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How to get your Motivation Back

Man Yawning

You were so keen at the start of semester, so motivated. Somewhere along the line that fizzled out, and you could really use some motivation right now because assignments are due and exams are edging their way closer. How do you get your law student mojo back?

So far, so good

It probably feels like you’ve achieved very little this semester and that all the work is ahead of you. At risk of sounding dangerously like a motivational speaker, the semester is like climbing a mountain: all you’re looking at is how much you have left to climb, but if you looked back you’d see how far you’ve already come. Okay, well that was embarrassing. No more metaphors, I promise.

But seriously, you’ve done heaps of work already. You’re over half way through the semester. Be proud of what you’ve achieved so far. There’s nothing like past achievements to motivate future ones.

Bigger picture

It’s easy to lose sight of the bigger picture when you’re stuck down in the nitty gritty of daily law student life. Who could think about their dream of being a media lawyer when they’re writing a property law assignment?

Regain your motivation by reading a book or watching a show that inspires you about your future career. It could be a book by Geoffrey Robertson QC, or one of Alan Shore’s brilliant closing arguments on Boston Legal. It doesn’t matter what it is, so long as it helps you to view your degree (especially the boring bits) as an essential step along the way to your ultimate goal.

Get some stress relief

Stress can really zap your enthusiasm. Where possible, remove sources of stress from your life.

Stress-relief activities such as going outside for a run (avoid the gym and go outside) will also help you to feel calmer and more positive – it’s pretty impressive what a bit of sunshine can do for your mood.

For the couch potato-types (myself included) watch a comedy – it’s hard to be negative when you’re laughing. Music can also be really good for both stress relief and motivation. Eye of the Tiger, anyone?

What do I want?

Another problem can be listening to other people too much. If you do something to please others, it’s unlikely you’ll ever feel motivated and passionate about it. And don’t let people talk you out of something by telling you that you that it's 'competitive' or that 'few make it’. Also, ‘everyone else is doing it’ is not really a good reason to do something you’re not interested in.

Sometimes you just have so many distractions that it crowds out your passion for law student-ing. If it’s boring and unimportant, why are you letting it take up so much of your time? Pursue your goals and the motivation will usually follow.

Dealing with disappointment

It’s pretty much inevitable that somewhere in the course of your degree you’re going to experience failure of some variety, and it’ll do nothing for your motivation. It happens to everyone so don’t beat yourself up too much. Or as Dr. Seuss would say: “I’m sorry to say so, but, sadly it’s true that bang-ups and hang-ups can happen to you.”

In a previous semester my favourite subject was Estate Planning. Not only did I love the subject matter (nerd alert) it also just ‘made sense’ to me. I worked really hard on an assignment and was really confident with what I’d handed in. I ended up failing that assessment and for a while I lost the motivation to do any work for the subject. Due to the efforts of a very engaging lecturer, I got my inspiration back and went on to get an overall subject mark that I was happy with.

Having been there, my advice is to learn from your mistakes and don’t let your failures own you. One bad mark doesn’t mean that you’re not capable or worthy of your career ambitions, and it certainly doesn’t mean you’re going to fail the subject. Learn from your mistakes (get advice from your tutor if you need it) and you’ll be a better law student for it.

If all else fails…

If you can’t find the motivation, bribe yourself. I’m serious! Criminal law isn’t your thing but you have to do that assignment. Break it down into small tasks and give yourself rewards for completing them: checking Facebook when you finish that paragraph, having a Milo when you’ve done all your references. Bribery has gotten me through many uninspiring assignments.

Even self-bribery doesn’t always work. Sometimes you’ve just got to plough through it. At the very least, a deadline can be pretty motivating.

FROM THE ARCHIVES: This story was first published on Survive Law on 14 September 2011.

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