March 20, 2018

How Motivation Works And How To Harness It

how motivation works

How many of us understand how important motivation is, yet still wonder how it works? It’s not something taught to us in school and figuring out how motivation works are not easily done on the internet either.

Our brains are powerful tools, and by now we understand that even subtle tweaks to how we do things can make a world of difference. It’s all about understanding the circuitry in our heads, how it heavily influences our behaviour, and how we function each day.

  1. How can I use my brain and its power to maintain motivation
  2. What do I do to make sure my brain gets what it needs so my motivation doesn’t waver
  3. What is present in my brain that affects whether I’m motivated or not
  4. What can I improve to ensure maximum gusto when going after what I want?
  5. how motivation works

How Motivation Works: An Introduction

  1. Motivation is necessary for you to get anything done. Literally, it is the desire to do.
  2. Physiologically, our brains have a great deal of influence when it comes to what motivates us, and how long that motivation endures.
  3. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that has serious effects on our lives, including our motivation

Facts about Dopamine & How motivation works

Dopamine is often thought of in the context of cue action and reward. We know it has serious influence over our habitual behaviour (good or bad).

Dopamine can also give you drive to “do”…well anything. In an often-cited study, rats chose to starve to death rather than attempting for the food literally inches away from them because their brains were bereft of dopamine. They just didn’t care.

People say, “I wish I had more motivation today, because then I would try something.” But our thinking is backward. The way our brain works is that dopamine – the so-called feel-good chemical – is released the second we actually do something. So the motivation doesn’t come before, it comes after.

Brendon Burchard

Sound familiar? “Just not caring”, -sigh- is a lack of motivation. When you lack the gusto to “do” you’re essentially saying “who cares” to those precious moments of your life.


Our lives are a series of moments and moves in our preferred direction only in those moments we actively take control with the power of our choices.

As long as we choose to, we can manipulate the way our natural selves work so that it facilitates what we want. Our mind’s, intellect etc…being aligned toward a certain purpose mean almost nothing but if we do not make certain that our bodies align as well.

A huge part of that is understanding the role our brain has in anticipating positive experiences and how it responds to them.

1. Learn to break everything into smaller chunks

No matter what, breaking something into a smaller chunk is a technique I abuse heavily to get motivated.

It helps because it organizes things and because it tricks your brain. Instead of seeing one large task like “learn this skill” It sees my small steps master plan.

  1. Google the skill
  2. Google what can be done with this skills
  3. Talk to a friend who has the skill
  4. Buy a book on the skill
  5. Practice the skill for 5 minutes today

Don’t worry if these seem small to you, that’s your mind talking. Your brain works a certain way regardless of how your mind thinks. Your mind might see small insignificant tasks, but they have a snowball effect on your brain.

At first, learning German is what your brain sees. It’s a huge task that will require much time and much effort to accomplish.

By taking all that is coming at you and putting it into ideal-sized groups your mind can more easily handle, you are positioning yourself to accomplish your goals.

Tony Robbins

When you break that down, you get these easy to accomplish tasks that lead you in the right direction and allow your brain to ease into the idea. You have already accomplished five steps, which has allowed your dopamine levels to spike in relation to this goal you have.

By the time you are ready to do something, you might deem “substantial” you already have the brain juice ready and the confidence.

Essentially, anything you want to accomplish is the same. From forming habits to getting filthy rich, it only requires time and specific effort.

  • But sometimes activities seem daunting from a brain’s perspective.

Whatever you can do to make the activity seem smaller is good for motivation because your brain is perceiving something easily accomplish, rather than something that will tax your system.

2. Record your progress

Journal, and journal heavily about what you are going after. Whenever obstacles arise during the course of the improvements you are making, you can look back at your entries to objectively see the progress you have made.

When you see how you use to be, next to who you are now, understanding the progress you have made is an easy way to trick your brain out of a slump.

  • You’re already in the middle of it, so you might as well continue
  • What it took to get here, is no different than what it will take to finish
  • You don’t want to waste time and effort, might as well finish

All of these are good reasons for your brain to assist you in continuing.

