Academic Summer Camp Teaches Students the Importance of Motivation

Motivation is different from self-discipline. According to SuperCamp facilitator John LeTellier, self-discipline is doing what needs to be done, when it needs to be done, when you don't want to do it. Motivation is doing what needs to be done, when it needs to be done, when you want to do it. Motivation has passion in it. Motivation isn't the same thing as desire, either.

Teens and adults alike can want something very badly, something that's well within their reach, but still refuse to go after it. People create barriers to the things they want. It's easier to create barriers in your head than to take action. For many people, failure is a safety blanket: "I got poor results because I didn't really try." What's sabotaging our motivation in this case is our fear of failure.

Not giving something our full effort is taking the easy way out. It keeps us from looking bad and feeling foolish, but it also robs us of achieving our dreams. We seldom think of it this way, but learning how to reframe failure, to mine it for lessons, is an important life skill. Failure is an unavoidable part of life. It's a necessary ingredient in success. It's how we learn what to do differently next time! The more positively we can approach our failures, the less power they'll have to sap our motivation.

When teens talk about their heroes, we like to ask them what those heroes did that was so great. It sometimes comes as a revelation to them that their heroes weren't born that way. They had to become great. They struggled, too. Lance Armstrong didn't hop right out of his hospital bed and immediately win a race. What matters is not whether heroes struggled or failed, but that they kept going.

One of the signs that campers read on our walls says, "If It's to Be, It's Up to Me." In other words, they have a responsibility to take Ownership of their dreams. With their dreams on this footing, they begin to see that they practically have an obligation to pursue their passions. That's when choosing to live Above the Line takes on a new meaning. Giving in to their fear of failure, whining, blaming external forces for their lack of trying - that's all Below the Line stuff, because it means their dreams get neglected. Sometimes when people shy away from pursuing their goals it's because they don't see why their dreams matter to the rest of the world.

It can come as a major "Aha!" for teens when they realize that the thing they want most isn't just a selfish fantasy but a real, wonderful contribution they can make to the world. When they begin to see that their greatest gifts to the world lie in their passions, they begin to have a stronger sense of responsibility toward their own dreams.

SuperCamp will most certainly create a lasting impact. After attending a SuperCamp program, the potential for individual success with school, college, professional and adult life will be in their hands. More information on SuperCamp's summer camp programs can be found at the SuperCamp website ( Camps are almost full for this summer, but some spaces remain in most locations.

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