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Motivation Module 9:

Mindfulness and Motivation


Background Information

Mindfulness is a practice that originated from ancient eastern and Buddhist philosophy and dates back around 2500 years (What Is Mindfulness Meditation in Buddhism, 2022). The term “mindfulness” comes from a Sanskrit word which literally translates to “that which is remembered” (Parth et al., 2019; Williams, et al., 2004). In essence, mindfulness is thinking and reminding ourselves to pay attention to the present moment experience (Black, 2011; Parth et al., 2019; Shapiro & Carlson 2009). Over the years, mindfulness has been studied and practiced to a point where it is now has an inherent quality of consciousness that can be measured empirically and scientifically (Black, 20101; Kohls et al., 2009; Walach et al., 2007). See chapter 8 for discussion of mindfulness.


There are three key features of mindfulness (Parth et al., 2019): 

  1. Purpose: Mindfulness requires actively and deliberately focusing your attention rather than allowing it to drift.

  2. Presence: Mindfulness requires complete involvement and attentiveness to the current moment.

  3. Acceptance: Mindfulness involves impartially observing and acknowledging experiences without categorizing them as positive, negative, pleasurable, or uncomfortable. Instead, they are accepted as they are and observed until they naturally dissipate.

The goal of engaging in mindfulness is to achieve a state of focused relaxation by paying attention to one’s emotions, thoughts, and sensations so that the mind focuses on the present while being free of judgements. 


Motivation is a process that drives people to act (see chapters 3 and 6 on motivation), while the term motivation describes why a person does the things they do. The motivational forces that direct and maintain our goal-directed actions include the biological, emotional, social, and cognitive forces (Cherry, 2022). Motives are rarely directly observable; therefore, we must often infer why people do the things they do based on their observable behaviors (Nevid, 2013).



Ways to motivate yourself:

  1. Intention involves awareness of why we are doing something.

  2. Keeping a routine ensures that at least one of your goals will be addressed.

  3. Recognize the power of now by focusing on just getting through today’s goal,

  4. Be present involves focusing on what you’re doing at a given moment.

  5. Build trust through practice includes thinking of a goal as a series of repeated steps, that build with repetition.

  6. Keep in mind that there is an antidote for every obstacle, thus understand the specific obstacle and come up with a plan to address it.

  7. Don’t be too hard on yourself when you mess up, rather recommit to continuing toward satisfying the goal.

  8. Recognize that intentions can change by staying open to awareness of the change.


Source: Listing of Ways to Motivate Yourself adapted from Headspace, Inc. (2021). How to Get Motivated. Headspace.

Positive Phrases to Employ to Be Super Positive

  • I admire you.

  • You can do it.

  • I value you.

  • You can count on me.

  • I believe in you.

  • You are kind.

  • I trust you.

  • You are smart.

Source:Listing Positive Phrases to Employ adapted from Economy, P. (n.d.). 9 Powerful Phrases Super Positive People Say, Inc.

Possible Answers to the Question "What Motivates You?"

  • Learning new things.

  • Acquiring new skills.

  • Meeting deadlines, goals and targets.

  • Coaching others.

  • Improving processes, finding ways to solving problems.

  • Leading a team or being a part of a team.

  • Completing a difficult project.

  • Overcoming challenges.

  • Coming up with creative idea.

Source: Possible Answers to the Question “What Motivates You” adapted from What motivates you?’ Tricky graduate interview question. (n.d.). Targetjobs.   

Elementary School Classrooms

i.    Use breath control by suggesting that they breathe in slowly for three counts, then exhale for three counts. Alternatively, they can imagine a peaceful scene, such as a beach or a forest, and visualize themselves inhaling the fresh air and exhaling any tension or worries.


ii.   Sensory activities can be a great way to help students relax and focus. For example, you might encourage them to try some gentle stretching exercises, use a stress ball or fidget toy to occupy their hands, or have them hold a warm cup of tea or hot cocoa to enjoy the comforting aroma and taste.


iii.  Getting students moving can also be a powerful way to help them calm down and focus. For instance, you might suggest they take a short walk around the classroom or campus, practice some yoga poses, or do some simple exercises like jumping jacks or lunges. Another idea is to have them engage in a guided mindfulness activity that involves paying attention to their body and surroundings, such as a body scan or a mindful walking exercise.

Middle School Classrooms

i.      To help students transition calmly, you could suggest they focus on their breath while listening to the sound of a chime. Alternatively, you might guide them through a progressive muscle relaxation exercise where they tense and relax each muscle group in their body while sitting in their chairs.


ii.    As a way to encourage self-reflection and promote growth, you might ask students to write about a positive experience they had that day, such as a moment of kindness they witnessed or an accomplishment they achieved. Alternatively, you could provide a writing prompt that invites them to think about a challenge they faced and how they overcame it, or a lesson they learned from a mistake they made.

High School or College Classrooms

  • For students who are feeling anxious or overwhelmed, a helpful mindfulness technique is to imagine a peaceful scene, such as a beach or a forest, and picture themselves in that environment. They can focus on the sights, sounds, and smells of this scene, and use their breath to anchor themselves in the present moment. Another mindfulness exercise is to practice gratitude by reflecting on something they are thankful for each day, such as a good friend or a supportive family member. By cultivating an attitude of gratitude, students can shift their focus away from stress and anxiety and toward positive emotions and experiences.


  • Keep a log reflecting on the following actions in Box 10.17 below that may be used while engaged in mindfulness.


Source:  Mindfulness and Motivation Activity 4 is adapted from How to Incorporate Mindfulness in the Classroom. (2021, June 15).



Record the observed positive effects of mindfulness including:

  1. Improved attention and learning skills.

  2. Better social and emotional skills.

  3. Increased empathy and classroom participation.

  4. Reduced negative effects of stress on students' ability to stay engaged.

  5. Increased focus, attention, self-control, classroom participation, and compassion.

  6. Improved academic performance, ability to resolve conflict and overall well-being.

Share the results of Mindfulness and Motivation Assessment 1 with colleagues for the purpose of incorporating mindfulness activities into instruction.

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