How many degrees or apprenticeships go unfinished each year?
While we lack exact statistics, the world is filled with incomplete journeys.
Many people embark on an educational course only to allow life to derail them from their goals.
Still, just as many leave school before finishing their degrees, others go on to reach the doctorate level and beyond.
How can you motivate yourself to keep going when your learning journey comes to a seemingly screeching halt?
Here are eight ways to overcome obstacles and get yourself back on track.
1. Meditate on Your Goal
Talk to top coaches, and they'll tell you when athletes have a big event coming up, they spend time meditating and visualizing the outcome they desire. Why? Imagining the life you want after graduation generates powerful mental energy you can apply toward your goal.
Not only does meditation get you motivated, but it may also help you maintain that state of mind even when you're not on your mat. Research indicates meditation causes changes in the amygdala region of the brain, the area responsible for emotions and memory.
Spending even five minutes in meditation daily can create a ripple effect that keeps you motivated to continue moving forward when hitting the books yet again proves tedious.
2. Make a Schedule
Without an action plan, the loftiest goal in the world is nothing more than a pipe dream. To make concrete progress, including excelling in academia, you need to make a schedule.
At the beginning of each week, write down a list of all the things you have to do. Maybe you have a five-page research paper due on Friday. Do you want to pull an all-nighter on Thursday, or do you prefer to do your most thoughtful work by knocking out a page or two per day, then leaving some time for editing your work? Hopefully, you choose the latter.
Make a daily to-do list each morning, and do your most important but difficult chore first. Maybe you're looking forward to your creative writing assignment but also have a physics problem looming over your head.
Do your physics work first, then schedule a short break to take a walk or grab a coffee. Once you clear the most challenging task off your to-do list, the rest of the day flows easier.
3. Wake up the Right Way
What you do in the moments after you first open your eyes dictates the course of your whole day. Everyone has slept through the alarm once or twice — and most of us have felt "off" the rest of the day as a result.
Create a morning ritual for yourself that gets your energy flowing in a positive way. Maybe you do five minutes of gentle yoga in bed, or you get up and squeeze in a workout before your body realizes what you're doing.
Perhaps you simply enjoy sipping coffee on the porch. Whatever gets you in the right frame of mind at the start of each day, take a few minutes to honor it.
4. Get Your Body Moving
It's difficult to act your motivated best, let alone make it to 8 a.m. class when you're tired and sluggish. Exercise is a key component of overall health and well-being.
Research indicates exercise helps increase growth in mitochondria, the energy powerhouses inside cells, giving you more energy to plow through your classes and make it to your part-time job.
Additionally, as we age, the body creates fewer brain cells. However, studies in mice indicate regular exercise pauses this slowdown.
5. Follow the Goldilocks Rule
Remember the classic fairy tale where Goldilocks seeks a bed not too hard, not too soft, but just right?
As much as possible, try to achieve the same with the difficulty of your educational journey.
When scheduling your courses, if one prerequisite proves daunting, aim for balance by taking an easier class during the same semester.
This way, your brain gets a break instead of dealing with an overwhelmingly tedious schedule day after day.
6. Lean on Your Support System
When the going gets particularly tough, rally the troops. Your friends and family can remind you why you embarked on your academic journey and the rewards you hope to reap by achieving your goals. They also offer a valuable sounding board for those times you simply need to vent.
Invite a friend over to binge-watch a new series on Netflix. Pay a visit to the folks and let a parent prep you a home-cooked meal and do your laundry. Take a bit of time to recharge.
7. Learn to Regroup From Setbacks
If you fail a class or do poorly on an important exam, it's easy to feel discouraged and want to give up. However, the most successful people are resilient and able to bounce back when they experience a setback.
When you face disappointment, take time to lick your wounds. Then, evaluate what went wrong and the role you played in it. Detach yourself from the outcome — a bad grade — and focus on the process of getting your degree. Learn from your mistake and move forward.
8. Get a Good Night's Rest
Finally, success in any endeavor proves more difficult when you're exhausted. Even if you can't create a bedroom oasis, you can establish a ritual that helps you sleep better.
Practice waking up and falling asleep at roughly the same times each day — even on the weekends. Avoid using your laptop or phone in bed, as the blue light from the screen can keep you awake. In addition, sip some chamomile or lavender tea instead of reaching for the booze when counting sheep fails.
Staying Motivated for the Long Haul
Staying the course isn't easy — if it were, everyone would possess at least one credential.
However, if advancing your education is key to attaining the career of your dreams, you can and must power through.
Kayla Matthews, Editor, Productivity Theory