“Motivation is what gets you started, habit is what keeps you going” – Jim Rohn
The question of motivation.
That’s exactly where we have arrived today. What shapes our motivation? What compels us to work on the goals we’ve set out for ourselves and how can we overcome the bullshit in our minds that leads to bad decisions and procrastination?
Over the last couple of months I’ve acquired some great insights on the science of what motivates us and how we can (re-)program our brain to work on our goals,
This way we’ll be able to overcome the endless procrastination, apathy and even depression we’ve encountered whilst trying to complete the things we KNOW are good for us,
Video Blog On How We Can Increase Motivation Levels
What Motivates Us?
The foundation of motivation is build upon push and pull factors. Humans are by instinct designed to move away from pain and into pleasure. This is called Hedonic motivation.
“The influence of a person’s pleasure and pain receptors on their willingness to move towards a goal or away from a threat”
- In ancient times, when we were attacked by a dangerous animal we’ll register this as “pain” and accordingly stay away from it.
- As babies we could have run into walls since we haven’t made the distinction yet that they can hurt us, Therefore our body programs us to stop running into walls (which is obvious for us, but not for babies)
- When our bodies comes into contact with high-sugar, high-fat foods (which provide a lot of energy), we’ll be rewarded by our brain by releasing dopamine (a “feel-good” hormone) and consequentely link pleasure to eating those foods. (Although an excess has lead to the self-sabotage of our health)
This is a GREAT system for survival and overcoming different situations and the foundation of why we do things.
All the decisions we make can be reduced to the need to avoid pain or the desire to attain pleasure, therefore this model is perfectly applicable to motivation,
Whenever your push (pain) en pull (pleasure) factors-outweigh the resistance you have to overcome to reach a desired “end-goal” you’ll be motivated to take the action.
Now what is more motivating?
Pain or pleasure?
The pain in your current situation (which is real) or your estimated pleasure from your new situation?
pain is real, pain is tangible. It’s something you’re being constantly confronted with.
“the strongest motivators are obviously strong emotional pains that propel you out of your current situation”
For Example; I’ve heard a story of a man that had a serious smoking addiction. When he went to a routine check-up, the doctor briefly but firmly told him this;
“If you don’t stop smoking, you won’t see the 18th birthday of your son”
Despite the fact that this advice was real or not – How do you think it impacted the man?
It DEVASTATED him. The emotional pain of smoking became so strong that that man never smoked again,
Tony Robbins has another great video called “The Pain-Pleasure Principle”, where he explains this motivational model.
Yeah, yeah, Sounds great Simon. But why do I still don’t feel the urgent need to work on my goals?
This is because humans are instinctively programmed to be lazy. (See post on “How We Sabotage Ourselves“)
Once all our basic needs are fulfilled we don’t have the intense desire anymore to progress. This is because satisfied needs don’t motivate.
Needs VS. Wants
According to Abraham Maslow, humans have 3 types of needs;
- Basic Needs
- Physical (eat, sleep, rave repeat)
- Safety (shelter)
- Psychological needs
- Love & belonging
- Self esteem
- “Being” needs
The first two types are called the “Deficit needs”. If these needs are not fulfilled they will make us feel uncomfortable (Read: supply pain). These emotional/physical pains creates the compelling drive to move OUT of our current situation into a more desired situation.
Howowow!! calm the fuck down there buddy, you got everything you need… Why exert energy? Life is goooood, just chiiiiiil. Stop being so uptight.
Never in history has this happened before on such a massive scale. So many peoples’ deficit needs are fulfilled (especially in modern cultures) and therefore our instincts no longer tell us what to do.
This leads to what is known as the “existential vacuüm”. (Like I talked about in my post on “Finding Your Purpose”
This directionless state is actually the main cause of boredom, addiction, depression, aggression and even suicide.
Now the last type of need is something fairly complex yet immensely important (and most people don’t even realize this)
By completing each successive layer of deficit needs, we need something more to keep us away from this vacuum.
What is self-actualization?
I like to define self actualization as;
“The process of becoming increasingly competent at worthwhile work”.
