Intrinsic motivation fuels life planning: new research findings

Emily Law

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​Secondary school students emphasise intrinsic aspirations such as meaningful relationships, community contributions and personal growth when they consider their future development, according to new research conducted by the Department of Applied Social Sciences (SS) at City University of Hong Kong (CityU) and St. James’ Settlement, a non-governmental charitable organisation in Hong Kong.

The project was titled “Research on Youths’ Life Planning and Personal Development”. It was sponsored by the Funding Scheme for Youth Life Planning Activities from the Home Affairs Bureau of the Hong Kong SAR government.

Altogether 2,123 Secondary 1 to 6 students aged between 12 and 20 were interviewed between December 2015 and March 2016. The aim was to gauge students’ knowledge and confidence about life planning as well as their life aspirations.

The scores for various aspects of intrinsic aspirations, such as meaningful relationships (5.71), community contributions (5.6) and personal growth (4.88) were higher than those for extrinsic aspirations, such as wealth (4.78), image (4.22) and fame (3.51), with 10 marking the maximum score.

These results indicated that intrinsic values were considered by students to be important factors when young people make plans for their lives, marking a generational change in attitude, according to Professor Eric Chui Wing-hong of SS, and the person-in-charge of the research project.
A high correlation between students’ vocational identity status (that is, a clear preference of career) and their intrinsic vales, life purposes and self-confidence was evident, too, he said.

In other words, the more affirmative students were about their vocational identity status, the higher the scores for intrinsic values, life purposes and self-confidence.

Most respondents said they had participated in some life planning activities. Among them, 72.6% had attended talks on further studies and careers, 40.3% had taken part in related workshops, and 25.2% had visited related exhibitions. More than 40% of respondents believed that these activities could boost their motivation for life planning.

Dr Raysen Cheung Wai-leung, Assistant Professor in SS, said respondents with lower scores in career exploration and career commitment were diffused towards their vocational identity status, had a lower motivation about career exploration and were uncertain about their career directions.

He suggested that a more fundamental approach to boosting motivation was needed in order to enable young people to gain a better understanding of themselves and for future planning.


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