How to Improve Your Studying Mindset & Get Motivated

This article is an excerpt from the Shortform book guide to "The Only Study Guide You'll Ever Need" by Jade Bowler. Shortform has the world's best summaries and analyses of books you should be reading.

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What is the perfect studying mindset? How can a growth mindset improve your education?

In The Only Study Guide You’ll Ever Need, Jade Bowler explains to perform well in school, your first step is to prioritize having a healthy mindset. She discusses how to manage your mindset so a fear of failure, lack of motivation, and procrastination don’t sabotage your success.

Let’s look at how to achieve this studying mindset with Bowler’s tips.

Manage Your Mindset

The health of your mindset is determined by how positively you think, feel, and act. A healthy studying mindset is crucial to academic success because unhealthy mindsets result in thoughts, feelings, and behaviors that hinder success. 

In Bowler’s experience, the most common symptom of a negative mindset is the fear of failure, which often leads to lack of motivation and procrastination. She explains that the fear of failure makes students either overwork themselves in the pursuit of perfection or avoid academic work altogether due to the anxiety it causes. Fear of failure often leads to a lack of motivation: students having no desire to study, either because they’re uninterested in or have given up on academic success. A lack of motivation usually stems from either a student’s negative beliefs about their ability to succeed or from a genuine lack of interest in the academic material. A lack of motivation usually leads to procrastination—when students ignore or delay their work.

Bowler makes a few recommendations to help students develop a healthy mindset, overcome fear of failure, boost motivation, and avoid procrastination.

Recommendation #1: Develop a Growth Mindset

Bowler explains that many students fall victim to a fear of failure, poor motivation, and procrastination because they have a fixed mindsetthey believe that their current abilities and limitations are unchangeable. 

Students with a fixed mindset who struggle in school are the most likely to lack motivation and procrastinate. This is because they have the fixed-mindset belief that nothing will improve their academic abilities, so there’s no point in wasting time studying.

Bowler argues that to overcome a fixed mindset, students should instead adopt a growth mindsetthe belief that you can learn anything and overcome any obstacle through hard work. This will help students to understand that their time and effort will pay off. For example, if someone with a growth mindset has a difficult exam, they’ll focus on their potential to ace it even though it might take hard work. Instead of avoiding the work, they’ll identify the areas they’re struggling in and determine the best study techniques to improve their knowledge. (We’ll talk more about effective study techniques in Part 2 of this guide.) This student is more likely to pass the exam due to their growth mindset.

How to Achieve a Growth Mindset

Carol S. Dweck agrees with Bowler that you should adopt a growth mindset by believing that you can achieve anything, identifying the steps necessary to grow, and taking action. 

However, Dweck elaborates that before putting your growth mindset into action, you should first take the following steps to address your fixed mindset too:

  1. Accept that you have a fixed mindset. This will help you acknowledge fixed beliefs when they crop up, combat them, and take a productive course of action.
  2. Identify your triggers. Understand which situations are likely to prompt your fixed beliefs so you can be prepared to combat them. 
  3. Personify and name your fixed mindset. Seeing your fixed mindset as another person can help distance you from it when it crops up.

Have a conversation with your fixed mindset. Talk this “person” out of their fixed beliefs—this will help you think more rationally.

Recommendation #2: Identify Your End Goals and Make School Interesting

Bowler explains that many students lack motivation and end up procrastinating or avoiding work because they don’t see the value in academic work. To fix this, Bowler recommends that students identify their end goals—what they want to do after they graduate—and make school interesting by connecting topics they’re learning about to these goals.

(Shortform note: Psychologists explain that finding interest in schoolwork helps us perform better and curb bad habits because interest is both an affective and cognitive state—it impacts your mood and mind, respectively. The affective state makes us more energized and excited about learning in the long term. The cognitive state makes us more focused and increases our ability to learn because we process information more efficiently and employ more effective learning strategies.)

To identify your end goal, Bowler recommends focusing on your values and passions, not on making money. For example, imagine that your primary values in life are traveling and experiencing new things, and you’re passionate about writing. In this case, your end goal might be to live nomadically and work as a journalist or online as a writer so you can live anywhere. This might not pay as much as a career in, say, finance—but it’ll make you happy.

Then, you can relate school topics to this end goal. For example, maybe you want to go to a prestigious journalism university that requires a high overall GPA from its applicants. This might motivate you to work harder in subjects that you’re not particularly interested in to keep your grades up. Or, if you’re not interested in higher education, consider how the topics you’re learning about can be beneficial while traveling. For instance, learning about ocean tides might come in handy one day when you sail the Indian Ocean.

How to Identify Passions, Values, and Goals That Will Truly Inspire Your School Work

While Bowler recommends identifying end goals to inspire your school work by focusing on your values and passions rather than money, Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus suggest that doing this might be harder than it sounds. In Minimalism, they explain that when we try to identify passions and values while caught in a daily grind like school and studying, we’re often tied down by “anchors” that disrupt our ability to identify what’s truly important to us. This can cause us to create goals based on things we mistakenly think we’re passionate about, making us feel more lost and less motivated in the end. 

Like Bowler, they explain that a concern for money is one of the anchors you must let go of to accurately identify your passions. However, they identify multiple other influential anchors, like the fear of losing or changing your identity, concern over your social status, and fear of the unknown (uncertainty). Once you’re able to let go of these anchors, you’ll be able to identify passions that will truly inspire your goals and school work in the long term.

How to Improve Your Studying Mindset & Get Motivated

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Like what you just read? Read the rest of the world's best book summary and analysis of Jade Bowler's "The Only Study Guide You'll Ever Need" at Shortform.

Here's what you'll find in our full The Only Study Guide You'll Ever Need summary:

  • Why school doesn't have to be chronically overwhelming
  • How students can manage their mindset, study habits, and time
  • Science-backed time management and study techniques to help you ace your exams

Katie Doll

Somehow, Katie was able to pull off her childhood dream of creating a career around books after graduating with a degree in English and a concentration in Creative Writing. Her preferred genre of books has changed drastically over the years, from fantasy/dystopian young-adult to moving novels and non-fiction books on the human experience. Katie especially enjoys reading and writing about all things television, good and bad.

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