Published: Aug. 5, 2020 By

Have you struggled in a class because the subject matter didn’t capture your interest? Do you find yourself procrastinating instead of studying or tackling a big assignment? Do you ever find it difficult to manage your time or maintain good attendance? 

If you’ve experienced these challenges during your college career, then you’ve likely contemplated the concept of motivation. It may seem that motivation can define who you are as a student and as a person. By extension, it can seem to shape your entire college experience. Those that lack motivation may feel confused or guilty. Motivation may seem like an either/or question: you either have the desire and willingness to be successful or you don’t. 

This is simply not true. 

We want you to think differently about motivation. Understanding motivation as something that is either “on” or “off” is ultimately unhelpful, especially if you believe that you don’t or can’t control the switch. Motivation is not that simple. There are a myriad of complex factors that contribute to one’s level of motivation, and those factors can be controlled. To move past struggles with motivation, consider the concept of hope as a strategy.

According to Hope Theory, developed by C.R. Snyder, hope is one’s ability to create multiple pathways to goals. Think back on the times you were uninterested in a class, procrastinated or struggled with attendance. Now consider how you approached the problem. Did you believe that you were capable of overcoming the problem? Did you create a clear action plan that you were confident about and knew that challenges would come up in the plan and that is okay? Did you fully commit to executing that plan? Did you keep trying until you accomplished your goal, even if your original plan didn’t work? 

If you answered “no” to any of those questions, then perhaps the real issue was low hope, not low motivation.

Hopeful students have a strong sense of agency—they believe in themselves and in their abilities. They can clearly articulate their action plans. If one pathway doesn’t work, they construct another one and recognize failure as part of growth. Hopeful students focus on connecting their present actions to their ideal futures, which allows them to maintain or increase their engagement as they pursue their goals. They see obstacles as opportunities, and they embrace them as an essential part of their learning and growing process. 

If you identify as a student with low hope based on the above paragraph, don’t fret! Hope is a matter of mindset, and you have the ability to change your mindset. The next time you face an obstacle, think about what it means to approach that challenge with hope instead of hopelessness. 

Hope starts with the belief that you are capable of accomplishing your goals. We believe that too! With that mindset, you are able to create a clear action plan and fully commit to it, even if you need to adjust your plans or if progress seems slow. Focus on hope, and you can persist through many challenges.


Nancy Snow, PhD, a professor of philosophy and director of the Institute for the Study of Human Flourishing at the University of Oklahoma has written about hope as a character trait that helps us thrive. Her definition of hope: “the desire to attain a certain end and the belief it is possible to attain it.”