It’s drawing towards the end of summer, school is almost back in session and I’m sure most of us have goals we would like to smash by the end of the year. Sometimes finding motivation to get the job done can prove elusive.
You are not alone, a lot of us struggle with having enough drive to accomplish goals. We get overwhelmed by challenges or setbacks and we throw in the towel. Some of us struggle with the ability to stay consistent and grind out the process, or we just don’t have the willpower to even start.
Truth is that there is more to your inability to get off the couch and get your workout done than you realize.
You cannot just will yourself to do whatever you want, even though many people may say otherwise, you need the potent combination of the right amount of dopamine and implicit drive to get things done.
Without getting too technical dopamine kicks in when your brain recognizes something important is about to happen. Dopamine encourages us to act either to achieve something good or bad. It is the chemical signal sent to the brain to get things done.
Low levels of dopamine make finding motivation difficult.
Studies have shown they found that people willing to work hard had higher dopamine levels in the striatum and prefrontal cortex — two areas known to impact motivation and reward.
With slackers, dopamine was present in the anterior insula, an area of the brain involved in emotion and risk perception.
How Do We Get It Flowing?
Believe it or not there are little steps you can take to create an environment where dopamine flows.
One way is to set small incremental goals and reward yourself when you reach them, this will provide positive reinforcement and boost your confidence.
Create micro deadlines for yourself, try accomplishing one thing at a time,as you do that,you start to feel positive about your ability to complete multiple projects simultaneously.
Eat a healthy diet, food rich in plenty of natural probiotics like yoghurt and sauerkraut are very beneficial. Also make it a habit to perform 2/3 sessions of high intensity workouts per week as it does wonders for dopamine release.
Lastly, try to invest in some tools that will help you increase your productivity and outsource tasks that overwhelm you.
Although dopamine is important, it is not all there is to the story. To harness the true power of motivation, you need to harmonize the physiological and mental components of motivation.
Figuring Out Your Why
There are 3 basic things that push us to succeed, the need to achieve, the need to be in a position of authority and a sense of belonging i.e. power, achievement and affiliation.
You need to do some soul searching and figure out what drives you to succeed at your goals and tap into that.
One way to do this is by carrying out visualization practices; imagine yourself at a party networking and meeting new people if you feel a positive emotional response to that, then you are most likely motivated by the need for affiliation.
Likewise, if you enjoy completing grueling workout sessions or working on tight deadlines, then achievement motivates you. If you enjoy being the center of the attention, giving an important speech or presentation, most likely power is your driving force.
Once you figure out what works for you, your goal is to brainstorm and set goals that elicit those positive emotional responses repeatedly (thereby stimulating dopamine).
You can start a weight loss journey with a friend, if a need for affiliation motivates you. If you are motivated by achievement, you can start a 30 day writing challenge to help you constantly update your blog posts, if power motivates you can start a book club for entrepreneurs and make yourself the leader.
Once you figure out your why, motivation never stops.
Staying On Track, What Works
When you try out something new for the first time that feels good,your brain signals to your body to continue doing it (dopamine at work) but chances are by the you’ve mastered it the novelty wears off.
To stay motivated, you must keep using the tools mentioned previously but, make them more challenging,incrementally. So instead of exercising with one friend, join a Zumba group class, that way you are constantly engaged and incentivised to perform.
Realistically, there will be some days you slip up.
Personal and career demands will get in the way of keeping you motivated and consistent. The key is to work around them, prepare ahead of time and be reasonable about what you can achieve given your constraints. Do not beat yourself up, if you go off track (even if it’s for weeks). Figure out what triggers this, what was your response and what the consequence was,then consciously take steps to mitigate against them.