“Never give up. Never surrender.” -Jason Nesmith, Galaxy Quest
This quote, uttered by a movie character in 1999, sums up my feelings about motivation perfectly. I realize the assignment this week was to discuss how we stay motivated as learners, but my “learning” motivation is tied very closely to my “life” motivation.
I have read some of the research and papers available online discussing the nature and the models of motivation. In Martha Carlton’s article for the National Association of School Psychologists, she highlights the various developmental stages and some strategies to help develop motivation in children from birth to age 5. As I read the article, Motivating Learning in Young Children, I recognized many techniques that my parents used to develop motivation for learning in myself and sister. However, my greater lessons in motivation have come from the beliefs of my parents and their ways in dealing with the difficult situations I have had in my life.
When I was 7, I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. I have had many, many situations arise where this disease has challenged and threatened to defeat me. Throughout all, I had my parents saying, “Do not give up. You can control this”. Those very simple words became ingrained in my brain at an early age. As I struggled with fractions in Math during Grade 3, the words, “Do not give up” echoed in my head. When I was having a difficult time with organic chemistry, those same words popped into my brain. Dirksen writes, “Self-efficacy can be described as someone’s belief in their own ability to succeed.” (Design for How People Learn, 2012, Ch. 8, p. 12) This self-efficacy that I gained came from the repeated words of my parents and their unwavering support of my challenges and my goals.
My life motivation has also been influenced by what many would consider a frivolous source: the world of the geek. I spent a lot of time in my teen years watching shows and movies like Star Trek, Star Wars, X-Files and reading the works of J.R.R. Tolkien, Piers Anthony and Lloyd Alexander. The influence of these shows and stories showed me that my motto, “Do not give up” was a central theme for all of the heroes in these stories. Between Aragorn’s speech in front of the Black Gates of Mordor, the persistence of Taran as he fought the Dark Lord Arawn in Prydain, and the wise words of Yoda, I found inspiration to continue travelling the challenging path of honours courses, IB courses and Royal Conservatory Exams.
You may be thinking that this inspiration does not fall under motivation, but I disagree. You see, to this day, I still think of the wise words of Yoda “Do. Or do not. There is no try.” when I desperately want to give up. At times, I think of characters like Katniss Everdeen, and tell myself, “Hey, if she could survive the Hunger Games, you can survive report cards”. When the feeling of drowning under a pile of homework, school work, health problems and union issues arises, I think of dear Samwise Gamgee proclaiming, “How could the world go back to the way it was when there’s so much bad that had happened? But in the end it’s only a passing thing, this shadow; even darkness must pass.” I know this darkness, I fight with it every morning when I wake up, but I also know that every morning, I have woken up. This is my motivation.
Despite all of this, I have found myself looking at my marks for motivation this term. I have begun to complete assignments with the thought of “jumping through the hoops”. I don’t like how this makes me feel. When I look at Dan Pink’s TED Talk, I hear him speak of Autonomy, Mastery, and Purpose in the Puzzle of Motivation. I want to be energized in my learning journey right now, but I do not feel in control of it. My reasons for completing assignments are now to get me to the next level, to allow me into the next phase of my education. Pink refers to Mastery as “The desire to get better and better at something that matters.” Getting better has been replaced with getting through. Where I would have had inspiration, I now have frustration because I do not have the time to delve into topics I find relevant to my learning, as new assignments are out, report cards are due, and sleep is needed to stay healthy. But I will dig deep, I will follow the advice of my mom and dad and I will not give up. I shall look to another hero of my adolescence, Captain Jean-Luc Picard, and I will remember “That is what it is to be human. To make yourself more than you are. “ (Star Trek: Nemesis)
Carlton, M. (2003). Motivating Learning in Young Children. National Association of School Psychologists. Retrieved from http://www.nasponline.org/resources/home_school/earlychildmotiv_ho.aspx
Dirksen, J. (2012). Design for How People Learn. Berkley, United States: New Riders
Pink, D. (2009, July). TEDTalk: The Puzzle of Motivation [Online Recording] Retrieved from http://www.ted.com/talks/dan_pink_on_motivation