Students explore ways to stay motivated


Cami Kudrna

Students talk about their experiences with motivation

Motivation to Live

By Cami Kudrna

The ability to wake up and get out of bed with no struggle comes easy for some.  For others, the desire to keep going faded. They lug themselves around daily, trying to find a way to escape, potentially permanently.  In 2013, about 17 percent of teenagers considered ending their lives. Small motivators throughout each day keep people from committing suicide.

The Self-Determination Theory (SDT) is a theory used by Professor Kennon Sheldon, who primarily researches motivation at the University of Missouri in the Department of Psychology. SDT is a study of the human personality and motivations. According to part of the SDT, people are assumed to be active organisms with tendencies towards growing, mastering challenges and using experiences to create a sense of self. These tendencies seem to be influenced by both oneself and others.“Intrinsic motivation (“because I enjoy doing it”) is usually more effective,” Sheldon said. “Social motivation (“because they want me to”) tends to be problematic.  [Social motivation] can be OK, if the person has internalized the motivation (doing it by personal choice, not being pressured).”
As a middle schooler, Justin Zhang found it difficult to find the motivation to keep going.  Being unhappy with how his parents reacted to his grades, the feeling of worthlessness washed over him. Contemplating his options to escape the stress, he asked himself, “Would it be worth it? Just to get away from my parents being upset with me?”  Now a freshman in high school, he believes his choice to push through the the tough times was the right choice.”I made a conscious decision that it was not worth it,” Zhang said. “I wasn’t happy where my life was going, even though I was extremely young.  It was just a thought, [but] I knew [if] I did end my life, it’d be a choice I wouldn’t be able to take back. You have to think about the repercussions.”
Zhang realized that his parents still cared for him. The way they portrayed their love was just different than he envisioned. The criticism he received from his parents showed that they cared about his future and that they had high hopes for him.  Teaching himself rationality and trying to become a better person motivated him to keep going.
With junior James Wishman*, the scenario differed.  Wishman lives his life on a theory that four pillars keep people motivated to keep going.  These pillars represent what keeps the person going through life, working as supports. Wishman’s theory says if pillars start to fall, at first it only gets unstable.  As soon as three pillars fall, the stability of the person falls with it, leaving them wondering if it is worth it to rebuild the supports.The four support systems Wishman use include family, Christianity, music and running. At one point in his life, three of the four pillars collapsed, leaving him feeling hopeless. Wavering on the edge of two choices, life became a valuable thing.
“I [did] consider taking my own life,” Wishman said. “It is very easy to make irrational decisions if you’re ever thrown into a situation like that. You just have to try to think more positively about life. You realize there are more problems if you try to [end your life], either succeeding or not succeeding.”
Throughout this period in his life, Wishman branched out to close friends and thought about how he previously considered taking his life.  He knew he could count on his friends to be there for him when he needed them.  Although they were shocked, he knew they would be reliable.Andrea Baker, freshman, holds her head in her hands. Photo by Cami Kudrna“I believe extrinsic (motivation from others) is better for me,” Wishman said. “I use the drive and [the] push from others in my life to get better and to improve as a person.”
Wishman improved and is able to use more rationality. Although he sometimes struggles with similar thoughts, he has learned how to better manage his thoughts and remember that the issues will be resolved eventually.
“Life just hits you in the most random ways,” Wishman said. “It can go from the pinnacle to the base of a mountain, but it’s [a] matter of how you deal with that.  No matter where you are on this mountain, there are always people that can help you.”
(*Name withheld upon request)