Meaning people have the NEED to strive beyond their deficit needs by “achieving their maximum potential”
This is exactly what many major self-development websites help you to figure out. All talking about the same principle, in different words. (click to enlarge)
Sounds great.. right? But what’s the problem?
Once all our deficit needs are present and accounted for, our body loses PAIN which is an ESSENTIAL component of pushing yourself forward. And therefore we lose our drive.
We become aimless and try to escape from this mental discomfort by stimulation or sedation (Like I talked about in my post on “Walking The Narrow Road“)
“Satisfied needs don’t motivate”
Self-actualization requires the NECESSITY for a new form of motivation. Something that can compel us to keep going even when all oiur needs are fulfilled.
This is called metamotivation
So basically self-generated motivational factors (outside our instincts)
If we want to get out of our existential depression we’ll have to create powerful motivators that can get us moving. Therefore I don’t really view self-actualization as a need but more as a want.
So the question remains: How bad do you want it?
& how do we increase motivation levels?
How To Self-Generate Motivation
We do this by creating more pain & pleasure elements in our life that can propel us forwards.
I’ve come to believe that the strongest motivational factors that push us to self-actualization are the following;
Autonomy is the desire to be self-directed. Emotional investment in certain directions therefore creates the motivation (engagement) to persist in them.
“There can be no engagement without investment”
If other people give you a clear cut pattern that you need to follow, you’ll feel less engaged since you aren’t invested in the process.
How to become more autonomous?
Set your own goals and life accordingly
Note: Some people say their life isn’t under their control and credit all the responsibility of their life to circumstances, chance or faith.
If you believe the twinkle fairy rules your life – you won’t be needing any motivation, the twinkle fairy has an infinite supply of that for you ;) Hence why this post is probably not something for you..
Purpose is what I call the primary motivator for your life. It’s what you think about when you get out of your bed in the morning and what keeps you working hard until late at night.
It is the single most powerful meta-motivator for achieving self-actualization
“Connecting to a cause larger than yourself is what will drive the desire to excel.”
Purpose can be brought into perspective by reminding yourself that you’re going to die.
By visualizing yourself at your own funeral or being confronted by it in real life we’re having more conscious thought as to what legacy we want to leave on this planet.
Will I have mattered once I’m gone? The way we fulfill this is unique for everyone (but extremely important)
How to find purpose?
read my post on finding your purpose
The last thing that intrinsically motivates us is the desire to excel and grow in our chosen areas.
How to increase mastery?
Mastery and competence can be added to your life by creating a competitive environment. Creating this contrast between yourself and others can create the drive to improve your performance (which, in turn makes you feel more competent)
Therefore surround yourself with high-achievers
“The people we see set the standard for what’s acceptable”
Another great way to add competence is by keeping ourselves accountable for the goals we’ve set by sharing them with others. “Proving others wrong” or “keeping your word” are powerful tools that can help you reduce the resistance.
Aditionally, we can also shift our perception by stopping to focus on our end-goals. I often see people enfuriated because they aren’t where they want to be yet.
Instead of doing that, solely focus on the progress you’ve already made by keeping a track record of where you started and where you are now.
Some practical ways to do this;
- Keep a diary
- Keep pictures of milestones in your life
- Set measure points (judge yourselfonqualityandquantity of actions performed and not on results obtained. Results are simply a measuring stick forthequalityandquantity of your actions)
- How many words did you write?
- How many girls did you approach?
- # of Networking emails written?
Here’s another cool video on the science of what motivates us;
Plainly, sticks & carrot methods aren’t as effective as strong, internal motivators.
The way to become intrinsically self-motivated is by becoming increasingly competent (mastery/competence) at worthwhile work (purpose & autonomy)
Rewards & Consequence
They might not be as effective, yet they can add the extra push you need to beat resistance.
By doing tasks that are in the right direction of our goals you MUST provide yourself certain benefits that will act as a catalyst to do something. If you make a decision you don’t tolerate: punish yourself.
For example: I make these little notes on scraps of red and green paper and put them all together in a bowl. If I finished a full day in which all my priorities has been completed I could draw at random one reward. The same way if I didn’t do this, I have to draw one red card.
