Do you ever experience addictive tendencies, loss in motivation, drive, focus, attention, mood fluctuations and even depression?
Understanding motivation comes down to understanding the underlying unconscious processes and first principles that drives behaviour. In this way you can utilize your biology and psychology to your benefit for improved performance, health and longevity.
“You have to build up the reasoning from the ground up— from the first principles – is the phrase that’s used in physics. You look at the fundamentals and construct your reasoning from that, and then you see if you have a conclusion that works or doesn’t work.” – Elon Musk
This is how Musk approaches problems. It’s called “reasoning from first principles”. By understanding and isolating the fundamentals or building blocks of anything, you can deconstruct it and construct a new or better product, service, result or version of yourself.
Many people struggle with motivation. They don’t know how to stay motivated. Often the responsibility is shifted to the boss, a partner, a motivational speaker or even a song – to get you through the workout. While these are all possible sources of inspiration, they are not lasting drivers of motivation.
While there is a mental (software) aspect to motivation, there is also a physical (hardware) aspect. Here we will look at the hardware.
Neuromodulators (hormones and neurotransmitters) are chemicals in your body that, among many other things, influence your levels of motivation. Think of these neuromodulators as your currency. You want to ensure that you keep on filling your neural bank account by replacing dopamine levels so that you can tap into the reserves to stay motivated, focused, energized and resilient. If you don’t replenish dopamine, you will lose your drive and experience burnout.
This highly complex and adaptive process is governed by your autonomic nervous system. This unconscious process drives and modulates behaviour and is to a large degree responsible for the outcomes you achieve.
For a better understanding of this you can read more here.
Dopamine is a key neuromodulator when it comes to motivation. Dopamine motivates future action in the pursuit of new goals and provides the energy, concentration and application required to achieve those goals. It is a hard-wired survival circuit that rewards you for behaviour that promotes survival.
Because dopamine is like a currency for your nervous system, it plays an important role in motivation, pleasure and the pursuit of pleasure.
Dopamine is normally secreted in the body when we achieve a goal or associated reward/pleasure that will facilitate or support our long-term survival. Eating, drinking, exercise and sex are natural triggers for dopamine, as this behaviour promotes survival. Then there are” un-natural” triggers of dopamine like alcohol, nicotine, drugs, prescription medication, gambling and social media. All these triggers can cause pleasure.
Instant high levels of pleasure.
Everybody enjoys pleasure. Pleasure is not a problem. Dopamine is not a problem. Too much pleasure experienced too often without exerting effort in order to achieve that pleasure/reward is terrible for you. It lowers your baseline levels of dopamine and the potency of all subsequent experiences.
This can lead to addictive behaviour, loss in motivation, drive, focus, attention, mood fluctuations and even depression.
By understanding your biochemistry and other unconscious processes better you can influence your results and health outcomes to thrive.
If you receive pleasure from food, drugs, alcohol or any other experiences without having to exert any (significant) effort, very soon those pleasures lose their potency. That doesn’t mean you stop pursuing those pleasures, but it lowers your baseline level of dopamine. This can lead you to seeking higher pulses of dopamine secretion (addiction) through consuming more of the pleasure or it causes you to pursue progressively smaller goals (loss in motivation).
Neither of these are good.
Today pleasure is easily accesable and available to us without any work: high potency food, stimulants, medication, drugs, social media etc. that don’t require any strain or effort to acquire. These are instant fixes which desensitize your reward circuit and depresses your long term motivation.
A small amount of these pleasures are acceptable. But to keep your dopamine system tuned up for ongoing motivation, goal directed pursuit and success this is what you should do:
Periodically avoid pleasures that are easy to access, focusing instead on pleasures that take effort to achieve.
- Avoid highly processed/junk food
- Avoid alcohol and high potency energy drinks
- Avoid picking up you mobile phone every 10 minutes or when you are bored
- Avoid quick fixes and fads
- Avoid short cuts
- Fast from some things that provide instant gratification
Who wants to hear that in a society driven by instant gratification and instant EVERYTHING? You are outsourcing your problems if you resort to quick fixes. It is never a good idea to give away responsibility for your mental and physical health. This creates a co-dependence on external sources for your motivation. It may provide short term treatment of symptoms but it won’t address the root cause.
This is in your best interest; your long term mental and physical health. This is how you keep the dopamine system (reward circuit) primed and optimized. This is how you keep moving.
Instant gratification is the enemy. Quick fixes are your downfall. Be weary of fads and trends promising to solve your problems with minimal or no effort from your side. Not only will these solutions not be lasting or real, it may completely destroy your built-in system for motivation.
Keep moving and keep thriving
#dopamine # motivation #keepmoving #thrive
For more information of how to tap into this motivation circuitry, you may want to read this.
About the author: Reinhard Korb is a Meta-coach and integrates neuroscience, psychology, nutrition and movement for optimal health, performance, engagement and productivity. As the founder of Keep Thriving, he has facilitated and helped organisations and individuals actualize their potential.