Number. 31 © CDTL 2003
Staying Motivated in Your Studies: The Importance of a Positive Learning Attitude
Ms Chua Siew Beng
Human Resource Management Specialist, School of Business

“The greatest discovery of any generation is that human beings can alter their lives by altering their attitudes of mind.”
—Albert Schweitzer

Faced with the demands of different courses and a myriad of readings, projects and assessments, you often find yourself drained of energy and stressed out before the semester is over and you may ask yourself: “How can I stay motivated in my studies?” The answer lies in developing a positive attitude towards learning.

Making sense of education

It is important that you find time to reflect upon what an education means to you. What makes an educated person? What do you expect to get out of your time spent the university?

Your answers would determine your approach to learning. If you take a passive approach when studying, you are likely to be engaged in memorising and cramming information just to do well in a course. In contrast, an active approach will see you taking initiative to seek understanding so that your intellectual paradigm goes beyond paper chases: you think critically, you are open to new knowledge, and you find pleasure in learning.

Motivation to learn

The meaning you ascribe to education will serve as your driving force (motivator) in learning. Of course, from time to time depending on the situation, you may have other motives for learning. To find out more about what motivates you, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Do I study solely for the purpose of getting a degree to advance my job/career prospects?
  • Do I study to prove my capability through academic grades?
  • Do I study to satisfy my curiosity and learn new things?

Your answers to these questions would provide you with an indication of your purpose of studying. With this knowledge, you can clarify your goals of learning and commit yourself to taking steps to achieve them. To stay motivated requires intense commitment and energy: you need to demonstrate steadfast determination—even in the face of obstacles!

Attitude towards learning

Making sense of what an education means to you and understanding what motivates you in learning involve assessing your preferences and making choices. As your choices are influenced by your attitude towards learning, it is therefore important to adopt a positive attitude to enable you to stay motivated towards your studies and respond favourably to your learning experiences.

Just like motivation, a positive learning attitude is difficult to develop and maintain. However, it is possible if you commit yourself to thinking and acting positively. For example, maintaining a quality of openness would allow you to see things beyond your existing paradigms, inspire you to celebrate the joys of learning, and most important of all, empower you to take control of your learning.

Staying motivated in your studies requires a clear purpose and positive learning attitude. It is a conscious choice that you have to make. By spending time to reflect upon what have been discussed above, you can find a perspective to learning that would give you fulfilment and pleasure in your learning experiences. The choice is yours.


1. Beatrice, J.A. (1995). Learning to Study through Critical Thinking. Ch. 1: ‘College Learning’. Chicago: Irwin, pp. 3–25.

2. Carter, C.; Bishop, J.; & Kravits, S.L. (2002). Keys to Effective Learning (3rd ed.). Ch. 1: ‘Becoming a Lifelong Learner’. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall, 16–20.

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