- Listen to a fiction audio-book for 30 minutes
- Buy something for yourself for x amount of money
- Watch a movie
- Take a hot bath whilst listening to soothing music
- Drink flaxseed oil & wheatgrass
- Eat 3 red peppers
- Take a 10 minute cold shower
- Do 100 push-ups
- donate money to anti-charity
Here’s a recent video I made of one of the consequences I apply in my life to condition myself;
Anyway, you get the point. Find the stimulators and consequences that WORK for you. These are all person-specific.
“What gets rewarded, gets repeated”
By limiting the options for bad choices we’re able to completely delete the resistance we otherwise had to overcome.
For example: when you’re starting a diet, just remove all the options in your house to eat food that is bad for you and only bring back healthy food to your house. You don’t have to resist the cookies, chips and whatnot if it’s not availabale, right?
Music and videos are a translation of emotion that can fire you up to push trough resistance. Since motivation is mainly in your head (emotional state) we can generate this by watching inspirational videos or music that release endolphins in our head.
Take note that this shouldn’t be practiced too often otherwise it’s effect will run out. Due to fatigue of the dolphins off-course…
Here’s my favorite at the moment;
I hope this post has given you some insightful ways as to how motivation works and how you can strive towards self-actualization by creating meta-motivational factors.
Here’s a quick Re-cap;
- Pain & pleasure governs why we do things
- Self-actualization requires self-created motivation since our deficit needs don’t provide the pain to push ourselves forward (this is necessary to overcome the existential vacuüm)
- The 3 most powerful intrinsic motivators are;
- Influence actions by rewards & consequences, motivation & music and limiting your options.
On another note, resistance will ALWAYS be present in our life. We can use mind-tricks, conditioning and so-forth but the wall we face will always remain.
Therefore the last strategy that I want to give you is simply this one:
Just shut the fuck up and do it
Become a self-starter by breaking the negative feedback loop that holds you in that disempowering pattern. Snap out of it by continuous persistence on your goals.
The truth is this: we’re constantly in the process of reprogramming our brain. We’re either getting a little bit more intense or a little bit softer everyday.
Your regress or you progress. By consistently breaking trough resistance it will be a lot easier the next time until it becomes a habit. Therefore don’t stare blindly at your purpose or mastery factors and just get up and do it.
Motivational factors is what get us started but persistence lowers the resistance over time so it will become a habit and we’ll perform those actions on auto-pilot. Better sets some powerful habits then!
Guess that leaves me with just one more question?
What Motivates You?
If you feel like this post can help anyone out that you know, feel free to share it with your friends or send it in a mail to your mom! It helps me out a lot! If you’re having any thoughts or questions on this topic, feel free to share those with me in the comment section below.
This post was partly inspired by Owen Cook from Real Social Dynamics. Here’s a great video he made on ‘Long-Term Motivation”
Thanks for the great post. Been having some rough times of late and reading your post really helped me out. Keep pushing forward and i shall do the same.
Hi man, great page!
So, there’s this 1 problem that i keep hitting against, and I think like – at least most people older than 30 (i.e. a huge chunk of your audience) keep pondering over.
So, yes.. I can get past the $200k mark in savings, I can make a goal to buy a better home, I can start a business, get a new college degree, I can go skydiving in Bali, meet the partner of my dreams….
BUT what if you’re older and married with kids?
We long to do the same things, but this is all “young guy” stuff… – It’s a little like being a starving kid looking into a doughnut store window…
1. When you’re a little older, there’s often a lot more resistance, because people in your life pressurize you more… and sometimes that pressure is from a spouse.
“NO way are we going to Bali – save your money”, or “we have billl to pay!!!”, “NO way are you going to start a business, the family depends on your income”, “There’s no way you can get a motorbike – too dangerous, you’re a DAD!!” – etc. etc. etc, and sometimes relationships become more about managing stressful situations and lose the spark, no matter how much you dream!
