Boosting your motivation, positive emotions and learning

This week, we explore Chapter 8 of Teach Yourself How to Learn by Dr. Saundra Yancy McGuire and Stephanie McGuire: What can you do to boost your motivation, positive emotions and learning?

Learning doesn’t have to be boring or stressful. We have the ability to make learning fun and exciting by leveraging a variety of tools and strategies to boost self-motivation and positive emotions. So how do we add zest to our learning process?

It is imperative that we, as students, associate learning with positive sentiments as learning is a lifelong process. Learning is strongly influenced by our learning strategies, mindset towards learning, self-talk and lifestyle. These factors play a crucial role in how we feel about learning.

Metacognitive Learning Strategies

Metacognition means understanding your own process of learning. Since we all have our own unique methods of learning that work best for us, it’s important to recognize the learning strategies that we find useful. My two favourite learning strategies are:

  1. Previewing
  2. Using homework questions as a test
Open book

Previewing is done before the lecture. It’s where I get the opportunity to familiarize myself with the lecture’s material and to develop questions. Previewing allows me to actively engage in class discussions and clear up any confusion about the subject matter.

I use homework questions as an opportunity to test my understanding of the material. Starting off with easy questions and gradually progressing to more difficult ones helps me gain confidence and stay motivated to complete the task at hand. Moreover, my brain is placed in a position where I need to answer questions without any support— just like during exams. This technique deepens my learning and helps me best prepare for tests and exams. Using metacognitive learning strategies elevates my learning experience, not least of all because it’s easier to accomplish my goals.

Cultivate Growth Mindset

Students with a growth mindset believe in the growth of intelligence through effort and action. Intelligence is a process that is developed as you continue to learn and experience new things. A growth mindset encourages you to embrace challenges, show perseverance to achieve proficiency, take criticism as positive feedback and find the success of others motivational.

I have a growth mindset because I strongly believe that investing time and effort yields greater results. I do not hesitate to get out of my comfort zone and take on new challenges. If you are reluctant to try new things then you are limiting your learning. In my first year of university, I performed poorly in my Accounting midterm exam because I did not put in the time and effort to fully prepare myself for it. Because my grades were significantly better in other courses, I believed Accounting was “just not my thing.” However, I decided to dedicate more time to Accounting in preparation for my final exam. And as a result, my grades for the final were much higher than I expected. I credit the positive attitude fostered by my growth mindset for this major improvement in my learning.

Positive Self-Talk

Our minds are constantly occupied with self-talk. Self-talk consists of all the thoughts that are directed toward yourself, both positive and negative. Self-talk heavily impacts our confidence and motivation to do work. Negative self-talk can be destructive and prevent you from succeeding in your learning journey. Positive self-talk, on the other hand, can fuel your motivation and make the learning process much more interesting and exciting.

Generally, my self-talk is positive. When I apply positive self-talk it is usually in an encouraging and supportive tone. Additionally, I remind myself of similar challenges that I have managed to overcome in the past. I identify key issues and recognize the root of the problem, come up with potential solutions and create a plan. For instance, if I receive a bad grade on a test despite spending a good portion of time studying for it, I take the provided feedback to identify the problem, change my learning strategies and incorporate them into my study plan. It may sound counterintuitive, but failure can actually be a great opportunity to improve your learning.

A Healthy Lifestyle

As we move forward in our lives, our workload keeps increasing and the bar is set high. While we hustle and bustle to attain our goals, we tend to ignore our bodies’ needs, which negatively impacts health. To create more time for studying, students tend to consume fast foods, skimp on sleep and limit their involvement in extracurricular activities such as sports and hobbies. Poor nutrition and sleep deprivation cause both our health and our GPA to suffer. The brain requires nutritious food and adequate sleep and exercise to function correctly.

As part of a healthy lifestyle, I have developed the habit of eating nutritious food, getting eight to nine hours of sleep and practicing yoga every morning. I always have fruits and vegetables in my kitchen to make myself a quick salad on busy days. To give my body sufficient time to rejuvenate, my routine is to go to bed at 10:30 pm and wake up at 7:30 am. I start my day by performing Yin yoga for approximately 30 minutes which energizes me and motivates me to continue with the rest of my day. All these activities enable me to achieve a healthy lifestyle and to perform exceptionally well at university.

Resources at Ryerson University

Ryerson offers tremendous support to students by providing a wide variety of services. To discuss learning strategies and time management issues, you can book an individual appointment with a Peer Academic Coach or Learning Strategist at the TRSM Academic Success Centre. The ASC also hosts various Train to Learn Workshops to help students find motivation and learn about different ways to prepare for assessments.

ThriveRU is an initiative taken to support students by helping them to acknowledge the connection between academic success and a healthy lifestyle. There are four sessions of training incorporating mindfulness, optimism, gratitude, self-compassion, and resilience. Check out the weekly workbook, which you can use in conjunction with the program or as a stand-alone resource. Campus resources are a great way to enhance your learning skills and build a healthy lifestyle.

I challenge you to consider how you will use metacognitive learning strategies, growth mindset, positive self-talk, a healthy lifestyle (as you define it), and campus resources to boost your motivation, positive emotions and learning!

Stay tuned for next week’s installment of our Teach Yourself How to Learn blog series, which will include key tips and strategies for time management, test taking and stress reduction.


Brecher, D. (n.d.). Cultivate Your Happiness: A ThriveRU Weekly Workbook (Revised ed.). Toronto, ON: Ryerson University. Retrieved from

McGuire S., & McGuire, S.Y. (2018). Teach Yourself How to Learn: Strategies You Can Use to Ace Any Course at Any Level, Chapter 7. Stylus Publishing, LLC.