On Increasing Motivation

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All of us have had that feeling when we’re supposed to be doing something but we’re not – like when you have to write that 20-page research paper that’s due in a few days, but you haven’t even started. Yes, there are many ways to describe this feeling, one most closely related to procrastination. I’m pretty sure writing that research paper overnight might work, but then again, it really isn’t going to be as good as if you would have completed it in increments. It really sucks when you’re feeling unmotivated. However, what if there was a way to naturally increase your motivation? Would you be motivated to do it?

First of all, we have to trace the origins of motivation. In the brain, neurotransmitters work to keep us alert on what we’re doing. Dopamine, one of those chemicals released from neurotransmitters, has the main purpose of giving us pleasure. And under pleasure, comes a plethora of functions where dopamine is made of use – sleep, learning, sex, and mood, to name a few. However, dopamine works in a reward-motivation system in which every reward causes an increase of dopamine in the brain.

This reward-motivation system was discovered when scientists accidentally came upon noticing that when ex-veterans with PTSD heard gunfire, their dopamine levels spiked. Obviously the stress of being in war is not a pleasurable occurrence, so what causes the dopamine spikes? It turns out that dopamine’s true colors were more related to motivation.

Dopamine has its role in motivation by encouraging us to act towards something to achieve a reward. Like the feeling of motivation you get whenever you’re in any type of competitions – sports or otherwise.

However, how can we use this knowledge of the dopamine-motivation link to our advantage? Well, one way is by, when working or studying, set incremental goals. It doesn’t even have to be related to work or study, but whenever you are trying to achieve something, set incremental goals. Are you running a 10K? Your first goal would be to reach the 2K mark. And then the 5K mark, and so on and so forth.

What’s actually happening is that you’re wiring your brain to give you pleasure-giving dopamine whenever you’re reaching a smaller portion of your complete task. You allow yourself to receive frequent, and POSITIVE, feedback every step of the way, giving you steady amounts of motivation every step of the way!

If you continue to do this enough times, whenever you encounter a challenge, your brain will give you enough positive support to keep you going til the end. When you’re done completing a certain challenge, you’re already on your way to the next one, and with great attitude!

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