External forces of motivation can only take us so far. If you want to sustain a motivated mindset for growth, there must be a deep-down desire to take action on a daily basis.
Have you heard the story about the inquisitive visitor to NASA (in the 1960s) who asked the janitor—who was mopping the floor—what he was doing with his life?
The janitor stopped mopping for a moment and replied: “Helping to put a man on the moon.”
This story may or may not be true, but as a parable, the encounter points to the motivational effect of knowing that your overall purpose—no matter how trivial it may seem—contributes to the grand scheme of things. The janitor was aware of this fact and believed he was part of NASA’s mission of taking: “One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.”
What’s behind self-motivation?
Our brains operate on a reward system by way of the nucleus accumbens and the ventral tegmental area (VTA). These areas are our “pleasure centers;” they release a “feel-good” chemical, dopamine, into the frontal cortex.
Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that provokes pleasurable sensations, which ultimately drives motivation and attention. Dopamine gets released when you engage in activities you enjoy (i.e., getting your boogie on, socializing with loved ones, drawing a landscape, playing a musical instrument, reading an inspiring book, sowing seeds in your garden, eating delicious food, hiking around in nature, and having great sex).
Praise and reward also increase dopamine levels. So let go of your limiting beliefs and negative self-talk and pay close attention to the positive voice in your head that reinforces how awesome you are.
The most important thing to understand here is that there’s science backing self-motivation. And way the brain works is something you can learn; something you can tap into in a healthy way as you work toward your goals and dreams.
So what are the benefits of self-motivation?
If you’re self-motivated, you stay organized, have excellent self-management skills, and have high levels of self-esteem and self-confidence. There isn’t room for self-doubt among the motivated.
Motivation is what drives us to accomplish our goals, live with purpose, and reach our dreams, right? Self-motivation is all about what inspires us as individuals.
Daniel Goleman, the author of a few enlightening books on Emotional Intelligence (EQ), has identified four elements that motivate people to take action:
- Profound desire and the dedication to improve or to meet certain standards;
- Initiative, which Goleman defines as readiness to act on opportunities;
- Strong commitment to goals; and
- Optimism and the ability to persevere in the face of failure.
When you understand and develop self-motivation, you take control of all the areas of your life. Motivation is an internal source (housed in your heart and mind) that you can tap into and harness for recourse.
Ready to learn how to stay motivated so you can accomplish your goals and maximize your full potential?
Here’s a list of 4 actions that are essential to help you maintain self-motivation, whether you’re trying to nail your presentation for round three of a job interview or finish an Ironman Triathlon.
1. Start each day with mindfulness meditation to prime your brain for success.
There are thousands of studies from the scientific community on the benefits of meditation. There must be something to it, right? We’ve seen the benefits played out physiologically, psychologically, and spiritually. And when it comes to meditation and motivation, starting your day off with some morning mindfulness is a sure way to get moving and shaking toward goal completion . . .
2. Revisit the personal what, when, how, and—most importantly—the WHY behind your goal on a daily basis.
This is the backbone of your planning process. These initial steps are the foundation for building your self-motivated, ideal future. Ready to grow? Here you go:
- Set a goal and describe it in great detail (on paper);
- Write down the reason(s) WHY you want to accomplish your goal;
- Visualize the big picture and your future self—living your dream;
- Break your goal down into smaller chunks (subgoals) and set a deadline;
- Reward yourself daily (remember dopamine?) for your accomplishments along the way; and
- Enlist people to help you establish an accountability structure.
To reinforce and strengthen your neural pathways for success, revisit the what, when, how, and WHY behind your goals daily.
To prime your brain for success, ask yourself: What do I plan to achieve today? How can I be more successful than yesterday? What needs to get done today so that I’ll be closer to achieving my big goal?
3.Think of each challenge you face as an opportunity to grow.
Sustaining self-motivation can be difficult no matter what your circumstances are. But if you approach every situation as if it were the first and think of each challenge as an opportunity for change and personal growth, you’ll enhance your motivation. With this in mind, you’ll be better equipped to put your best foot forward no matter what obstacle you face.
And if you have failures along the path toward your success, know that failing is just a learning experience to move you onward and upward with a fresh perspective and new approach.
4. Do what you’re passionate about every day.
We’re all motivated by certain intrinsic and extrinsic factors at different times throughout life, right? What made you tick at 14 is most likely different than what floats your boat now that you’re almost (or over) 41.
However, when you wake up every day to do what you love, it’s pretty easy to be motivated for success. Doing something for the pure joy of it is intrinsic motivation. And extrinsic motivation is often driven by a false fear or doing something because we believe we have no other choice.
Intrinsic motivation is needed for your work/life balance; it provides a happy medium for those of us who sometimes have to scrimp and save to make ends meet each month. So, if you have to work 9-5 to earn money, which most of us do, find a way to make it rewarding or satisfying.
Maybe this entails socializing and connecting with co-workers during lunch and outside the office, finding the greater good behind what you do (like the janitor at NASA), and/or developing a growth mindset and skillset for your future. You can also find pleasure in how you reward yourself after a 9-5 job well done.
What healthy, daily habit gets your dopamine flowing? Do that!
Your brain is highly motivated by doing the things that bring you the greatest pleasure. Define the activities in life that can bring you joy, and make sure you incorporate them into your daily routine. If you can’t think of anything realistic right now, start by getting some physical exercise! Go for long, brisk walk to clear your mind and get inspired to activate what you want for your life. You only live once, right?
When you learn to structure your life around simple things that you love and are passionate about, you can use your motivated mindset to maintain a healthy, sustainable journey toward goal achievement.
If you’re interested in neuroscience, and you want to learn more about how to achieve success . . . join us this weekend for an epic, online event.
We’d love to hear from you!
What keeps you motivated? Please feel free to leave your comments and questions in the space below.