Lessons about Learning and Self-Motivation from Five Inspirational Greats
May 11th, 2012 by Dr. Bruce Johnson
The journey of success as a student is incremental. Your goals happen as a result of sustained effort, gradual progress, and a lot of learning from your mistakes. But the most important thing to keep in the forefront of your mind: Belief in yourself and your capacity to learn. There will be days when the work seems manageable and other days when you will question your ability to keep up with the class or assignments. Finding inspiration will be important to push through those doubts.
Are you ready to get inspired? Some of the inspirational greats listed below may be familiar to you, while others may not be as well known. As you review each one think about the lessons provided that relate to the process of learning and how it can help sustain your self-motivation, which will strengthen your resolve to face and successfully handle challenges, temporary setbacks, and moments when you are filled with self-doubt.
“Upon the subject of education, not presuming to dictate any plan or system respecting it, I can only say that I view it as the most important subject which we as a people can be engaged in.” -Abraham Lincoln (March 9, 1832)
Abraham Lincoln was a lifelong learner. He was known for being self-taught and an avid reader; however, throughout his life he did not read a large number of books. Lincoln spent time reading and re-reading each book until he was able to comprehend its meaning. What this teaches us about the process of learning is that you will likely gain more knowledge and improve your comprehension of the materials when you read in a focused manner. There are reading strategies you can utilize, such as the process called SQ3R or Survey, Question, Read, Review, and Repeat. You can also take notes as a means of interacting with the information you’re reading.
“By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.”
“Never confuse motion with action.”
“Do not fear mistakes. You will know failure. Continue to reach out.”
“Energy and persistence conquer all things.”
Benjamin Franklin learned throughout his life about the importance of continuous self-improvement and habits that are necessary to be successful. These selected quotes provide lessons about learning from the perspective of how involved you are in the process, the type of action you take, and your overall attitude. To truly be involved in the educational process you need to do more than go through the motions. For example, if you show up for class unprepared you are likely to struggle during class discussions and miss out on an opportunity to ask questions about the materials and course concepts. Your state of mind also determines how successful you’ll be facing fears that may derail your learning.
“Whatever your mind can conceive and believe, it can achieve.”
“There is one quality that one must possess to win, and that is definiteness of purpose, the knowledge of what one wants, and a burning desire to possess it.” -Napoleon Hill
Napolean Hill (1883-1970) was provided with an opportunity as a young man that changed his life. He met with Andrew Carnegie, a well-known steel magnate of the era, and was offered a 20 year project that involved interviewing some of the most successful and influential people of the time. The catch – he would not be paid for this project but he was promised to find the keys to success. After accepting the project, Hill was able to interview Thomas Edison, Alexander Graham Bell, Henry Ford, Charles M. Schwab, Theodore Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson, John D. Rockefeller, and many others. The final product was a book that has become a classic, Think and Grow Rich, which can still be found on bookshelves today.
Hill’s extraordinary work can be summed up as a lesson about self-belief and a positive mindset. If you start your degree program or course work without a definite purpose, and you do not maintain an attitude that supports your progress, you will likely fail. I have coached many students who questioned their ability to learn and change – and helped them create a mindset tune-up to turn it around. The video below is part of a rare recording of Napoleon Hill and while the language and phrasing is dated, the message is still relevant today.
In this video, Hill indicates that you can be successful regardless of how many times you have failed in the past. He also talked about the power that we all have under our control, which is greater than fears or poverty – and it is the power to take possession of our own mind. Each of us has control of our mind and we can use this to our advantage through self-discipline.
“If you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always gotten.”
“More than anything else, I believe it’s our decisions, not the conditions of our lives, that determine our destiny.” – Anthony Robbins
Anthony Robbins has been inspiring and motivating people for over 30 years. His books include Unlimited Power: The New Science Of Personal Achievement, Awaken The Giant Within, Awaken the Giant Within: How to Take Immediate Control of Your Mental, Emotional, Physical and Financial Destiny!, and Personal Power. Robbins teaches what some people refer to as personal self-empowerment or control of our personal source of power. That involves how we think about and view the world around us.
Going to school is a time of learning more about ourselves as much as it is about learning new subjects – and often we have to unlearn ideas, beliefs, and habits that we’ve picked up throughout our life. That’s the dual benefit of the learning process – discovering what more we are capable of doing. Once you complete the first class you realize that it is possible to acquire new skills and knowledge, and that can encourage you to continue making progress as long as maintain a strong mental and emotional state of mind. The following video clip is part of an interview Anthony Robbins gave on NBC’s Today show.
The theme of this interview was staying positive in tough times. Robbins discussed using fear to your advantage, the importance of being prepared, and learning to embrace pessimism. This is similar to an analogy I share with students about their academic progress, as related to driving a car. If you see a sign that indicates bumps ahead while driving, do you stop the car, get out, and assume that you can go no further? Most likely you won’t – you’ll proceed with caution. That’s the approach I want students to take; use fear as a warning sign or opportunity to conduct a self-check and assess your preparedness and mindset.
Stephen R. Covey
“Once you have a clear picture of your priorities- that is values, goals, and high leverage activities- organize around them.”
“Our character is basically a composite of our habits. Because they are consistent, often unconscious patterns, they constantly, daily, express our character.” – Stephen Covey
Stephen R. Covey is another motivational speaker who has also inspired millions. One of his books that assisted my self-development is the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. It created a lasting impression as it provided success tools and strategies while I was working on a master’s degree. Covey teaches us about the importance of developing a focused approach to the activities we are involved in, whether we are at home, on the job, or in school. If we want to succeed at doing something we must have clearly defined goals and develop habits to support them. The video clip below is an interview he gave about choosing success.
Covey states in this interview that we are not a captive of our past, and this includes our upbringing and present circumstances. Each of us can choose how we respond to events. An important point made is that everyone has the power to reinvent themselves. Many non-traditional students return to school because they want to do something different (or new) in their lives or careers. And they have often thought about getting a degree for some time but delayed getting started. Going to college is more than a time for acquiring skills and knowledge; it is an opportunity to create a new future.
Find Your Source
To be successful, students need to develop success strategies. The reason why these five inspirational greats continue to inspire us (even after their passing) is that they teach us lessons through their writings and speeches about learning and self-motivation that empower us to believe in ourselves. If you have read one of the summaries and experienced a connection to their words, search for more information about them and use it as a source of personal support.
You are not just a student, you are a unique individual who has the potential to learn, grow, and change. I have developed a quote that has been shared with my students for many years and it may inspire you as well: Believe in yourself, believe in what you can be, hold on to that vision and you will make it!! –Dr. J
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