2. Kids. Kids.. I can travel around the world.. but I can’t leave my kids.
I can go skydiving in Bali, but I don’t want to, in case my kids will lose me, because risk and consequences – maybe low risk, but consequences of an accident are too devastating to my kids. I can get another masters degree, but a PhD requires a lot of sacrifice for the family – I don’t want them to suffer for my goals.
So, I was just wondering – do you have any thoughts on this? any feedback?
Would you consider adding extra segments of advice to your page for the older guys who are feeling impatient for breakthrough, but who realize they can do a lot of damage to others if their breakthrough is not done properly?
I just thought it might be interesting to hear your feedback on this…. a lot of the best success stuff involves leaving your family behind in one way or another – which is not an option for many of us.
sometimes relationships become more about managing stressful situations and lose the spark, no matter how much you dream! && a lot of the best success stuff involves leaving your family behind in one way or another – which is not an option for many of us.
Great insights! Whilst being married and having responsibilities like a mortgage to pay and having kids to take care off it becomes more difficult indeed (and it’s difficult to begin with).
The question becomes more something like; “How can I build up my life the way I want to WHILST having people count on me and having a load of responsibilities.” – right?
I don’t know how useful my feedback is going to be on this topic since I’m not in your position nor have had any remotely similar experience like that. (beware of advice from people who don’t have the references to back it up).
I’d say you’d have to become even more stingy with your time, attention and energy and do all this kind of stuff AFTER doing a full work-day or wherever you can fit it in. Here’s how I would approach it;
Schedule in the most important activities first like spending time with your children and wife, maintaining your health and supporting your family financially (a day-job probably).
After work – however – you force yourself to do real work to build up your freedom by pursuing something that will generate a lot of money downstream. It HAS to be something that will generate more money over time like learning a difficult & marketable skill OR starting a side-business with current experience. Don’t know the specifics of your situation atm. Money will allow you the freedom to eliminate the negative aspects of your life
It’s not that different from my situation, it’s just going to be more difficult combining everything.
I – however – do not believe it do be impossible.
Yet, who am I to say that?
Hope this helped somewhat,
I have come across your blog accidentally and I must admit that I really like it. I enjoyed your explanation of Maslow´s pyramid, I hope you dont mind me shearing it between my university peers. We have been studying his theories this year ;)
Thank you again and keep up the good work
I’m glad you liked the blog man :)
By all means, share away!
You have definitely a great great blog going! I am obsessed with improvement and I really find your articles most useful!
I have a quick question, why do you say watching too many motivational videos is not good? You seem to argue the effect runs off. I find them quite inspirational.
Can you explain a bit more?
Thanks man, I’m glad you like the blog and the stuff I’m writing
Watching too many motivational videos or inspiring music is not that good since over time we’ll build up our tolerance to them.
The way we build up tolerance to high sugar-doses – the same way we’ll build up tolerance to the dopamine music & videos give us. (feel-good hormones)
They’re great, within limits. (as almost anything)
Thanks Simon. It does make sense.
I´m sorry If I seem a bit too intense but what do you think is watching too many motivational videos? More than one per-day? I also listen to motivational audios at the gym.
What do you think of audios from guys like Tony Robbins, Eric Thomas or Jim Rohn. I think there is never “too much of these audios” as they are not only motivational. They also have strategies and reflections. What do you think?
Thanks a lot Simon!
“I´m sorry If I seem a bit too intense” – there no such thing as too intense ;) Only under-recuperation
I believe you’ll have to experiment with that for yourself. Try to go a week without them and see how you manage. I try to use that stuff when it’s really necessary to pull me trough. I can’t place a number on it, guess it’s different for everyone.
Let me know if that helps man,
Great, I will try that advice!
Twinkle fairy rulez :D
Expanding, progress is motivating me. I lived the stale life and it was not satisfying at all.
Hhaha, he sure does Michal ;)
I’ve also found staying engaged in life a powerful motivator. Sucks to lose control over your life.
Take care man
Wow…best ever “increase your motivation” explanation I have ever come across.
Really worth reading when you know your goal but lost in between.
Thanks Keep up the good work..Cheers
Thanks Kartik, really appreciate that!
Take great care,