Pump Up Your Motivation


Motivation is one of those things that teens (and to be honest lots of adults) can struggle with.  Teens know they have homework to do.  They know they will get a better grade if they study for a test.  They’re smart - they realize that.  Actually, being motivated to study and do their assignments is another thing.  


As an adult, I get it.  I know that having a green smoothie is healthier for me than a coffee and a muffin, but I choose the muffin more often than the smoothie.  I always choose the coffee.  Why?  My motivation for making the healthier choice is not there.  I might say I don’t have time to make the smoothie, but if I was sufficiently motivated, I would find the time.  I would work the prep into my schedule.


Motivation can either be intrinsic or extrinsic. 


Intrinsic motivation comes from within - for example, let’s look at the young gymnast who gets up at 5:00am so that they can train for 3 hours in the morning, before school. Then train for another 3 hours after school and still makes the Honour Roll, plus be on the leadership committee.  This person is so passionate about their sport that they are motivated to get up early every day to train at an incredibly physically demanding sport. And do well at school so that their parents don’t insist that they cut back on the amount that they train.


Extrinsic motivation comes from outside of ourselves and is more dependent on others.  People who are extrinsically motivated use the awards or accolades they get or the validation of others to continue working at something.  For example, the minor hockey player who shows up and works hard at practices and games, while their team is winning but who stops working hard, once the team loses a few games in a row or doesn’t win the trophy at a tournament.


Both types of motivation can be useful.  It is nice to win awards and be acknowledged for how well you did something, and these things can act as powerful motivators.  The problem with relying on extrinsic motivation is that as adults, there aren’t nearly as many opportunities for external validation.  Yes, you can get a raise or a promotion at work, or you may even win an award, but those things don’t happen in all types of work or in areas of personal responsibility.  No one is going to give me a medal for eating healthier, meeting a deadline, or for cleaning the bathroom (sadly).  


Strengthening internal motivation is very beneficial for teens and will carry over into adulthood.  I encourage people to think about what they get from doing the things they have to do.  What will it lead to?  How will that feel?  Even for a group as awesome as GLOW, sometimes it can be hard for teens to motivate themselves to come.  Therefore, I like to use this as an example when we talk about motivation. I encourage the girls to think about how they feel when they are at GLOW and to remember, that when they are considering whether or not they will come to a class.  


  • Is it possible that you will learn something useful tonight?  
  • Is it possible you will make a new friend?  
  • Then we expand upon the idea - is it possible that you will learn something that will be helpful to you in the future?  
  • Do you think you might hear something that will help make you more resilient?  
  • We all have negative thoughts sometimes - do you think coming to GLOW might help you work through those negative thoughts, the next time they happen?  

Once they think about what they are getting from participating in the classes and how it will help them in the future, finding the motivation to attend is there.


Celebrating the small things also helps with motivation.  Taking the time to acknowledge what went right for you today, not just academically, but also athletically, socially, and in terms of personal growth and self-care can be hugely motivating. It reminds us of our progress and helps us realize that everything we do is leading us somewhere.  


If we are experiencing a lot of anxiety, the act of getting out of bed and walking into school deserves to be celebrated, as does showering and eating breakfast.  Staying at school all day and talking to a friend at lunch, deserves to be celebrated.  Celebrate staying focused in math class and having the reading done for English.


When we take the time to celebrate and acknowledge the wins we have every day, both big and small, we build confidence and resilience, as well as intrinsic motivation.  Once we have those three things, the possibilities are endless.