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Self teaching, how to stay motivated?

  1. Jun 19, 2010 #1
    I am... a slacker who hasn't been living up to their full potential. I used to do very well, but then I just got lost in existential depression. I spend most of my time bored, searching for something entertaining to pass the time. It's usually internet forums or TV... but they're starting to become unfulfilling.

    I bought a physics book and decided to learn before I take physics next year. You know, really challenge myself again... find something worth living for in this seemingly vast stretch of nothing.

    Here's the problem: I face adversity, and I want to just give up and return to doing nothing all day. I'm on the second chapter, about 20 pages in, and I'm a little fuzzy on vectors... I mean, what ARE they? I'm also on the fence about whether I should just read, or think about what I'm reading and question it for comprehension... but that takes time and I worry that I'll come up with a question I can't answer and then I won't be able to move on.

    How do I STICK to it? I don't want to see this as some chore that must be done. I want motivation. I want... to be good at something again.
  2. jcsd
  3. Jun 19, 2010 #2
    Someone once said that happiness is taking a little thing and making a big deal about it.

    The easiest path is to find out the thing you have the most talent for and the most interest in. Then motivation will be automatic.

    Assuming physics is such an area for you, then a more practical suggestion is to learn at a university. There you have the resouces of professors, friends, library, and an inspirational atmosphere of learning, as well as a little competition.
  4. Jun 19, 2010 #3
    By the way, you mentioned the word depression and some of your comments are consistent with a depressed person. You may want to think about this more and seek appropriate help if you think your feelings are more than boredom and philosophical musings.
  5. Jun 28, 2010 #4
    Agreed. Find someone you trust to discuss your feelings.

    Here's a quote attributed to Einstein:

    Here's my two cents on your question, lrl4565:

    1. It won't be easy. Physics is hard. I think most of us enjoy it for precisely this reason. It's one of the greatest intellectual challenges of human history. Be prepared to focus and dig in. It's actually quite fun once you start to get the hang of it.

    2. This is similar to #1. Do the problems. Do lots of problems. Physics is cool because of its great explanatory power, but it gets really fun once you start to feel the ability to actually DO the physics!

    3. Be very careful with your choice of book. Go to the library and/or bookstore and skim dozens of books. Find one that resonates with you. Keep track of a half dozen or so. Use them as cross-references. Often something that is obscure with one author is crystal clear with another. http://en.wikipedia.org is your friend. This is one advantage you have: the freedom to choose your text -- exploit it! (BTW, you can still reference multiple books even in your formal classes! :wink:)

    4. Don't be afraid to go big. The standard textbook is usually lacking in keeping the reader's interest. I've found it very beneficial to "read" texts and/or papers that are way over my level. Its inspiring. Read them and re-read them. It doesn't matter that you don't understand it all. You'll start to get the lingo and find out what concepts are important. Then you'll see those concepts in other places. Get in the author's mind to see what is motivating his/her words.

    Good luck!
  6. Jun 29, 2010 #5


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    Well if you want to understand the textbook and the material you should ask every question that pops in your head...

    Yes by learning alone, or self study you might get it wrong, and learning in a course is more structured but if hoping to do research you will need to read on your own.
    It will take as much as it should take...
  7. Jul 12, 2010 #6
    Self teaching is not for slackers, you need to motivate yourself or find it interesting.

    You need the right textbook, I needed one with a lot of examples and solution to exercises. Check the reviews on amazon.

    You should also use online lectures. Many like MITs, but there are many good vieos out there. You can also find videos where people solve problems. Just search in youtube
  8. Oct 17, 2010 #7
    You should focus on your goal, be determined and always keep in mind why you're taking those courses. Always remember the job you wanted once you'll have your degree. You study at your own pace so you really need a lot of motivation.

    Mariz from http://blog.collegenetwork.com/blog/college-network" [Broken]
    Last edited by a moderator: May 5, 2017
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