Intrinsic v. Extrinsic Motivation

By Rochita GhoshEveryone has something they don’t want to do, like school work or chores. Though all tasks have some obstacles in the way of their completion, there’s one hurdle they all have in common – being motivated to do it.Most people complete their tasks eventually, but how they completed this task may be different from person to person. One person may be motivated internally, or from intrinsic motivation. A different person could be extrinsically motivated, or when one is motivated by external sources.
Everyone is affected by both types, but some researchers are categorizing one as ‘better’ to have, according to a research paper done by psychologists Martin V. Covington and Kimberly J. Mueller. The two claim that when one wants to do something for themselves, its value increases and completing or doing it means more to the person rather than being motivated extrinsically.
In the case of school, the paper says school relies on external sources to motivate its students rather than inspiring its students, which in turn hurts the students and undermines intrinsic motivation.
“Extrinsic motivators…has been singled out by observers as a major threat to personal engagement,” the paper says, “and creative expression among students.”
Dr. Ann Lannin, assistant professor of English Education at the University of Missouri, says that one of the best ways a teacher can motivate is to appeal to the student and instill a desire from within to perform well.
“Try to focus on what’s relevant to them, what is the more immediate concern, what’s something that they themselves would be curious about.” Dr. Lannin said, “A good teacher will try to figure out as much as they can about the student.”
According to Carnegie Mellon University’s Department of Education, one reason students lack motivation in the classroom is because “students do not perceive the classroom climate as supportive”. Teachers can remedy this by providing students with a suitable learning environment, one students feel safe and secure in, Dr. Lannin says. Developing a relationship between the student and the teacher is vital to fostering a good environment as it builds trust and a connection between the two parties. Teachers attempting to learn about the student also helps in motivating them as well.This doesn’t just apply to school, but rather applies to life. In a TED talk by Dan Pink, author and businessman, he says the larger the reward offered to complete the task, the larger the time taken to complete it or a more shabby completion. Yet when people were offered no reward, they completed the task far quicker and more thoroughly than with a reward.
Junior Danielle Wu believes society promotes extrinsic motivation more than internal, and is a source for external motivation by promoting a variety of things that prey on a person’s insecurities, like one’s need to be liked and respected. Later, these same people criticize society for what they do themselves, which Wu believes stems from how society motivates these people and how they must change.[/vc_column_inner]What are you motivated byInfographic by Rochita Ghosh[/vc_column_inner][/vc_row_inner]“Everyone’s always blaming society for your problems,” Wu said, “but maybe you need to look at what’s wrong with you individually.”
Wu also feels pressured to perform better by outside sources such as stereotypes on her race and other people who share her ethnic traits.
“The other Asian kids are really smart and are complaining about how bad their grades are when they really aren’t,” Wu said, “so I think that must mean my grades are really bad, so that makes me want to do better because I feel like I need to be as good as them.”
Wu also thinks that extrinsic motivation and intrinsic motivation are connected, that usually one is motivated by external sources first, then these sources spawn an internal desire to do well. Wu finds this true especially with her clubs and studying as she feels more pressured to do the activity because of the amount of people participating in each one.
“When you’re doing the activities, there’s always other people who do it with you,” Wu said, “and then they know you have to get that thing done, then you’re like ‘oh, I have to get that done’ while for studying you’re by yourself and it’s harder to keep myself accountable.”
Like Wu, El-Jayyousi experiences extrinsic motivation in his life more than the other, with school dominating his life and El-Jayyousi hating this fact. He believes the educational system currently in place promotes extrinsic motivation more than internally, despite him and the system holding internal motivation as better to have.Conner Stormer, freshman, chooses his phone versus schoolwork. Photo by Rochita Ghosh“Because you’re motivated by the grades, you’re not really learning because you’re doing everything for the grades, while intrinsic motivation would be learning just for yourself,” El-Jayyousi said. “You’re working harder for yourself. It’s the better one for school as it gets rids of the grades and the pressure of thinking about what comes next and what people will think of you and comparing you to a certain standard.”
In El-Jayyousi’s case, he is almost solely motivated for school by outside sources, although eventually he is motivated by his future.“I still end up doing  [homework] because of my grade,” El-Jayyousi said, “I don’t just end up ignoring it, because what you do in highschool will affect the rest of your life because it affects what college you get into, and that affects what career you get.”
El-Jayyousi invests himself in a variety of clubs, like Science Olympiad and robotics club. Balancing both schoolwork, these activities and more, he says most people involved in extracurricular activities are internally motivated to do a specific activity, since they are not required by outside forces to do them, although some people do clubs for college which is extrinsic motivation.
El-Jayyousi does participate in robotics for college, but he wants to be a robotics engineer later in life, and appreciates the experience this offers prior to his post-secondary education.
“It’s exposing me to it,” El-Jayyousi said, “and making me see if I truly like it or not.”
Regardless of how a person is motivated, whether from outside sources or from oneself, some people would agree it does not matter as long as the task is completed. Others, including El-Jayyousi, argue that the reasons for why one did something can either weaken the task or make it more meaningful
“Intrinsic motivation gets rid of [the pressure] because you don’t have that outside source of comparing you to others,” El-Jayyousi said. “…you’re always comparing yourself to other people, and that in a way motivates you but I feel like that’s not what you want to be motivated, you want to be motivated by yourself to do better for yourself.”

