Goals: Their motivations, development and acheivement

EXTRINSIC OR INTRINSIC. Information for this infographic was collected from a poll sent out to 200 St. Paul Academy and Summit School students grades 9-12, of which 18% responded. The sticky notes and arrows represent information about goal setting styles, frequency, and motivations.

Infographic: Mari Knudson

EXTRINSIC OR INTRINSIC. Information for this infographic was collected from a poll sent out to 200 St. Paul Academy and Summit School students grades 9-12, of which 18% responded. The sticky notes and arrows represent information about goal setting styles, frequency, and motivations. "I definitely have a passion for doing the best I can," sophomore Nitya Thakkar said.

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Brightly patterned washi tape, doodles from vibrantly colored pens, and crisp white pages adorned with to-do lists fill her planner. Her goals include learning Danish, spending more time with her cat, and keeping up with schoolwork. A warm glow of accomplishment spreads through her fingertips with every click of a pen.

Senior Elena Macomber uses her bullet journal to stay motivated and on-track with her many goals. Although not all students at St. Paul Academy and Summit School share her love for the bullet journal, they have other ways to track and achieve their goals while staying intrinsically and extrinsically motivated.

If I really like something, I’ll have the motivation to do it.”

— sophomore Nitya Thakkar

Extrinsic motivation occurs when students work to gain an external reward, such as a high grade on an upcoming math test, or to avoid an external punishment. Motivators including parental expectations, money, praise, and fame spur on students who primarily rely on extrinsic motivation, according to Edutopia and Vanderbilt University. However, extrinsic motivation has a low rate of long-term success, as students often lose their motivation once they receive the award or grade that they were aiming for.

Natural curiosity and a sincere desire to learn drives intrinsic motivation, leading a student to seek out answers because of their genuine interest in answering the questions their teachers present to them. According to a 2010 survey published by the John W. Gardner Center at Stanford University, working on a task because of one’s intrinsic motivation, rather than because of extrinsic influences, helps students’ learning processes and is more enjoyable. Intrinsic motivation also facilitates learning; — mastering a new skill allows students to observe their own growth, increasing their intrinsic desire to learn.

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For personal goals, intrinsic motivation can be a powerful force for prolonged inspiration and achievement. Macomber’s goals to learn Danish and to spend more time with her cat are both intrinsically motivated.

“[Having goals] makes me happier and definitely more organized because they [involve things] that are important to me…It’s also important to feel passionate about the goals otherwise they’re not going to happen,” Macomber said.

Sophomore Nitya Thakkar also sees intrinsic motivation as a driving force in her life.

“I definitely have a passion for doing the best I can. If I really like something, I’ll have the motivation to do it,” she said.

Thakkar uses a mix of intrinsic and extrinsic motivation for her academic goals.

I that motivation when you see other people doing things, and you think ‘I should work harder’ not to be the best but because [you want to] grow more,” she said.

At SPA, Thakkar sees extrinsic motivation as a larger presence in the community.

“I feel like SPA has a pretty grade conscious culture, you have to be getting good grades and doing well…[and] classes are really hard,” she said. “Not to say that that’s everybody —there’s definitely a lot of people that are internally motivated too.”

Although Macomber believes that extrinsic motivation is a stronger force for success in her life, she’s also had a high success rate —  about 75%, according to her — with sticking to her personal goals.

“[It’s easier to stay motivated due to extrinsic influences because] things are being put upon you rather than you deciding for yourself…Intrinsic goals are important but not as regulated,” she said.

Junior Larry Chen also finds generating intrinsic motivation difficult, but the alternative, extrinsic motivation, is sometimes a negative presence in his life.

“I think it’s a lot harder to give yourself intrinsic motivation — there’s always that voice in the back of your head saying ‘that’s enough,’” he said.

“[However], extrinsic motivation can be very unhealthy, because [sometimes] you’re not meeting your goals, you’re meeting someone else’s,” he said.

Most of Chen’s extrinsic motivation comes from parental and cultural expectations.

