourself from within—and succeed.

Young african american woman student tired of working and studying

1. Lacking Motivation?

Ask yourself how long you’ve felt this way. Why now? Is this a recent problem, or has it been ongoing?

If you’ve always felt this way, there could be a major problem academically—like attention deficit disorder or a learning disability. Another possibility? Long-standing stress, usually related to something happening in your life.

If it’s a recent problem, you need to ask yourself what’s changed in your life. You could have a case of the blues—or even depression. Ask yourself why—and get help on campus if you need it.

If you’re feeling frustrated by school, that can also cause a downturn in your motivation. Figure out what’s causing the feeling, and take steps to remedy it. It could be as simple as changing your course schedule—or more complicated.

The reasons for lacking motivation are typically a combination of long- and short-term effects. Ask yourself some deep personal questions about why you feel the way you do—and don’t be afraid to ask for help if you need it (see #4).

Two students doing homework together and helping each other sitting in a table at home with a homey background

2. Goals

Set them—and accept that they’re adaptable. Big tasks—like writing that 30-page paper—can feel unattainable and overwhelming. Break down the task well before it’s due and set realistic, measurable goals so that you can achieve success—and feel good about it in the process. You can handle anything as long as you know what you need to do and when. Need help with setting those goals? Contact student support services—or talk it through with a friend who’s been there.

Portrait of cute young  woman with pouted sensual lips and black hair fink about new idea and looking at drawn list of action plan. Copy space on item

3. Prioritize

In the swirl of everything you have to do, you can easily feel overwhelmed by it all. Prioritize tasks—and then set goals (see #2) to meet them. Reduce your stress by figuring out what’s most important and pressing—and then make a plan to get there. Don’t know how to start? Make a list of everything that’s on your mind without thinking too much. Then, go through the list by yourself or with that friend (see #2) and start putting things in order of what’s most important right now. Try it. You’ll feel better.

overwhelmed man asking for help

4. Help

Ask for it, and don’t be afraid. The most successful people have felt this way before. Ask a friend. Talk to a professor. Go to your academic advisor. Contact someone in student services. Call home and talk to a parent or family member who understands what you’re going through. If your problem feels more serious, consider talking to a counselor.

By reaching out, you’ll empower others to help you—and empower yourself to motivate and succeed.

Teamwork, cooperation, interracial friendship and partnership concept. Cheerful young African male in trendy clothes and glasses giving high five to redhead pretty girl while celebrating good news

5. Successes

Celebrate them. Good things take time and effort. When you achieve them—however big or small—celebrate. Pat yourself on the back. Squeal with joy.. Checked a priority off the to-do list? Call a friend and tell them. Finished that paper? Go see that movie you’ve been wanting to see. Confronted a problem that’s been bugging you? Hooray! Don’t sweat the small stuff—and when you achieve something, remind yourself that you worked for it. And smile.

Happy young women enjoying bike ride

6. Vacations

Take them. Plan short, regular vacations. After a major milestone—like a last final exam—plan a short break away from campus. Think of it as a way of rewarding yourself. It doesn’t have to be fancy or expensive—just get yourself out of town for a few days after a major milestone as a reward—and as a way to decompress from the stress of completing something big. It will give you something to look forward to.

Group of mature adults working out in fitness class

7. Stay fit

Why? Staying fit will keep you focused and offer you a chance to decompress from the stress of university life regularly. Plan for it at least a few times a week. Your body—and your spirit—will thank you. By giving your body and your brain a rest, you can refuel, recharge, and refocus your energy on those goals.

Feeling motivated? Go after what you want. Be kind to yourself and others. Set realistic goals and expectations. Don’t forget—have some fun, too. Success will follow. Go for it!