In Why We Do What We Do, motivational psychologist Edward Deci explains that, “External cunning or pressure... can sometimes bring about compliance, but with compliance comes various negative consequences, including the urge to defy” (9). This “external motivation” can cause worry and stress, while being autonomous--motivated by your inner self--“is associated with positive aspects of personality” (183). When autonomous, you choose your own adventures authentically, and, as a result, experience more positive consequences.
Yet, being autonomous and authentic isn’t an easy task. Like many students at Calvin, you likely hold an academic scholarship that requires a high grade to keep. Does this external motivation make you want to work hard because you enjoy it? Instead of creating autonomous students, these controls reduce authenticity in their desire to take classes, since, as Deci explains, “Authenticity necessitates behaving autonomously, for it means being the author of one’s actions...” (4). Fortunately, you, as a Calvin student, can become autonomous and authentic, despite external motivators, allowing you to care less about what grades you receive and more about what you’re learning. By finding a support group, choosing to change, becoming less ego-involved, and learning to regulate your emotions, you will have more positive results and adventures.
When people find others who support them in their intrinsic motivation, they become more autonomous. Deci notes that “Some children who live in what are generally non-nurturing environments are able to find an adult with whom to have a special relationship” (178). He argues that these special relationships are what set these children apart, allowing them the chance to do well--even if the environment they’re in is unsupportive. Similarly, at Calvin, even if you are around professors who aren’t encouraging you to try despite grade requirements, finding a supportive person or group of people will cause you to have a better chance at doing well. As a student, you can find helpful advisors, support in a dorm community, friends who encourage you to be your best, an RA who is there for you to talk to--the list goes on. Perhaps you may even have a professor who encourages you to try hard and not worry about grades. All of these relationships can add valuable autonomy support to your life, allowing you to feel less concerned with failure and more excited about what you can succeed in.
However, becoming autonomous isn’t something you should expect others to do for you. To become more authentic and autonomous in your decisions, you must become as non ego-involved as possible. As Deci puts it, “Being ego-involved... means that people’s feelings of self-worth are contingent upon some type of outcome.” He explains, “Ego-involvements make people a pawn to their emotions” (189). When ego-involved, you define yourself by what grade you got on your history test. If you receive a “C”, you may feel...