“There’s a lot of extrinsic motivation on me, coming from a Chinese family…[With] most of my Chinese friends, there’s this unspoken expectation that you have to do well in almost everything that you do,” he said. “If I didn’t do as well as someone else, I would feel bad because I didn’t meet a goal that someone else set for me…I might have met my own goal, but it wouldn’t be good enough for some unspoken rule.”

Yet, Chen also finds that extrinsic motivation has pushed him to work harder and get better results.

It’s a lot harder to give yourself intrinsic motivation.”

— junior Larry Chen

“Meeting [my parents’] goals pushes me to work a lot harder than if I were to just intrinsically push myself…[extrinsic motivation for me] was unhealthy and it didn’t really make me happy, but I think I’m in a better place in terms of scores and such,” he said.

Chen believes that extrinsic motivation can be a power for good, depending on the person and how they handle outside pressure.

“Some people handle extrinsic motivation really well, there’s a different mix of both for every individual person,” he said. “For me, there’s way too much extrinsic motivation coming from my Chinese family. It’s not that extrinsic motivation is inherently bad, it’s that too much is problematic.”

KEEPING TRACK. Senior Elena Macomber creates and uses bullet journals to keep track of both her intrinsic and extrinsic goals daily, weekly, and monthly. “[Having goals] makes me happier and definitely more organized because they [involve things] that are important to me,” Macomber said.

Noor Qureishy
KEEPING TRACK. Senior Elena Macomber creates and uses bullet journals to keep track of both her intrinsic and extrinsic goals daily, weekly, and monthly. “[Having goals] makes me happier and definitely more organized because they [involve things] that are important to me,” Macomber said.

Macomber finds that setting a manageable amount of goals, broken up into smaller tasks with a somewhat rigid timeline helps her best. She also likes to plan for more time than necessary for each of her tasks, to decrease the chances that she’ll fail and feel guilty.

“For each goal I have subcomponents that help me achieve it…You have to have different ways to tackle it, like ‘I’m not just going to do x, I’m going to do x, y, and z [to achieve my goal],” she said. For instance, Macomber has divided her goal of learning Danish into subcomponents that include doing flashcards, working on listening comprehension, practicing with Duolingo, and reading children’s books in Danish.

Macomber’s bullet journal—with her habit tracker and level 8 spread—often helps her track her goals, and she believes that it’s a valuable tool worth trying for those who likes to combine productivity and fun.

“It’s a DIY planner; you can make it whatever you want it to be, you can take aspects of other people’s bullet journals and combine it with your own…It’s personalized for you, so it’s going to be perfect, practically,” she said.

Thakkar also writes down her goals to help her focus on the tasks at hand. She usually writes down more general goals at the beginning of the school year and for her New Year’s resolutions, but her goals before finals, or any other busy periods of her life, are usually more specific.

“Writing my goal down somewhere where I’ll for sure see it—on my computer or in my planner really helps me to keep track of  them,” she said.

It’s also important to feel passionate about the goals otherwise they’re not going to happen.”

— senior Elena Macomber

Unlike Macomber and Thakkar, Chen doesn’t find writing down his goals particularly helpful.

“I don’t really write them down, they’re usually just in the back of my mind…Sometimes I think [about my goals] when I get a test back or at the end of the year or when some [other] event happens in my life,” he said.

Chen also cautions against setting extremely high goals and becoming too invested in them.

“I used to set super tough goals for myself, and then I would start to obsess over them…I started to burn out because I would get worse at the other things I,” he said.

Chen keeps himself motivated by focusing on the positives that could come out of achieving his goals.

“Sometimes I feel [like achieving my goal is] going to be really hard but good for me in the end,” Chen said. “I basically just tell myself that ‘you’re going to be better if you go through this,’ [and] I focus on what’s going to happen after and why this is better for me.”

“I know that some of my friends don’t set goals at all and they try to do the best they can while others set really systematic, periodic goals,” he said. “There’s no one set method that works for everyone.”

View our Pinterest board “Goal”den Rules for tips and visuals on goal setting, tracking, and achievement advice. 

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