Author: Jennifer Thompson, Head of Middle School

Motivation, what is it, and why do we need it?

Motivation is our why. It is why we act or behave in a particular manner. It is the powerful force that promotes us to take action – even when fearful or fatigued. It is the process that begins and maintains behaviours that are driven by a goal. It is what causes us to act – even in the simplest of everyday tasks. The dictionary defines motivation as “a reason or reasons for acting in a particular way”. Motivation looks different for each person and is dependent upon individual needs and values.

Motivation is imperative to success. It is what allows us to shape our destiny. When we know what motivates us, we are more inclined to work harder and act upon our decisions. Motivation gives a sense of direction – without motivation, we do not have a road map and are unsure of where we are heading. If we are unsure of our why, then we are less likely to take action. When we know our why, we will find the courage to take the risks required to achieve and remain motivated when times are tricky.

Motivation can convert fear into a plan of action. Fear is a distinct factor that may at times prevent our students from taking action in their lives; be it academic action, emotional action or physical action. We must encourage our students to face their fears and create a plan to beat the fear, taking a risk and being brave enough again to try another plan if the first does not produce the results envisaged. When we are motivated, it allows us to move forward from the events that might push us back. When circumstance tries to derail our plans, it is motivation that will seek to remind us never to give up. Try asking your children what would life be like next week, next year or in five years’ time if we gave up, if we aborted the mission.

How do we support our students to be motivated, and what is their motivation? Students are motivated by leaders of character. Who might these leaders be? They are parents, teachers, extended family and more. Children follow leaders … leaders of character. The former US General Norman Schwarzkopf once said, “Leadership is a combination of character and strategy. If you must be without one, be without the strategy.”
Motivation is about character; strength of character. Strength of character that seeks to improve, to move forward and to meet set goals. Motivating our students is about investment. Investment of time in our students is about our students working with teachers, parents and families who invest time and energy in them, even when those children push back. Importantly, motivation is about culture – the culture of a positive and productive team whose ideals and purposes align.

As we seek to motivate our students, the partnership that is the Snowy Mountains Grammar School family is so very important. It is essential that we do not simply follow good intentions or strategic plans in silos. It is not simply about one person but, rather, it is about behaviours that we repeatedly demonstrate as a team. The team that is home and school. Do we, as the adults in our children’s lives, seek to improve? Do we invest time and energy in our children, time that is for them, rather than alongside them? And finally, do we seek to have a culture of positivity so that our children see this in their daily lives? When we activate the above, not only is it ‘good for us’, but it also serves to motivate our children to be their best, and to dream big.