Motivation Part 2: Be more specific

In part one of my discussion on motivation, I mentioned that the motivating factor that pushed me to continue learning HTML and CSS was success. Taking what I had just read and being able to immediately reproduce it in my web design pushed me to learn more and more. I would argue, though, that this success on its own would not have been sufficient. The success I found had to fit within my larger goal.
Over twelve years ago, I tried to learn HTML. One day, I got the itch to learn something new, something different. I won’t bore you with details, but let’s just say my employment situation was not ideal. I decided I wanted to learn how to create web pages so I went to the used book store and purchased a HTML instruction book. The learning process lasted three days. That’s it. Never picked that book up again.

When I think back on that experience, it is funny how unmotivated I was. I was very motivated at the beginning, while the idea was coursing through my head. I was excited as I brought that newly purchased used book home (I was even cheap back then). I jumped for joy when I was able to finally make my first attempt at HTML code work. That excitement quickly left.

Twice I have attempted to teach myself HTML. Each attempt was completely different. Both began with motivation and excitement but my first attempt lasted only three days; my second attempt continues after several years. The first attempt was a complete failure; the second a success. What was the difference? The difference was I had a specific goal in mind during my second attempt. In my first attempt to teach myself HTML, I did not have specific goal. Well, that is not completely accurate. I did have a goal. The goal was to teach myself HTML. That sounds like a good goal, but in actuality, it only provided limited motivation. In my second attempt to teach myself, I did have a goal, a specific goal, and achieving this goal made me focus and learn.

A few years ago I was working for a previous employer and had an idea for a web site that could benefit both the company and me. My job entailed tracking sales data, which I recorded in a spreadsheet. The problem was the data came from several sources and the process for recording the data was troublesome and insufficient. My idea included a web site to capture and process the data for me. Those needing to input data would have a simple place to input their data while those needing to view the data would have a place to view reports. Basically, a site which would leave me completely out of the loop. Wait, sounded like I wanted to create a website to do my job?

That was my motivation. I had a specific site I wanted to create. I was not learning just to increase my knowledge. I had a specific project in mind to create. The idea came first, then the desire. You might compare it to a student in school. Most students are not motivated to learn on their own. Their motivation is pushed by their desire to achieve a certain grade or to pass a test. On their own, they likely will not sufficiently study the course material, but with a test on the horizon, their level of motivation quickly increases. In some ways, having a specific goal in mind is similar to having a test coming up, especially if your goal includes a site which will be viewed by others.

Before you begin teaching yourself web development, or even if you have already begun teaching yourself, find a goal, a specific goal. Decide on what outcome you want to produce. Maybe you have a work idea you would like to create or you might have an idea for the next great social media craze, like  MyBook or FaceSpace. Use these as your goal. Real goals will serve you better than fake goals. Trying to create a fake website for practice will only get you so far. Come up with a real project.

If you do not have a goal already in mind, create one. One example would be to create a site to help someone or something in your community, such as your church or other origination. Maybe you have a friend or family member wanting to create their own website. Volunteer to help them create it. Make it something tangible, but also within reason. Don’t volunteer for a project that is too big for your abilities. Keep it simple in the beginning.

Find a specific goal to help you in your learning process and increase your level of motivation.


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