There's a scientific reason some people are more motivated than others — but it's possible to change
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Motivation: It's all in your head.
Science has found that the source of motivation comes from the part of the brain known as the nucleus accumbens. It's in the small section where neurotransmitters send chemical messages to the rest of your body. It's these neurotransmitters that keep us alert, focused, and that part of the brain influences things like completing a project or going to the gym.
Dopamine: It's just not about pleasure.
Since dopamine is released before we ever receive a reward, it's real job is to encourage us to act. It motivates us to achieve, while avoiding something bad.
But, how can you get the dopamine flowing?
You can begin to get the dopamine flowing better by setting incremental goals. When you complete a step, dopamine will due to the brain's positive reinforcement.
Other actions to try that will help you with your efforts:
- Record and celebrate your small wins. This could be crossing-off an item from you to-do-list or tracking your progress. It's effective since it shows that you're working your way towards a goal.
- Single-tasking. Instead of multitasking, focus on one thing at a time. This prevents you from depleting your brain's energy. Since you have more energy, you'll get more done. And when you're productive, dopamine is released.
- Exceed your expectations. "When something feels better than expected, dopamine sends a signal to your brain that says, 'You need to figure out how to make it happen again,'" says Treadway.
- Focus on the end-game. A study out of the University of Michigan discovered that results-driven focus can motivate people to complete their work.
- Help others. "Neuroscience has demonstrated that giving is a powerful pathway for creating more personal joy and improving overall health," writes Eva Ritvo, M.D. As a result, dopamine is triggered. Even if you're not volunteering or sharing your knowledge, think about how your work is going to positively affect others.
- Share your results. When you tell others about you accomplishments, you'll receive praise and recognition from your friends, family, or colleagues.
- Change your diet. Eating foods containing natural probiotics is a quick way to kick-in dopamine, such as yogurt. You should also eat and drink items that contain L-tyrosine, such as apples, avocados, bananas, green leafy vegetables, peanuts, green tea, and coffee.
- Turn setbacks around. "You're going to go off track sometime — everyone does. But that can provide valuable information on how to change what you're doing so you'll be successful next time around, "says Sona Dimidjian, Ph.D., an associate professor of psychology and neuroscience at the University of Colorado, Boulder.