Motivating Yourself to Study

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What drives you? What makes you eschew the status quo and embark on activities that stretch the limits of your life experience? Not only that—what sustains this exploratory push into the novel and unknown? These are questions that everyone who aspires to IT certifications should ask themselves, because they address a crucial issue—perhaps the crucial issue—of any new undertaking: the resolve to see it through. From whence does people’s motivation come? There are two primary categories. The first is intrinsic motivation, which relates solely to your own goals, values and interests. In other words, intrinsic motivation springs from something you believe is worth doing for its own sake. It’s the feeling behind mountaineer George Leigh Mallory’s reason why he wanted to climb Everest: “Because it’s there.” (He was really committed to that goal: Mallory died very close to the summit in 1924.)


The other form of motivation is extrinsic, or the objectives and ideals of others as they relate to you. This refers to actions taken in order to evade punishment, get a reward or satisfy someone else. This would include most people’s incentive for getting up and going to work everyday. While there are a handful of individuals who would do their jobs for free (or at least say they would), most show up and perform because they want to exchange their labor for financial compensation.


Of these two, intrinsic motivation is definitely superior, because it’s not quid pro quo—it stems from absolute desire to do something. However, this is not to say the extrinsic variety is a bad thing. If everyone did only what they wanted all the time, then it would be very difficult to coordinate the efforts of groups of people that are so necessary for accomplishing the most challenging and complex tasks. In commencing a new certification, your level of enthusiasm for mastering the subject matter through study will likely determine your ultimate success or failure. Thus, you should take some time to contemplate a few things prior to embarking on the latest step in your excellent credentialing adventure.


First of all, perform a self-diagnosis on your own motivational history. Ask yourself: What’s motivated you in the past? In which situations did you succeed or come up short, and why? Was it due to certain external factors that limited the time and energy you could devote to a particular venture, or did you lack passion for the endeavor or the end result? This can pertain to certifications you’ve attempted previously, but shouldn’t be limited to just those scenarios. Consider any initiative you’ve taken on that might have required prolonged concentration and effort.


Next, take a look at the time and energy you’ll need to devote to preparing for the certification exam. Ideally, the credential and its requisite training will be a challenge, but won’t overwhelm you. Try to place yourself in circumstances that will enhance your knowledge, skill and exertion, but don’t try to do the impossible. Sheer motivation probably won’t be able to surmount the finite limitations of time and energy without exacting a heavy toll on your personal and professional dynamism.


Finally, plan to reward yourself for successful accomplishments. Prepare to take a nice vacation, buy a sweet new video game console or just party down once you’ve passed your certification exam. Also, you can give yourself little incentives here and there as you progress through your study regimen. If you fulfill or exceed your mandate hours for study, treat yourself to a couple of tickets to a ball game or polish off a whole pizza with your favorite toppings. You’ve earned it!

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