First and foremost in studying and exam-taking are the incentives which drive or motivate us toward a goal. Incentives can be roughly divided into two classes: rewards and threats (or rewards and punishments). Basically, we react toward pleasant things and away from unpleasant ones. If you are "lacking in motivation," or, more correctly, low in motivation, it means that you have not reacted enough toward the rewarding side of study or away from the fear of failure in a way that brings out your best self.
How can high motivation be created? Where does it come from? How does it apply to studying and taking exams?
The causes of high motivation seem to occur throughout an individual's lifetime. They have been traced back through adolescence to childhood, where incidents are known to have a tremendous influence, back into infancy as well, and by some investigators into fetal life.
Incentives of different kinds will naturally appeal to different kinds of people, according to childhood and adolescent experience. Within a given individual, incentives tend to shift, at least superficially. The incentives of self-respect, self-gratification, and self-advancement tell much of the early story. Later in life, other incentives enter the picture.
If one can clearly relate the self to the outcome of studying, it becomes easier to study. The pleasure of winning, of showing someone you could do it, the fear of failing, and the shame of not measuring up, if you can only personalize these forces and direct them toward reading books and toward high-level mental activity, can be your strong allies in making the most of study time. Exactly what will appeal to you as an incentive is hard to say. Loftier goals - the betterment of one's family, community, nation, etc. - usually arise later in life. If you can relate your work to these goals, you are indeed displaying a high degree of maturity.
Most students have vague incentives which have not been brought into sharp focus. As you read along in this book, perhaps you will begin to see what education is all about, and this comprehension will help sharpen your own incentives.
At the start of the year line up your work on a schedule of day-to-day routine. If you stick to the routine for several weeks, you may be able to experiment a little and relax the routine. But to start with no routine and then try to tighten up the loose strings produces hardship. Much damage may be done by then.
To begin with, recognize that although you are not on someone's payroll (yet), you are nonetheless definitely employed. Looked at one way, you are employed by Your Future Self. If you, as Your Present Self, neglect your work, Your Future Self will find you incompetent. Your Future Self is standing, unseen, watching over you at all times. To keep from letting him down is your present business.
Anyone who has skipped over the first pans to reach this section will get nowhere. Studying and taking exams are too closely related. Starting here would be like the man learning to walk the tightrope who read the directions and placed his left foot on the rope, and then the right, and then fell flat on his face. He skipped over the part about first keeping his balance. There are no short-cuts to prosperity in the business of self-education.
Up to now we have been creating a "rationale" for taking one's studies in stride. A rationale shows the reasoning behind certain prescribed patterns of conduct. A rationale is better than mere do's and don'ts because you can modify the recommended procedures intelligently to fit personal, variable situations or your own individuality when a rigid procedure does not work too well for you.
An exam is one of the many incidents along the long road to an education, and NOT the destination. In a very general way, an exam is similar to being born: Long preparation and growth had to come first, and a lot more of real life still lays ahead!
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