With so much going on in the world today and exams postponed or changed, it is understandably difficult to focus on studying. This information can help you get back on track and is based on Daniel Goleman’s four elements of motivation.

1. Personal drive to achieve

Consider your motivation to study.

Extrinsic motivation - the result of studying

The exercise below will help you visualise this extrinsic motivation by considering the emotions you might feel when you finally get your exam results. The bigger you can make this picture, using all of your senses to ‘feel’ this sense of achievement, the more driven you will be to achieve this goal.

Extrinsic motivation exercise

Follow CABA trainer Jenni Rose take you through this exercise on video or read through the exercise below before beginning.

First of all, I’d like you to close your eyes and breathe. Feel the breath coming in and out of your nostrils, filling your body with the oxygen it needs. Move your body so you are in a comfortable position, but straight, upright and alert. Relax those shoulders and lift your head so that it is level.

Now clearly picture yourself looking at the computer, or looking at your phone as the text message comes through. How are you feeling? Your heart beats faster as you feel the nerves rising, perhaps you feel a bit sweaty, a bit prickly. You take a deep breath and open the message which reads ‘You have passed your case study for your ACA qualification’. Try to imagine how that emotion feels, perhaps tears of relief, joy and pride at your accomplishments or amazement that you’ve made it to this point. How might these emotions manifest for you? Would you jump for joy or want a hug in relief. Think about your senses and make this future emotion as big and as personal as you can.

Now open your eyes and coming back to the present day, did this very short exercise help you? When you feel yourself starting to lose sight of the bigger picture, work on visualising that wonderful strong emotion you are aiming for to keep the end game in sight.

Intrinsic motivation - your enjoyment of studying

Knowing your intrinsic motivation is another way of motivating yourself to study. This isn’t thinking about the opportunities or pay or benefits you will get when you qualify but thinking about what you love about the process of learning. To consider this, note down your answers to these three questions:

  1. What positive emotions do you feel when you are learning? Curiosity? Joy? Anticipation? Challenge?
  2. What is it like when you are in ‘flow’? Flow is the psychological state named by Mihály Csíkszentmihályi which refers to total immersion in a task where you are energised, focused and performing at your best. To find out more about flow, read CABA’s How to improve your productivity article
  3. How do you feel when you get that eureka moment? Think about a time when that lightbulb of understanding lit up, for example, when you understood double-entry book-keeping for the first time? What emotions did you feel? How did this manifest in your body and your senses?

2. Commitment to goals

The current situation is bound to be testing your commitment to your goals and the challenge of becoming a chartered accountant. Take a moment to write down all of the obstacles in the way for you. 

Now classify these obstacles according to if you can control them, influence them or if they are just under your concern.

Then focus on how you can bring the obstacles within your circle of influence – how could you think about them differently? How could you talk about them? What can you do about it?

3. Initiative and readiness to act on opportunities

Most goals can and should be broken down into smaller goals. Which exams do you want to pass and by when? Which topics do you need to cover, what practice do you need to do? What can you do today which will bring you a step closer?

By taking the time to plan this series of small step goals, you will be able to build on the dopamine rush you get when you feel a sense of achievement. Even without a firm exam date, you can set yourself mini goals and rewards along the way. 

Identify some people who can help you with this. A family member or friend could give you reminders to stay on track, a teacher can give you recommendations on how to spend your time, a mentor can give you advice on where to focus your attention. Make a list of what you need to do and how others can help you, for example:

I need to:

Ask my friend Jane to... have a look at my plan to see if I'm being realistic

Speak to my mum and she will... encourage me and keep me on track

Look at what my tutor Bob has given me... as guidance about what I need to cover

Call Sangita who did the exams last year and she'll... give me advice about which are the trickiest areas to cover

4. Optimism and resilience

As you can see from the list above, it’s not just practical help that we all need but also help to keep us optimistic and boost our resilience.

Optimism can be learned through gratitude exercises such as thinking of three positive things or counting your blessings. Using affirmations, being your own cheerleader and challenging negative self-talk can all help with increasing your optimism.

Resilience can be boosted by exercise, drinking water, having a balanced diet, taking a break and getting quality sleep. Find out what works for you to increase your resilience in times of acute anxiety. For more information access CABA’s online course Boost your resilience

This is a tricky time. Uncertainty is stressful and change can be unsettling, but this is something that you can cope with. 

Take a deep breath and focus on the bigger picture, think about what you have control over, the small steps you can take in the right direction and find what works for you to boost your resilience and optimism.

This will pass, and you can come out of the other side stronger and a big step closer to being a chartered accountant. 

This article was written by: Jenni Rose

Since qualifying with one of the big 4 firms as a Chartered Accountant, Jenni has worked closely with chartered accountants and business professionals to help them increase their resilience, self awareness, emotional intelligence and day to day fulfilment. Jenni is also a lecturer at the University of Manchester where she conducts research in innovative teaching practices. She is an enthusiastic and expert trainer who believes in facilitating reflective conversations to equip delegates with the unique tools they need to improve their wellbeing.

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