Four Ways Adult Learners Can Get and Stay Motivated

Four Ways to Stay Motivated
Motivation is crucial for success. Set SMART goals, focus on small steps forward, review your personal goals, and seek encouragement from your support network.

We’ve all hit that midterm slump, felt sluggish right before finals, or experienced senioritis in our final year of school. It can be especially difficult to get motivated when you’re studying material that doesn’t particularly interest you or when you’re juggling competing priorities. Here are our tips for getting motivated—and staying motivated!—throughout the school year and beyond.


Set and celebrate SMART goals

When you need a boost, take the time to set some goals for whatever is challenging your motivation, whether it’s a specific project, class, or semester. Make sure that your goals follow the SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound) approach. In other words, try to create clear objectives that are trackable (i.e., you’ll be able to tell whether you’ve achieved them), reasonable for you to accomplish within a specific time frame, and are worthwhile for you.

For example, here’s a SMART project goal: “I will complete the initial research for this assignment in the next three days.” A SMART goal for the semester might be “I will enroll in an elective this term that will help me improve my design skills.”

Motivation Tip 1: Tracking progress on your goals, such as in a journal or planner, can inspire you to keep going.

Write down your goals. Then, set reminders in your calendar to revisit those objectives so you can make sure you’re on the right path. And when you’ve hit your targets, reward yourself! Reviewing your objectives, seeing what you’ve accomplished, and celebrating your progress are all key to maintaining momentum.


Take baby steps

When I’m having trouble summoning the energy to work out, sometimes I just start by putting on my workout clothes and walking in place with music that has a great beat. After about five minutes or so, I’m usually ready to kick it to the next level, and before I know it, I’m breaking a sweat and hitting my target heart rate. 

Don’t beat yourself up when you’re lacking motivation. Do what you can, and don’t let guilt derail you. We all have our up and down days!

Similarly, when I have writer’s block because I’m feeling unmotivated or overwhelmed, I start small by opening a document and typing in notes from the assignment. Then, I add my thoughts—just whatever comes to mind as I think about the topic. Most days, that leads to writing the first couple paragraphs of a story. By then, I’m deep enough into the process that I can keep moving forward without wallowing in how blocked I was before.

So when you’ve hit a wall, sometimes you just need to put yourself in the right environment: just like putting on workout gear, get situated in your designated study area. Then, start small. Create a to-do list. Do some relevant reading. Write down a few notes. It’s all about doing something rather than nothing when you need to crank up that motivation.

Talk with a professor, classmate, friend, or family member about the ideas or content of your project. Discussing your ideas can help inspire forward momentum.

Remember your why

Sometimes, we lose motivation because we forget our reasons for doing required tasks. When we’re feeling less than invested in a project or class, it’s easy to slip into a negative mindset: “But why do I have to do this assignment? Why should I bother completing this course?”

Learning outcomes are the skills or knowledge you’ll gain by completing an assignment or course. Look for these motivators in the project instructions or syllabus.

Thinking about your why, though, can help propel you forward. Ask yourself these questions:

  • Why are you in school?
  • What will you gain from completing your degree?
  • How will achieving your educational goals help you fulfill your professional or personal aspirations?

Revisiting your overarching purpose—and reminding yourself of the value of achieving your broader goals—can help you reach that finish line with individual projects and tasks.


Connect with your support network

A social way to stay motivated is to talk with people who can give you a pep talk and cheer you on as you move toward your goals. It’s also helpful to chat with someone who can keep you accountable for achieving your objectives. Having somebody in your corner who encourages you and helps you celebrate your accomplishments is a great motivator.


Gaining and maintaining momentum can be difficult, but it’s not just about getting the task in front of you done. Finding your motivation will help you fulfill your goals and develop a sense of pride in your accomplishments. You’ll create new habits that will benefit you as you move forward in your educational and professional journey. And it will help you build resilience as you take on new challenges. Good luck!

Need more help with getting motivated?

As your personal advocate and champion, your ReUp Success Coach is here to offer the encouragement and accountability you need to achieve your personal goals and complete the next stage of your education. Your support team is available by phone, text, or email. Ready to get motivated?