It’s finals week here at Cornell. Between me and “freedom” there stand 1 pset, 1 final project, 2 final exams, and 9 grad school apps. So I should grit my teeth, pick up the pace, and sprint towards the finish, right? One problem. I don’t want to. Well, I don’t want to enough. I’m having major difficulty staying motivated. I know what I should do, and I know how to do it, but it’s just so hard…
As I mentioned in an earlier post, I bombed the first prelim for my graduate organic class. It was devastating and shameful, and I knew I probably wouldn’t survive a repeat of this on the second prelim (survive both academically and emotionally). So as the second exam approached, I went into a frenzy of orgo studying and ended up doing fairly well – not great, but comparatively much better (which honestly was not difficult considering my first exam score). And as my professor returned to me my test paper, she commented on how she was glad I had improved, but she also sternly warned me not to get “big headed” saying that there was much more room for improvement. But I fear that I have gotten big headed. Not that I’ve really slacked off, but I haven’t been working as hard as I could have, and certainly not as hard as I did before that second prelim.
When something bad happened (dismal test score), I developed a sense of fear and a realization that I could no longer ignore there was a problem (not studying correctly/enough), and I had to remedy it immediately or else face the consequences (failing grade, mental breakdown). However, after I did alright on the second exam, that fear evaporated. I know the final will be just as hard, if not harder, and I also know that I’m capable of doing well (or at least decently), if and only if I put in the work, but suddenly it just seems a little less urgent. I want to do well, but apparently I don’t want it enough to commit to seriously studying.
And this loss of motivation doesn’t just happen when studying for final exams. Take for another example, graduate school. I know I want to go to graduate school, but maybe I don’t super-duper-have-to-WANT to go to graduate school. I’ve done everything right to have an answer for every mandatory question on the application, and a decent enough resume not to be ashamed, but there is so much more I could have done. I could have studied harder for my standardized exams, joined more extracurriculars, worked harder in lab, started working on my apps earlier… I think back to a remark my faculty advisor made, half-jokingly, about “those kids at MIT” who read papers in their free time. In my free time, I paint my nails while watching episodes of New Girl. And now that my apps are due within the month, I’m freaking out.
So someone please tell me, how do I make myself want things? Without having to wait for that last-minute panic where I realize it’s now or never, how do I achieve that steady motivation?