Cognitive neuroscientists have also studied successful college students. These students excel on tests without the performance anxiety of other students. They have the motivation to study, get good grades and turn in assignments on time. Their unconscious minds support playing "the grade & grad game" successfully. So much of what college requires, these students can do without analyzing, hesitating or dreading the challenge. They are not "making themselves" do what is required. They feel the urges, energy and inspirations to do whatever it takes to succeed.
Students who struggle and sabotage themselves in college are not supported by their unconscious minds. They routinely fail to get enough sleep, study before tests, think clearly during exams and keep ahead on assignment deadlines. They see the same challenges as successful students, but the requirements appear confusing signs of opportunity and danger. They hesitate to react because a routine failure may occur. Their unconscious mind may bring out their worst, sabotage their ambition and embarrass themselves in front of peers.
We all have routine successes and failures in mind that we can execute without thinking. Students who routinely fail at "the grade & grad game", may be "unconsciously successful" at dating, partying, friendships, sports, employment or independent study. The successful students may be routinely failing at those other adventures. I suspect there are many students who "run their failure routine" in classes that seem useless, boring and "only good for the grade". Those same students "succeed without trying" when a course appears useful, engaging and good for their career objectives.
Which routine we run depends on our read of the challenge. If it appears as a game, we go for it with a ways to succeed without thinking. There's no comparison or contrasting context. We're looking at "green on green" and pursue our obsession.
If the challenge appears to send mixed signals, we hesitate to react and face dilemmas, Catch-22's and no-win gambits. If we're facing clear danger, we sabotage our involvement and fail without thinking.