Is Motivation Enough?


root: د-ف-ع / active participle of form I / plural: دَوافِع / definition: incentive, motive

I think it’s now been over eight months since my last Arabic lesson at university, which feels very odd to think about. It’s almost felt like I’ve just been on a long summer break this whole time, with that abstract “September” forever flying off further into the distance.

This stretch of time, though, has opened up some space for reflection and self-evaluation.

One major reassurance for me is the fact that I still have the motivation to study or revise Arabic–in one form of another–every day. But that has raised a question in my mind: is motivation enough?

What I mean by that is, is it enough to simply rely on that “thing” that makes us feel like we want to study? What do we do when that drive fades? Can we learn a language based on motivation alone?

Now, I’ve just said here that I’ve remained motivated to study Arabic every day. But this doesn’t mean that I’ve woken up every day and rushed over to my desk to bury my face in the dictionary. Nor does it mean that there haven’t been days where I’ve been so tired that I just wanted to sleep without doing so much as a ten-word vocab quiz.

But, while my temporary motivation may vary from hour to hour, day to day, etc, my greater motivation is that one constant that makes me push myself to study–even when I don’t particularly feel like it.

So, I think there is a significant distinction between the two types of motivation, which are often treated as synonymous.

Let me give an example to put this into context:

One and a half years ago, I had just finished my second year of university and my third and final year was only a few blurry summer months away.

After my second year exams, even though I loved Arabic, I wasn’t exactly jumping out of my seat to get back into any sort of intense studying.

But I knew that I hadn’t pushed myself as hard as I could have in my second year.

I wanted to go into my third year completely prepared: with everything I had learnt permanently shifted from short-term to long-term memory. And, fundamentally, I wanted to gain the most out of this degree so that it would be as beneficial as possible as a stepping stone to my ultimate goal with Arabic.

So, instead of relaxing all summer, deluding myself that I’m simply “recharging”, I decided to open my laptop and transfer every. single. Arabic. word. that I had come across in the first two years of my degree onto a word document.

For each word (excluding the simple greetings that we’d learnt in our first few classes), I looked it up in the Hans Wehr dictionary and typed its definitions alongside it. And for each verb, I wrote the past and present tense forms (masculine, singular) and its مصدر (verbal noun).

(I also couldn’t help adding interesting phrases and words that caught my eye in the dictionary!)

That summer, not only did I solidly memorise all of the vocabulary we’d covered, acquire lots of new words that we hadn’t covered, learn the verb forms, and fall in love with the dictionary… I also developed an addiction to studying.

But I’m not claiming that it was easy from the start.

At first, I had to make myself sit down and open up those folders and unfold those random sheets of paper and get used to the Arabic keyboard.

However, within a matter of days or weeks, I couldn’t resist staying up (far too late, mind you) for hours inputting vocabulary into this 160-something page document.

My point is that if we always rely on that temporary motivation, we’ll hardly ever be motivated enough to achieve our ultimate goals. Our greater motivation needs to be enough to push us to work hard, especially through the times when our temporary motivation is lacking.

And the more effort you put in based on your greater motivation, the more strong and stable you’ll find your temporary level of motivation to be–that temporary motivation comes with hard work!

What’s your opinion? Do you think there’s a distinction between temporary and greater motivation? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

!إلى اللقاء

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One thought on “Is Motivation Enough?

  1. i do believe in greater motivation and i believe that people are cheating themselves when they are not attuned to it.
    greater motivation may be thwarted by distractions, such as social media, as is shown in The Social Dilemma

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