Last week, I told you that until you get serious about your dreams for your life and truly hone in on them and own them, you will struggle to stay motivated in school. Sure, you can gut it out, put in the tedious hours, spit back the information you’re supposed to learn, and get a better grade just because that’s what a good student is supposed to do. But how long does that approach last? Are you really going to stay motivated to knock out that Geometry homework every week, not just for a couple months but for several years, with the “because I’m supposed to” strategy?
It’s highly doubtful.
Don’t hear me wrong. If you’re that rare sort of individual who doesn’t need a strong reason to excel in school, then more power to you. You have a leg up on most of your peers. But if you’re like most who struggle to see how learning Algebra or Chemistry or…you fill in the blank…will matter in the grand scheme of your life, then clarifying your dream is not only a good idea; it is one of the most important actions you can take. Here’s the proof.
In a recent MindShift blog post (http://blogs.kqed.org/mindshift/2014/08/how-a-bigger-purpose-can-motivate-students-to-learn/), author Ingfei Chen explained that a few years ago, a psychologist named David Yeager interviewed high school students about their hopes and dreams, wondering what dreams were most common among those who excelled in school. He discovered something he didn’t expect. It wasn’t the students who spoke in generalities that they wanted to make good money or do what they loved for a living that seemed to put the biggest stock in their schoolwork. It was the students who went a step further and associated their future dreams with a specific purpose larger than themselves, like caring for the sick or improving the community where they lived, that ultimately rated their schoolwork as most meaningful.
“Given this information,” writes Chen, “Yeager and his colleagues wanted to know: could such a bigger sense of purpose that looks beyond one’s self-interests be a real and significant inspiration for learning?”
Yeager and four colleagues from the Univerisity of Texas, Stanford University, and the University of Pennsylvania recently set out to run a serious of four studies to determine if “purposeful learning”—the idea of linking your schoolwork to your higher purpose in life, e.g. your dream—could help you overcome the boredom, lack of meaning, and lack of enthusiasm you feel about your schoolwork.
In sum, says Yeager’s colleague Marlone Henderson, with a mindset that is founded on a students’ dreams, “when they encounter challenges, difficulty or things that could potentially be roadblocks to learning, it motivates them to persist and barrel through.” Education researcher Camille Farrington of the University of Chicago further explained that this result occurs because “the student owns [the sense-of-purpose] and kind of puts those pieces together in their own heads, for themselves. And that is a different thing than your mom or your teacher telling you, it’s important to do this because blah, blah, blah, blah.”
In other words, your dream can be the strongest force in your life. Learn it and lean into it. Start today.