Athletic Motivation

By Lauren HofmannImagine a world where no one takes part in athletics; a place where no one ever takes a jog, competes in a tournament, or even goes on a walk. In this place, people do not participate in sports, simply because they don’t feel like it.
Unlike school, sports need some form of motivation, or else no one would do them. Whether that motivation comes from parents, friends, or within yourself, it is important to have to excel at a sport, no matter what age.
Motivation is one of the most important factors in sports because it is the one controllable factor an athlete has. There are three contributing factors to the performance of an athlete, which are ability, competition and motivation. Ability is technical, it is something you are born with. Competition is something athletes cannot regulate as well, for example weather conditions or the ability of an opponent, therefore motivation is the only factor that athletes have total authority of.
Tim Jamieson, the head baseball coach at the University of Missouri, believes motivation should come from within; otherwise, it is not as effective.
“Motivation is incredibly important.  The most important motivation is self-motivation.  You must love what you are doing and understand the need to work hard, prepare, and stay focused,” Jamieson said. “Any external motivation is short-term.  True motivation comes from within.”
Jamieson also said athletes must know people are hoping they will succeed and improve. He explained how he keeps his athletes motivated.
“We try to provide an environment that our players enjoy and a place they look forward to coming. Positive reinforcement with high standards and expectations with a competitive and fun environment,” Jamieson said. “They need to know that the coaches and their teammates care for them as people as well as athletes and that we are willing to do what it takes to help them improve and be successful.”[vc_video link=”″][/vc_column_inner]Athletes face many obstacles throughout their careers, and motivation is critical during those times, to keep the athlete moving forward. Often, athletes need help from an outside source when things get too hard to handle by themselves.
Phoebe Boeschen, senior, became inspired to play tennis after she saw a poster at the local YMCA in Jefferson City, the town where she used to live. Throughout her tennis career, Boeschen needed motivation to overcome the obstacles that came up. One of those obstacles came up between her sophomore and junior year, and that was deciding whether she wanted to play in college or not.[/vc_column_inner][/vc_row_inner]“I was kind of having to decide whether I wanted to play at the next level or not,” Boeschen said, “I was having a hard time with tournaments during that time, but I eventually switched places’ hitting and I had more fun that summer which helped me. It motivated me to play more.”
Boeschen needed that motivation to have colleges look at her. Boeschen also spoke about the mental obstacles she faced.
“There was definitely a lot of pressure,” said Boeschen, “When I was younger it didn’t really matter as much, and as I was getting older I was like ‘Ok, I have to kick it up a notch for schools to actually start looking at me’.”
Boeschen also had to deal with an injury going into her last high school season, which made her question her whole sports career. Boeschen had plantar fasciitis; the inflammation of a tissue band that connects the heel bone to the toes. It causes stabbing pain in the bottom and heel areas of a foot.
“It was really frustrating because it kept hurting, and I was wondering why that had to happen to me,” Boeschen said, “I work really hard with tennis, and eventually I just had to know that it was an obstacle that helped me get better and be mentally stronger too.”
Boeschen says there are also de-motivators that can be difficult to ignore.
“In clinics, kids that don’t want to work hard, it makes me really mad,” Boeschen said, “It’s annoying because I want to do drills, and it’s also distracting, so I can’t perform like I want to.”[/vc_column_inner][/vc_row_inner]Although there were many hurdles to jump, Boeschen is pleased with the end results. Next year, she will attend the Division I school, Missouri State, on a sports scholarship which is something she could not be happier with.
End goals are important for athletes to have, and motivation helps athletes to reach those end goals, just in the way that motivation helped Boeschen to reach hers. That motivation can come from many different places; support is something most athletes could always use. Matt McManus, senior, uses himself, and his teammates as motivators.
“My teammates and my coaches [motivate me], but also I want to constantly better my time and qualify for bigger meets,” McManus said.Alex Geyer, freshman, prepares himself for a run. Photo by Lauren HofmannMcManus also says a big motivator for him right now is getting times that will appeal to college coaches.
“I would like to swim Division I at college. That’s what my main goal is right now, just getting there,” McManus said, “going those times that the college coaches want is my motivation right now.”
During the season there are usually difficulties, and McManus says his teammates are the ones who motivate him during those times.
“When sets got really hard, there was always a source of encouragement from them [teammates], so it made anything seem possible,” McManus said.
Athletes need to have passion for their sport that comes from within. When external motivation is the only motivation pushing someone forward, there are a lot of things that can go wrong. As Jamieson said earlier, it is best when athletes can find their motivation from within themselves, but it appears that many athletes get some form of motivation externally, and not internally.
Many athletes must spend countless hours each week trying to improve at their sport, and without passion or motivation, those hours can go by slowly. Many sports in today’s society require the athlete to be truly committed to the practices and competitions, and if the athlete is not completely dedicated to that one sport, coaches often look down on it.
Mackenzie Lancey, junior, knows track is an all-year commitment, but even so, she still puts her heart into it. Lancey says there are certain expectations for track that are important to abide by.
“I have never missed a practice. You can’t miss practices, that’s not something you do,” Lancey said, “Basically, and this is not completely true, but it’s like if you miss a practice don’t come back kind of thing so, you just don’t do that.”
Lancey also says even though the high school seasons end, there is really no stop to the training if athletes want to maintain their levels of performance.
“Our program is very highly regarded, so we have to live up to that,” Lancey said, “The standards are pretty high.”