3. Share Your Progress With Others

Not in a showy way, but having someone that you can speak with about the process and how you’re doing is a great opportunity for positive feedback and support.

When you interact with others and see their support, you will understand a few things

  1. Your environment supports your decision to go forward
  2. Others are much like you in trying to better themselves and their lives
  3. You are not alone in desiring progress for yourself
  4. People you interact with are surprised at the good decisions you’re trying to make
  5. Sometimes others may want the same thing for themselves, but lack their own motivation, which you can provide for them

This again spikes your dopamine and adds accountability making you more likely to continue.

4. How Motivation Works With Productivity

You may have heard of the Pomodoro technique, and I am happy to admit that this is another tool I have beaten to death in my routine each day.

It’s a technique for increasing the amount of work you fit into a small amount of space (25 mins of work, 5 minutes of rest).

Actually, while I am working, I think of the hours as Pomodoro sessions. So when I am working on something the question is “how many Pomodoro sessions do I want this done in?”.

I use the Pomodoro Technique to skyrocket my productivity. It doesn't make you super human, it simply eliminates the blind spots in your focus by doing activity 'sprints'. Click To Tweet

I literally use this simple Pomodoro timer.

This idea of giving yourself a certain amount of time to accomplish something is a comprehensive technique for increasing motivation, as well as combating the human ability to fit activity into whatever time it has.

No matter how long something takes, you will fit a thirty-minute activity into an hour if given an hour.

Best Way To Eliminate This Bias:

  1. Fully understanding how long something takes
  2. Only give yourself that amount of time to do it.

You are essentially powering through 25 minutes of intense productivity.

This Affects Your Brain In Two Ways

  1. You can easily stay focused for the allotted time because your brain expects the reward of the break afterward
  2. After one hour (two Pomodoro sessions) you can look back and be thrilled at the amount you got done, which increases your motivation on a physiological level

5. Consistency And How Motivation Works

When you understand motivation, where it comes from on all levels of your being and how it works within your brain, it is only difficult in the beginning.

Above all, be consistent in keeping the promises you make to yourself.Click To Tweet

Do we have difficulty getting dressed in the morning? No, nor do we have any issue with other simple tasks like brushing our teeth or putting gas in our car. Those activities are easy because they are part of the status quo.

When you want to get a rocket off the ground, you need tremendous force and energy. Motivation and willpower are that energy relative to overcoming the homeostasis (status quo) your brain loves so much.

When It Comes To What Things Are Now:

  1. Your brain likes to understand and be comfortable. Change causes heavy “brain cost-benefit analysis”
  2. Brain Cost-benefit analysis is more geared toward future changes, rather than the pros and cons of keeping things how they are

Learning how to keep your motivation up is important, however, learning how to make it so you need motivation in fewer areas of your life is also important.

Consistency is something that can be used by us to create habits in our lives, which we already know are actions we perform each day that require little motivation, but still, provide results.

It is a tool you can keep strapped to your belt, because it’s related to breaking things down into smaller steps, and is a simple fix when it comes to your brain viewing a task as requiring too many of your resources (killing motivation).

What You Can Do

  1. Come up with relevant action steps that will spike your dopamine
  2. Become consistent in those small steps

You don’t have to feel like tackling the entire task is necessary. You will eventually, and you know that is the goal, but when you rid yourself of that obligation you can easily start instead of focusing on how daunting it may seem.

Instead of doing the entire thing, only do it for five minutes, or decide on some other small step.

Once you get that out of the way, you will feel more confident in tackling another small step, either doing this the entire way to the finish line or developing enough confidence and motivation to take on larger steps inside your bigger accomplishment.

Ideally, enough of this will turn those smaller steps into bigger steps, and make the bigger steps habitual so that little motivation is required to do them.

More information on how motivation works in your brain:

What To Do Now

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Brian Wright

I read a lot of books. I learn from a lot of experts. I learn stuff and package it all up for you.

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