Editorial: A Note About Motivation

Vince Magas - Editor-In-Chief
Posted on: June 18, 2017

Hello once again, and welcome to the third issue of the Iron Warrior for the 2017 Spring Term. Before jumping into my musings and the stream of words that is my editorial, I would very much like to thank the folks at The Iron Warrior who made this issue possible. As always thank you to the people who have copy edited and reviewed the draft, as well as the bulk of people who sent in their articles before the deadline! (Kudos to our EngSoc Execs who got all of their updates in early as well!) I know for a number of us on stream, this past week has been midterms/Hell Week so an extra thank you to those who wrote for us and supported us!

In this issue, we welcome a very special article to our front page (if you haven’t seen it already!). This issue’s front page features a submission from the President & Executive Team of the Civil, Environmental, and Geological Engineering Society here at the University of Waterloo. I won’t steal any of the article’s thunder, but not only are they the official student chapter for the Canadian and American Societies of Civil Engineering for UW, they’ve also been incredibly active and have even won some awards! So be sure to check out that article!  Also on this issue, we feature the second article in our collaboration with Awn Duqoum, the Director from Engsoc’s Mental Health Awareness (MHA) team. This collaboration features articles from their online blog that interviews students and shares their stories on mental health on a weekly basis. The Iron Warrior has been very happy to collaborate and help them in trying to reach a wider and broader audience. This initiative is one I personally hold close to my heart, so I encourage our readers to read their articles. They can also be found through the following link: https://medium.com/@UWEngSocMHA or through their email at engsocmha@gmail.com.

As always, The Iron Warrior is made possible by the combined efforts of friendly and dedicated students. Once again we have returning columns in this issue! Check out Jessica Keung’s showcase of selected works from Philip K. Dick, as well as Nick Owen’s Electro-Nick’s humour article featuring Windows 9. Cameron Soltys is also back this issue with his regular column Space Cam as he explores happenings at NASA. Taylor Lindblad returns once again with her alternative fashion column, Seams Unusual! In this issue she enlightens us about strega and other dark alternative fashions. Unfortunately our friend Gaius Lucius Agrippa and his Acta Diurna column will not be featured in this issue, as he is currently on vacation in Valencia, Spain. He does send his regards however!

That being said, I once again cordially invite and encourage our readers to send us an email if they want to write for The Iron Warrior or want to join our (almost-always) merry group. Similarly, if you have an opinion, argument, or praise for anything you read on our paper feel free to let us know!  You can find us at E2-2345 (usually during meetings on Tuesday 1730h-1830h) or through our email address at iwarrior@uwaterloo.ca.

I know there are a lot of students out there who have just finished Hell Week/midterms, while there are also a bunch of us who don’t get midterm week and have it all spread out through the term. In any case, this is also week 8 of the term. For many of us out there, we’ve either already burned out or we’re very quickly burning out – at least, it certainly feels that way. The term has probably pulled us in all sorts of directions, with courses hammering on us with midterms, others drowning us in assignments, or maybe for some it’s hitting us hard with that term project. I’ve personally just walked out of a midterm before I started writing part of this editorial! As such, I think it’s worth talking about or at least mentioning the concept of motivation.

Motivation. Maybe it’s something that we feel like we’re running out of, or maybe something that’s been wrung out of us and left to evaporate in the (sometimes) scorching desert that is life. Motivation is pretty much the motor that moves the world, and most people break it up into two different types: extrinsic and intrinsic motivation. For those not familiar with them, the first deals with the type of motivation that comes from ‘outside of us’, where the motivational stimuli, or the drive for us to do a task is controlled by an outside source; the notion of a reward waiting. Many of us will be familiar with this; it could be that we try to do well in school because it’ll give us high grades, or we do better at work because there’s a bigger bonus or a higher rating, or maybe we do that survey because we’ll get an extra $10. On the other hand, intrinsic motivation is when the will or drive to do something comes ‘from within’, the motivational stimuli is an internal desire.  Often this is because the task might align with some sort of personal belief system or personal need. One example of this is that we may try to do better in a course because we sincerely enjoy the material or perhaps we volunteer our time because you feel good about helping other people out. In a fair amount of literature, many argue that extrinsic motivation can only get you so far, and it is really intrinsic motivation that can drive people to persist in the things that they do.

I’m sure a lot of us can relate, when we’re struggling not to skip or to do ‘just enough’ in a course that we’re not really all that interested in. In other cases, maybe we find ourselves struggling to stay motivated in school because ‘we’re just trying to pass’ or we’re just trying to keep a certain average. For some, it becomes even more difficult when they face failure, or a less-than-stellar performance at a project. Motivation can be nonexistent afterwards.

Alright, so what can we do in situations such as this? Well, there are a few things we can do, and one process that’s worked for me is to answer the following two questions:

  1. What was motivating me to do this?

The first step is to figure out what makes us tick, what really drives us to do certain things. We need to figure out if it’s intrinsic or extrinsic motivation that was pushing us to complete a course or to pick up a hobby, or what have you. Knowing what’s driving you to do something will help in identifying why you took on the task in the first place.

After this step, some people might realize that the reason they were initially motivated to do something was simply because they liked it! If you fall into this group of people, awesome! We’re done and hopefully you’re feeling a bit more motivated to keep doing whatever it is you were struggling to do.

Unfortunately, in some cases, people’s answer to this first question is “I had no choice”, “I was forced into this”, or something to that effect. As life would have it we can’t always just do what we want (sigh, if only, right?). This can come in the form of mandatory courses, co-op terms that aren’t too fulfilling, or maybe it’s having to do those boring guitar exercises. This leads us to the next step/question.

  2. Can I find something I like about this?

What this step really tries to do is challenge us to find some sort of interest in the things that we have to do or things that we’re extrinsically motivated to do. What this would hopefully start to do is shift our motivational stimuli from extrinsic to intrinsic. By finding things that we personally find interesting or ‘good’ from a task or activity, we might end up enjoying it more, and cultivate intrinsic motivation.

For example, maybe that course that we’re taking isn’t really our cup of tea. As such we might not be so inclined to pay attention, or go to class, and we’re doing just the bare minimum to pass. Sometimes this takes a turn for the worse and we ended up doing less than what’s required, further driving our motivation down. In this case it may be worth it to try to find something interesting about the course, even if it’s something simple. Maybe some of the material you learn can be applied elsewhere, in a field that’s closer to your interests. This will hopefully at least spark a little bit of motivation in you.

At the end of the day, when we’re doing something because we find interest in it, or if it aligns with things we personally want to achieve, we’re more likely to stick with it and persist. This applies to most of the things we find ourselves doing in life, be it studying for a course or learning an instrument.

Anyways, that’s all I have for this issue! Hopefully it helps, and for those of you struggling with staying motivated, hang in there! I urge you to try finding small sparks of drive in all that you do, it might help in the long run!