Infographic by Rochita Ghosh

Academic Motivation

By Ellen Terry

Sunlight pours through the ceiling windows, creating a criss cross pattern over the brown linoleum tiles of the atrium. If you were to walk through this sunny hallway on any given A day, after say, one o’clock, you may find it to be deserted. But come back a little later, and you may find it crowded with an energetic freshman civics class, chattering with their friends when they’re supposed to be working on an assignment.
There is one thing that is consistent about the atrium during this time of day. If you bothered to look through the glass door of the EEE room, you’d see junior Hannah Chen, sitting on the same coral stool as always, bent over the round coffee table, an array of papers and her school-issued iPad, pencil in hand.
What keeps Chen motivated in her studies is what she wants to do in the future, which begins with getting into a good college. While she doesn’t know for sure which college yet, she does know what career path she wants to follow.
“I really want to do STEM in the future, and I know doing well in school now will really help me later on,” Chen said.
STEM stands for science, technology, engineering and math.
Many high school students find it hard to stay motivated in school especially when they have no idea what career they want to pursue in the future. For a lot of kids, their parents are the motivating factor, and push them to get good grades, while the self-motivation just isn’t there.Directly across from the stool where Chen is perched sits Katherine Fishman-Weaver, the EEE teacher, with her constant smile and contagious optimistic attitude.
“I think that kids are most motivated when there’s a clear relevance to what they are learning,” Fishman-Weaver said. “So as a teacher I try to connect my learning objectives to student’s passions and to issues in a broader context.”
Students are not going to be motivated to learn something they don’t feel they will ever need or use in everyday life. When is a student who wants to pursue a career in the art field ever going to use calculus? How to keep students motivated is the million dollar question in education, Fishman-Weaver said.Hannah Chen, works on homework in the EEE room. Photo by Ellen TerryChen certainly displays no lack of motivation, and is not one to back away from a challenge. She currently takes both math and physics classes at the University of Missouri.
“Because I want to pursue something in that field [STEM], I think taking higher level and challenging courses, and doing well those courses,” she said, “will help me gain knowledge and skills that I can use in the future.”
Chen’s passion for science, technology, engineering and math are what drive her to succeed as well as rise to the challenge of college-level courses. Hannah is also the president of Mu Alpha Theta, or National Math Honors Society at Rock Bridge. The club was started only last year and began as a very small club with only about seven or so members.
“I really believed in the goals and purpose of the society, which is to encourage scholarship in math,” Chen said. “I thought it had great potential to be expanded, so this year we got the word around and recruited lots of new members.”
Membership of the society increased from seven to 84, Chen shares proudly, as she breaks into a smile, her eyes crinkling at the corners. She goes on to say how each member of the society is really motivated to work hard and do well in math.
The society provides tutoring for other students. In fact, last weekend, they hosted a math event for fourth and fifth graders around Columbia.Billy Wall and Elizabeth Zenner, freshmen, work on an assignment at the computer. Photo by Lauren Hofmann“Since it was our first year doing something like this, it was a really big challenge, but we all put in tons of effort and time to make it a reality,” Chen said.
A small smile permanently settles on her face as she talks about the club, and if one listens closely, one can hear from her voice the pride in what the they’ve been able to accomplish this year.
“We believe providing every single child with the opportunity to enjoy math and be motivated to work harder in that subject is something great,” she said, “and the event was a huge success!”It seems when you’re really passionate about something, like Hannah is, working hard at that thing becomes less like an obligation and more something you can enjoy working toward and take pride in.
“I believe that most of the activities I do this year are because I truly believe in the purpose of that thing,” Chen said.
Besides being president of Mu Alpha Theta, she is also a core leader for Rock Bridge Reaches Out.
“I think volunteering is a wonderful thing, and it’s a great way to give back to your community,” she said.
Many students are not as lucky as Chen, in that they have yet to find the thing they are passionate about.
“The most important thing that a young person can do to be prepared for life post-secondary is finding things they are passionate about,” Fishman-Weaver said. “That might be politics or it might be ultimate Frisbee. The most important thing is finding what you love to do. And then teasing out why you love to do that thing. So if it’s ultimate Frisbee: what about ultimate do you love? and then how can you improve at that sport? and how can you bring that sport to more people?”