Keeping That Beginning-of-the-Year Vibe

September is marked with an unique optimism from students—sweet dreams of 4.0 GPAs and stress-free commutes. There are high hopes for classes, weekends, and ourselves. We make promises to eat better, go to office hours, or finally join that sport. But by the second essay, high hopes plummet and we just want a passing grade or winter break to start.

            This semester can be different.

            The crux of this problem lies in remembering that beginning-of-the-year feeling. Keeping it alive. This is possible through illuminating your plans to yourself and others and, more importantly, having the right idea of what this semester should be.

            First, give the new semester a commencement. Keeping a list of what you want to accomplish somewhere visible, maybe on a note-taking phone app or on a paper push-pinned to a wall. It will be harder to lose track of something if you wake up in front of every morning. Also, vocalizing what your new commitments are can assist staying on the right track. Friends’ and family members’ expectations can have a different clout than mere dreaming. So let it be known that this semester will involve some changes.

            Next, evaluate your motivations; some are better than others. There are two types of motivation- intrinsic or extrinsic. An intrinsic motive can be wanting to develop reasoning skills or longing to be able to speak a second language; these are internal drives. On the other hand, extrinsic motives occur outside of us. They’re the high GPA, the ability to appear knowledgeable and put-together, and the good career. A paper by Amy Wrzesniewski and Barry Schwartz, et al, titled Multiple Types of Motives Don’t Multiply the Motivation of West Point Cadets found a clear winner. Cadets who had strong intrinsic motivations achieved greater success than those who primarily had extrinsic motivation. And among that group, those who solely had intrinsic motivations achieved more who had intrinsic and extrinsic motivation.

            Lastly, it’s good to remember that changes of character are internal. Yes, someone can have a completely new attitude in September, but that attitude might be doubted. (Wait till October to reap the rewards.)With effort and perseverance, though, aspirations can materialize into something more than just a vision.