Why knowing your purpose helps you study better at University

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Mindset is everything.

Well, not quite everything. But it counts for a lot.

A positive study mindset is an essential part of achieving success at university which is why it became one of the three pillars of signature 3M approach alongside Method and Mastery.

Your mind is immensely powerful. But it’s also rather conservative.

It wants to keep you safe. But sometimes safe means sticking with what you know, not standing out and staying in your comfort zone.  That little voice in your head? It can be your critic telling you to not dream too big, you’ll probably not succeed anyway, why bother to be great when you can be good enough. Or it can be your cheerleader inspire to reach higher, encourage you to push further and excel. And the best part is…you get to CHOOSE!

But it’s not always so easy. Your mind tends to err on the side of caution so you must actively train your mind to focus on opportunities and push past fear. An excellent way to do this is to have a strong sense of purpose. With a focus on what you want to achieve in life, it is easier to stay motivated, have clarity around what action to take and make decisions and choices in an intentional way rather than drifting along.

Last week I talked about how the Japanese concept of Ikigai provides a framework for determining your passion, talent, mission and future profession. Now, I want to show you how this can be used to your advantage in your studies. 

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Motivation

This is an area where many students struggle. ‘How do I stay motivated?’ and its close relative ‘what do you do to stay motivated?’ are two of the questions I’m asked most frequently. Intrinsic motivation is essential at University where a significant amount of study is independent and student driven.

Waiting to feel motivated or inspired doesn’t cut it anymore. Without motivation students find it hard to commit to showing up daily and doing the work that’s necessary to succeed.

Knowing the reason why you want to do well in your studies will help your motivation level and will get you moving TOWARDS your goals instead of procrastinating or spending your time on activities which are enjoyable in the moment but don’t contribute to your long-term goals. Think watching a boxset on Netflix instead of writing that essay or revising for an upcoming exam.

Finding the ‘Big Why’ behind a task is one of my favourite activities for increasing motivation. This technique is simple but powerful and it can be used for any area of your life where you want to align your daily actions with your desired outcome such as study, health or financial goals.

It’s as simple as sitting down with your journal or notebook and writing why you want to achieve your goal. Toyota use a technique called the five whys to go deeper and deeper until you discover the reason at the heart of what you want to do. Here’s an example.

I want to get good marks at University.

Why do you want good marks?

I want to get a job in Marine Biology.

Why do you want a job in Marine Biology?

I want to protect our oceans and their wildlife.

Why do you want to protect oceans and their wildlife?

I want to preserve the diversity of ocean species and their environment.

Why do you want to preserve ocean diversity and the environment?

I want generations to come to be able to enjoy these ecosystems as much as I do.

You could easily substitute your own reason for studying your degree into this format. Your big why in this case articulates the reason you went to University and why you want to get the result you desire.

Now, imagine you have an essay to write. Or revision to complete. Knowing you’re aiming to impact the world in a big way by protecting ocean ecosystems is more motivating than wanting good marks alone (which is a worthwhile goal, but not as compelling).

This is where understanding your purpose in life comes in – if you know your big why you can EASILY easily motivate yourself to do the necessary work to get there.

Clarity

When you are clear on your purpose in life then you will find it easier to make decisions and take aligned action towards your goals. Clarity eliminates confusion and uncertainty so you can move forward with confidence.

Many people think that clarity is something that happens to them over time. If they haven’t got clarity, then enough time hasn’t passed yet. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way. If you are waiting for clarity then you’ll be waiting a long time.

What can you do instead?

Clarity comes through exploring what you want and why. As you get more specific and detailed in your articulation of what you want it will become straightforward to choose activities that support your goals and ignore those which take you further away.

The average person makes hundreds, if not thousands of decisions a day. That’s a lot of energy and effort! And while having hundreds of options and opportunities sounds exciting, it can result in a situation where you have so many choices it’s impossible to select from among them and you become stuck in indecision.

The word decide comes from the Latin words ‘to cut off’. When you decide to pursue a goal, you cut off all other possibilities. The clearer you get on your life’s purpose, the easier to cut off other paths and with them the feeling of being overwhelmed.

If you want to make decision making easier and get clarity around the actions you need to take to get there the best way to achieve this is through describing EXACTLY what it is you want. You may think you are already clear on what you want but as you go through the process of writing it down in detail you’ll find your ideas are fuzzier than you thought and you CAN get much clearer!

You can achieve clarity through journaling. It’s the number one method I recommend for getting information out of your head and onto a page.

Here are some prompt questions to get you started:

What would your ideal day look like? 

  • Where are you?
  • What would you do?
  • What would you see around you?
  • How do you feel?

What do you want to leave behind as your legacy?

  • What will you have achieved?
  • Who will you have impacted?
  • How have you helped them?
  • What will success look like?
  • How will you feel?

Once you have a clear vision of what you want to achieve then act in alignment with it. Put your vision somewhere prominent such as over your desk or inside your folder or diary so you are reminded of it every day. It will give you clarity on what decisions you need to take today to have the future of your dreams.

Intention

Success doesn’t happen by chance. Look behind the scenes of any ‘overnight success’ and you’ll find plenty of early mornings, determination and a strong focus on their goal.

Success starts with intention.

When you intentionally choose your actions, you can be mindful of whether what you are doing serves you and your ultimate goal.

There are two ways you can become more intentional with the actions you take.

The first is to set your intention for the day using your overall vision from you’re the journaling you’ve done to gain clarity.

  • What do you want to do today?
  • How will you feel at the end of the day?
  • What action do you need to take to get you there?
  • Go and do it!

These questions will set your agenda for the day and ensure what you are doing is always moving you closer to your goals.

The second method to support you in being intentional is to be mindful throughout the day. Continually assess your thoughts, behaviour and interactions throughout the day to check you are on track.

Your purpose in life is like a compass pointing the way you need to travel. Your daily intentions are the tiny course corrections you make to navigate unexpected obstacles and opportunities. Both will keep you moving towards your overall goal.

When you are motivated to achieve your purpose in life, clear on the details and intentional in your actions to achieve it you are unstoppable!

You can apply all the techniques from this week’s post and last week’s article to good effect in your studies. Having a clear purpose in life will give you an edge in your studies and will help you stand out at University.

It will help you work smarter instead of harder and cut out redundant activities so you can focus on those which will enable you to graduate with a great degree result and confident of your next steps. What action are you going to take today to move towards making your dreams a reality? Comment below or in my Facebook group for students StudyWriteNow!