Raising motivation levels. Mice can do it, why can’t you?
“What is it you do exactly as a brain performance coach?”
A friend asked me recently when we got together to chat about how things are in life and business.
It’s always easy to start with an example, with a story.
THE MOTIVATION DILEMMA FOR LONG-LIVING MAMMALS
Do you remember when was the last time you felt motivated?
Driven to pursue a certain thing, to do some work, to work out, to deliver a project?
It’s like we need no food or coffee — we naturally deliver our best ideas and work. We shine with genius and productivity!
We all feel and experience that from time to time, some more often than others.
There’s one problem with that.
When we work on long-term projects and goals, like building a global business or brand, or simply shaping up your fitness that you’ve neglected for months and years, and then maintaining it, however busy you get — from time-to-time motivation won’t cut it. We need consistency in action, rain or shine. We need consistency in motivation.
How can you get this?
Some people say (navy seals are famous for this) — you don’t need no motivation. You need training and consistency.
Which is true, after a certain point of training, when you have built those habits (that, by the way, might take up to 254 days, 66 on average, according to the research). But how do you get to this point? From where you are, when you don’t want to do that consistently now? How do you stay motivated to build any consistent habit in the first place? When you are not in the military? When it’s the most challenging? When you haven’t built the mental muscle quite yet?
Believe it or not even mice know how to do that. Sort of. The researchers in neuroscience labs know what makes mice work harder in pursuit of any goal.
The proximity of the goal makes all the difference. (More on the study and neuroscience of goals, the study is at minute 30)
How does it work exactly in animals (us including), and how can you and I use it to increase our motivation and other resources to achieve our goals faster? To take hard and challenging actions consistently?
All mammals’ brains have dopamine molecules, that are released to put the brain and body in the state of goal pursuit to meet our survival needs and to not die.
All mammals are driven and motivated to survive.
Humans happen to have skyrocketing levels of dopamine, the motivation molecule. Maybe that’s why we want to build rockets, and the Earth sky is not enough? Maybe that’s why we go far beyond our immediate survival goals?
Dopamine is motivation.
What can we do to increase dopamine in a sustainable way? Without substances and behavior that backfire?
The proximity of the goal makes all the difference. Remember?
The closer, the more “visible”, the clearer the goal is, more precisely, the perceived reward is, the closer we are to meeting our needs — the more dopamine is released, the more mental and physical energy we have, and the harder we work at pursuing any goal, taking any related to that goal/reward action.
LONG-TERM MOTIVATION TO TAKE HARD ACTIONS NOW
Do you want to work harder at things that are important to you long-term? Instead of working harder to get that donut now?
Here’s what you do to increase dopamine and motivation levels now for the results you want in the future.
EXERCISE: You got to make the reward, the goal clearer, more visual, more appealing, more present, and what’s essential for the most long-term projects we humans undertake (unlike mice) — we need to consistently connect the actions, like going to the gym, to our long-term goals and visions.
Don’t feel like doing that workout?
Neither did I this morning and I still had a great one.
How did I do it? How did I make myself “want” to give it all? How did I motivate myself?
Very simply — I told myself a story about how working out makes me feel confident in my body, how it increases my motivation and energy levels for the day ahead and for my mission to grow my coaching into a global brand. I built a bridge between what I want (building a global brand) and what I needed to do (getting a great workout in).
The reason why many people struggle with consistent habits in any area — they don’t build that bridge consistently.
That’s why business leaders, innovators, and visionaries write down their goals, often twice a day. They break those goals down into smaller goals (to make them appear closer in our minds, to track progress), and then they build bridges — what has to be done today to get the tomorrow, the goal, the reward we want possible.
BUILDING BRIDGES TO YOUR GOALS
Let me repeat this again.
Motivation is about building bridges between what you need to do and what you want to have.
It’s more challenging for long-term goals (vs getting a donut) because the connection isn’t always clear in your mind. Maybe you never took the time in the first place to understand why it’s important to you on a deeper, personal level.
Why do you do what you do? How does it contribute to your long-term vision? The vision of your life? The vision you’d starve for, die for even?
That might sound deep and it is. But understanding your deeper motivations in life, motivations for the future however long or short-term is the only way to consistently have motivation for getting things done today, for getting out of bed and taking actions, that are beyond your survival needs, things like eating, peeing, sleeping and mating.
Most people don’t work on that “visionary skill” and that’s why they work for someone else’s vision. And it’s ok if that’s what satisfies you but remember that the tool is out there for you to use. So if you aren’t satisfied with some area of your life, business, fitness, relationships, personal growth, and you know that consistency in taking actions in that area and not having consistent motivation to do so are your issue — it’s time to sit down and ask yourself 5 times — WHY? (Exercise from Sakichi Toyoda, Toyota Industries founder)
Why is this goal important to me?
And then what actions do I need to take CONSISTENTLY to build that goal.
And you do it daily, or whenever you feel like your motivation is fading. High achievers and leaders, visionaries like Elon Musk do it often without a second thought — we get up and our goal is the first thing we think about. The rest is history.
FOUNDERS AND STARTUPS
If you are the motivation North star of your company, and you wish that everyone was like you, and not everyone is, you got to set up processes to help your team to connect to THEIR goals and internal rewards and motivations every day, so they bring their best performance to the workplace, remote, distributed or hybrid. In one way or the other — slack chat, zoom rooms, email or Twitter threads, log-in screens, whichever works best — help your team to connect to their WHY before they start their work day.
Why do you do what you do today? Why do you work here? How does what you do today contribute to YOUR better future?
“You see”, I told my friend, “Motivation is all about a clear vision of the goal and the bridge between what you need to do and what you want. And when you get good at building those bridges, motivation will never be a problem for you.”
And this is what I do as a brain performance coach — I help people get good at skills like motivation to build long-term vision faster and better.
In the next 2 posts, we’ll look at equations of focus and procrastination to learn how to set up your environment and “talk to your brain” to never struggle with distractions, and never delay important things that ultimately make you waste time of your life on meaningless pursuits like excess social media, missing out on the limitless potential in life and business you have. (Subscribe to never miss an update)
This month we’ll also look at essential nutrition for focus, motivation, learning, flow states and confidence. So, let’s go August! Time to learn how to use your brain, the most sophisticated tool in the known Universe!
🙂THANK YOU FOR READING! DO GREAT THINGS.
📘MY BOOK IS OUT “Fit-and-Focused Brain-Body Blueprint for Remote Pros and Digital Nomads: Neuroscience-based routines, hacks and habits to stay productive, healthy and fit anywhere”