This is Part One of: 8 Secrets About Motivation You Need to Know
You’ve probably had days where you were so pumped up to accomplish a goal, you had razor-sharp focus and energy and on those days without knowing it you were using several of the 8 secrets about motivation you need to know.
And you’ve probably also had days where just getting out of bed seemed a little too much.
Why is it that motivation can vary so much?
And why is it that sometimes, even though you have something you know you should do, it feels almost impossible to get yourself going?
The answer isn’t as simple as procrastination or laziness – in fact, I want you to know that you’re not lazy.
You have so much potential to accomplish all your goals with flying colors. What you’re likely missing, if you consistently experience poor motivation, are the right strategies.
This article delves into the 8 secrets about motivation you need to know from a neuroscience (brain-science) standpoint.
By understanding all the ins and outs of the biological mechanisms that make motivation possible, you can access motivation on-demand!
Table of Contents
Motivation Secret 1: The Two Sides of Your Motivation Molecule
Motivation Secret 2: Manage Your Expectations
Motivation Secret 3: Reward the Harder Steps and Effort to Achieving Your Goals
Motivation Secret 4: Don’t Be Afraid to Make Mistakes
Motivation Secret 5: Schedule Your Dopamine
Motivation Secret 6: Balance Dopamine with Serotonin
Motivation Secret 7: Naturally Boost Dopamine with Your Diet
Motivation Secret 8: Bright Lights at Night Suppress Dopamine
8 Secrets About Motivation You Need to Know
1. The Two Sides of Your Motivation Molecule
Did you know that dopamine is the neuromodulator that regulates your motivation?
However, boosting your motivation isn’t as simple as boosting your dopamine levels.
It’s vital that you understand exactly how dopamine works so you can leverage these mechanisms in your favor.
For starters, you might have heard of dopamine as the “pleasure molecule.”
But this isn’t entirely accurate. While pleasure is something you often experience when dopamine spikes, this dopamin works more to create more desire than pleasure.
Here’s how. When you anticipate something rewarding – from getting dinner at your favorite restaurant to a promotion – your brain pumps dopamine down your reward pathways.
This is an anticipatory spike of dopamine, followed up by a larger spike when you actually meet your goal.
But for every corresponding spike of pleasure thanks to dopamine, there’s a subsequent spike in pain.
And this pain is what creates a yearning for more dopamine.
It’s what makes you crave another slice of pizza even if you’re full.
Or the reason you start to feel a little down after a big accomplishment, because you start wondering how next to create this high.
This pleasure-pain balance of dopamine is what creates the drive that pushes you toward your goals and this is one of the biggest 8 secrets about motivation you need to know.
That initial spark of dopamine from anticipating a reward creates a corresponding craving for more dopamine.
And this helps you prolong the effort you’re willing and able to put in to work towards your goals.
But here’s the tricky part – every subsequent dopamine spike is going to be less than the one before it.
And every subsequent increase of pain will be greater.
This is why substances which cause huge spikes in dopamine, like alcohol, amphetamines, cocaine, etc. can be so addictive.
The massive surge of dopamine is followed by a huge corresponding sensation of pain which makes you crave more dopamine.
The more you pursue the source of this spike, the less dopamine you receive, and the more pain you experience.
And this is why frequent activation of your dopaminergic pathways can also damage your motivation in the long run.
If you struggle to commit to long-term goals, this could be why. You might be failing to sustain a dopamine spike for longer, and are experiencing consecutive spikes of pain.
And this distracts and demotivates you.
So, how can you manage your dopamine systems to sustain your motivation in the long term?
2. Manage Your Expectations
But the activation of dopamine is rather subjective.
Okay – have you ever watched a movie you had low expectations for, but felt pleasantly surprised by?
Contrarily, have you ever expected a movie to be incredible, only to be let down by it? It might still have been enjoyable, but you can’t help but feel disappointed, because you had higher expectations, right?
This a reward prediction error.
If the level of dopamine increase you experience falls short of the level you were expecting, you feel let down.
The dopamine mismatch actually demotivates you instead.
For example, say you were expecting a dish at a restaurant to be amazing. But it turned to be just okay, nothing too special.
You’d likely not order it the second time around, right?
But what if you walked into the restaurant with zero expectations? You might have enjoyed your meal more, and considered ordering it again!
This is why it’s so important to understand how subjective dopamine activation is.
Knowing how to manage your expectations helps you regulate your dopamine and prevent these bouts of demotivation!
Be realistic when you’re setting yourself goals.
Think about what is realistically attainable, to avoid setting yourself up for demotivation.
3. Reward The Harder Steps and The Effort to Achieving Your Goals
Have you ever had to do something that felt so huge and overwhelming that you sort of shut down?
Despite how important and time-consuming the task is, you find yourself struggling to get started.
If there’s a huge gap between where you are and your goal, you might have a harder time anticipating a reward.
Say that you do anticipate a huge reward, anyway. However, it takes you longer to get there, and it’s harder to sustain a dopamine spike for this long.
You experience increasing bouts of pain as you progress, and it becomes harder and harder to stay on track.
Now, this doesn’t mean goals, especially long-term goals, are bad.
You can and should set yourself goals that open up opportunities and enhance your life.
What you should understand, though, is that fixating on the end goal to motivate yourself might actually work against you.
Dr. Andrew Huberman, a neurobiologist at Stanford University, says,
“A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. But the key is to reward the harder steps, not the easier ones. And not the ones where you get the thing that you want.”
In other words, the key is to attach your sense of reward to the journey, and not the destination.
Rather than fixate on, for example, a promotion, focus on the work it takes to get there.
Attach a sense of accomplishment, fulfilment and reward to this hard work. When you overcome a hurdle which requires a lot of effort, think about it positively instead of focusing on negatives.
Remember, dopamine is subjective. When you attach a sense of reward to the work you’re putting in, you experience more sustainable bouts of motivation.
And you enjoy yourself while you’re at it!
Motivation isn’t as simple as wanting to do something. There’s a whole biological and psychological system at play regulating it.
Pat Wyman is the CEO of HowtoLearn.com, HowtoLearn.Teachable.com, best selling author and an internationally noted brain and learning coach known as America’s Most Trusted Learning Expert.
Pat’s superpower is helping people learn, read and remember everything faster. She has helped over half a million people in schools and corporations such as Microsoft, Intel and Google improve their lives with her learning strategies, learning styles inventory and courses, including Total Recall Learning™.
She is the best-selling author of more than 15 books, a university instructor, mom and golden retriever lover!
Contact Pat to find out more about the Brain 2.0 Brain Advantage Learning and Career Assessment and customized faster learning programs for professionals and students.