If you’re like Marshal Erickson on NBC’s hit show How I Met Your Mother, you might be wondering if college is worth it.
Marshal is able to study on a Friday night because he has found that he is intrinsically motivated. His passion for environmental law creates a constant current of energy. So when it comes time to study or make what he calls “a responsible choice for his future,” he does not need to flip a switch to motivate himself.
What’s the difference between intrinsic and extrinsic motivation? Intrinsic motivation is long lasting because it is rooted in joy. Tasks are performed for the simple satisfaction that they provide. Homework, classroom lectures and research projects become engaging. Learning is deeper, more meaningful and eternal.
On the other hand, extrinsic motivation views motivation as tied to rewards such as money or grades. Remove these rewards and the motivation does not last. For example, if you study in college and your only goal is to earn an A, you will only push yourself to that point. At its worst, this sort of learning is superficial. Once you have satisfied the professor’s criteria, what incentive would there be to continue in your studies?
So instead of focusing on fleeting grades and money, find your flow. Like Marshal, figure out what evokes your passions. What activities engage you and cause you to lose track of time? If you haven’t done so already, now is the time to engage in active career exploration.