My newsletter today is about flagging motivation, and how increasing your self-efficacy can improve your ability to stay motivated throughout the dissertation and the rest of your career.If you are interested in assessing whether you need to work on your own self efficacy, check out my "Academic Self-Efficacy Assessment." It is based on research by R. Schwarzer and M. Jerusalem.
Here are some suggestions as to ways to improve your own self-efficacy. This is absolutely vital if you are going to enjoy and flourish in academia.
- Imagine yourself succeeding. Be very specific and as visual as possible. E.g. See your self at faculty meetings, teaching, being called “professor” or “doctor.” Imagine people congratulating you on your success.
- Be very careful about what you say to yourself about “failure” experiences. Notice that you probably never actually fail. You were not 100% terrible at what you did. Indeed, you might have made several mistakes, but that is not a failure. For example, your advisor may have found many errors in your last chapter. If you say to yourself, “This is hopeless; I’ll never be able to do this,” you’ve planted the seed of non-coping in your brain. It’s much better to say, “When I’ve recovered from that depressing meeting, I’ll make a list of the steps I need to take to fix that chapter, then I’ll fix one item each day.”
- Related to number two is this idea: make positive use of negative feedback to motivate you to improve, not to beat yourself up. For example, if you find out you are not good at writing, get a tutor, an editor, or take a class to improve your skills. Don’t fold and give up. This will improve your sense that you can have an effect on the world and that you’re not a victim.
- Make sure that you are aware of the “coping strategies” that are necessary to succeed. The strategies I discuss in my newsletter, on my website and on my blog pertaining to organization, effective communication with colleagues, and successful writing are all examples of coping strategies. Knowing that you have adequate coping strategies will help you believe you can perform a task.
- Use others as models. You know that graduate student that you hate – the one who is going to finish the dissertation first? Try learning from him or her. In all probability, this person is not a genius. However, he or she probably has great study skills and other techniques that keep him or her moving along the path.
Do what you can to improve your relationship with your advisor and committee. (See our recent teleclass on getting along with your advisor.) If you haven’t yet chosen your advisor, keep in mind the key role that the advisor will play in your sense of self-efficacy.
- Seek out supportive people who believe in you. The corollary is to avoid people who don’t believe in you. Let your friends, relatives and significant others know that you need supportive comments and not just “How’s the thesis going?” or worse, “Aren’t you done yet?” You can even go so far as to tell them to say such phrases, as “I know you can do it, “or” It’s hard but you’ve done lots of other hard things.
- Monitor how you perceive your own emotional reactions. Learn to re-label stress reactions as normal, expectable, and able to be changed.
- Work on moderating your emotional reactions by practicing relaxation, yoga, meditation, or getting more exercise. Believing that you can effect a change in your reactions will make you feel more self-efficacious.