In this enlightening blog post by Marijana, we explore the transformative power of passion projects in fostering essential life skills. Discover effective strategies for understanding and nurturing student motivation, embracing challenges, and cultivating resilience. Celebrate achievements and empower students to tell their stories, inspiring others and extending the impact of their work. Together, let’s unlock the potential of passion projects and empower students to thrive, succeed, and make a positive difference in the world.


As educators, mentors, and coaches, we play a pivotal role in guiding students through their learning journey. One of the most effective ways to engage students and help them develop essential life skills is by encouraging them to pursue passion projects. In this blog post, we will delve deeper into strategies for understanding and nurturing student motivation, embracing challenges and cultivating resilience, and fostering a sense of pride and commitment when the project has ended.

Nurturing Motivation in Passion Projects

Understanding Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivation

Student motivation can be grouped in two categories: intrinsic and extrinsic. Intrinsic motivation comes from within and includes personal interest, enjoyment, or a desire for personal growth. On the other hand, extrinsic motivation is driven by external factors like rewards, recognition, and praise.

Common sources of extrinsic motivation include rewards and incentives (e.g., scholarships, academic credit), college applications, recognition and praise, competition, and external pressure (e.g., from parents or teachers). Intrinsic motivation can stem from personal interest and enjoyment, personal growth and skill development, impact and desire to make a difference, autonomy and control, and creativity and self-expression.

Leveraging Motivation in Passion Projects

Understanding the sources of a student’s motivation is key to effectively guiding them through their passion projects. By recognizing the unique blend of intrinsic and extrinsic motivation, we can effectively support and inspire students throughout their journeys.

A great tool to help students explore different aspects of their motivation is the Ikigai framework. By examining what they love, what they’re good at, what the world needs, and what they can be paid for, students can find common ground and a starting point for their passion projects.

Pro Tip: Balance both intrinsic and extrinsic motivation in your approach and adjust as needed to keep students engaged throughout their projects. While intrinsic motivation is more sustainable and can lead to higher levels of creativity and innovation, extrinsic motivation can be effective in the short term, particularly for re-engaging disinterested students or motivating those who are initially reluctant.

Cultivating Resilience and Embracing Challenges

Developing Real-World Skills

Helping students navigate the challenges they will inevitably face is crucial. By fostering a growth mindset, encouraging adaptability, and building strong foundations, we can empower students to overcome obstacles and develop essential life skills.

Begin by treating students as adults or clients, emphasizing that their projects have real-world implications. Take the time to discuss the various skills they will need or gain through their projects. This discussion should include problem-solving, creative thinking, collaboration, and project planning. Encourage students to self-assess their strengths and weaknesses in these areas. Revisiting this conversation later on can help students understand how challenges can be opportunities for growth and skill development.

Fostering a Growth Mindset

Discuss the importance of creative confidence, empathy, resilience, learning from failure, embracing ambiguity, and learning by doing. Encourage students to adopt a growth mindset, focusing on persistence and perseverance in the face of challenges. Share stories of famous individuals who faced setbacks and went on to achieve great success. Remind students that failures can lead to valuable learning experiences.

Utilizing the Design Thinking Framework

Introduce students to the design thinking framework, a user-centered approach that helps them develop solutions to real-life problems. This framework includes understanding the user, defining the problem from the user’s perspective, ideating, prototyping, and testing. Encourage students to be iterative in their approach, understanding that they may need to go through the process multiple times to achieve the desired outcome.

Implementing the Value Proposition Canvas

This tool helps students focus on their target audience’s needs and design a solution that addresses those needs. The value proposition canvas encourages research, creativity, and practicality, allowing students to pivot their ideas based on real-world feedback.

Addressing Challenges

Ensure students are prepared for the challenges they will face by discussing possible setbacks and their strategies for overcoming them. Encourage students to revisit their initial discussions about skills, mindset, and project goals when faced with obstacles. Breaking goals into smaller, achievable steps can help re-motivate students and keep them on track.

Pro Tip: Regularly check in with students to assess their progress and offer support when they face challenges. These check-ins can provide valuable opportunities for feedback, encouragement, and problem-solving.

Fostering Pride and Commitment After the Project

Reflect and Learn from Each Project

At the end of each project, hold a formal reflection session where both you, the mentor, and the student discuss what went well, what didn’t, and what they would do differently next time. This helps identify lessons learned and encourages an open discussion for improvement. Encourage students to maintain a journal or portfolio of their work, documenting their successes and challenges throughout the project.

Share the Success

Encourage students to share their projects with others, either through presentations, public showcases, or social media. This not only helps celebrate their accomplishments but also allows them to receive feedback and encouragement from others. Establishing connections with local community organizations, schools, or businesses can provide students with opportunities to present their projects to a wider audience.

Create a Sense of Legacy

Help students see how their passion projects can have a lasting impact and become part of their legacy. This realization can motivate them to continue pursuing their interests and engaging in similar projects in the future. Encourage students to think about the ripple effects their projects may have on their community, environment, or even the world at large.

Connect to Future Goals

Help students understand how their passion projects can relate to their future goals and how they can build upon their current work. This connection can serve as a gateway to even more meaningful and impactful projects. Discuss potential career paths, higher education opportunities, or entrepreneurial ventures that align with their passions and skills.

Celebrate Achievements

Find ways to celebrate the completion of each project, whether it’s through a small virtual party, an awards ceremony, or simply sharing words of encouragement and praise. This external motivation can help keep students excited about their work and eager to continue learning.

Encourage Storytelling

Teach students the importance of storytelling in sharing their passion projects. By crafting a compelling narrative, they can inspire others and extend the impact of their work. Encourage them to refine their presentation skills, practice public speaking, and utilize digital media platforms to share their stories effectively.

Pro Tip: Encourage students to continue pursuing their interests and engaging in similar projects in the future by helping them see the value and impact of their work.


By understanding and nurturing student motivation, embracing challenges and cultivating resilience, and fostering a sense of pride and commitment, we can effectively guide students through their passion projects. These strategies will empower students to unlock their full potential and set them on a path to success in their future endeavors. As educators, let’s continue to inspire our students to pursue their passions and achieve success in their pursuits. Together, we can help create a generation of confident, resilient, and motivated individuals who are ready to tackle the world’s challenges and contribute positively to society.