Findings of the most prominent neurological studies on motivation and inspiration can now help understand what lies beneath our motivation and find the way to the optimal balance at work and personal life.
There are four primary chemicals in our brains responsible for happiness that are linked with motivation: dopamine, oxytocin, serotonin, and endorphins. These neurotransmitters are associated with sensations like joy, affection, reward, and can act like a mood-stabilizers, painkillers, confidence- and attention-builders.
Many regions of the brain use these chemicals to communicate with each other and help us achieve goals. But apart from a certain set of universal pleasures like food, sex, social interaction, etc., we are drawn to vastly more complex psychological drives and aspirations, all in the pursuit to get more of these chemicals.
What Lies in the Core of Our Motivation
In the first studies of primate behavior held by Harry Harlow at the University of Wisconsin who in 1949 coined the phrase “intrinsic motivation”, a group of rhesus monkeys was given some puzzles to solve.
Solving the contraption required three steps: (1) pull out the vertical pin, (2) undo the hook, and (3) lift the hinged cover.
Nobody had taught monkeys how to unlock contraptions or motivated them in any way (with food, affection or appraisal), but oddly enough it took simians only a few minutes to solve the puzzles.
What really puzzled the researchers is that monkeys were far less productive when incentivized with external rewards. When given treats for their actions, monkeys made more errors and solved puzzles less frequently. It seemed that monkeys were more active out of sheer enjoyment, but when the external factors were added into the equation, they were less focused on the task itself.
The intrinsic motivation was stronger than the extrinsic.
In studies of human behavior, the bulk of evidence suggests that large external or extrinsic rewards often impede motivation.
A study showed that adults who were paid to do simple tasks often spend less time and performed worse than those who were asked to do the same tasks just for the test itself.
In another research, children who were asked to draw pictures were more engaged in the process than kids who were receiving rewards for drawing but were renounced of them afterward.
All this suggested that there must be some internal basic drive in human behavior other than core external reward/punishment motivation system.
What Helps Self-Motivation?
Research by TINYpulse surveyed a wide swath of employees of all ranks across different organizations (for-profit and nonprofit) to see what motivates them to work better.
Turns out that monetary remuneration landed only seventh on the list of things that drives us at work. Core performance motivators at work are:
- self-enjoyment for doing a good job
- feeling praised and valued
- having a voice in the workplace
- being recognized
- professional growth
- meeting and excelling client/customer needs
Working environment attributes to your well-being tremendously, and it starts with the people around you — your co-workers. Rapport is the only sustainable environment at work. So check your relationships with your colleagues first, and think about how you can make it better.
Oxytocin released from social interactions rises, for example, when you as much as greet your colleagues and bid them a good day. Make it a habit to great your fellow co-workers cheerfully and you’ll revert even the most seemingly depression working environment.
What Hinders Self-Motivation?
The key to maintaining productivity and motivation is in the intrinsic nature of the reward. In other words, the work itself should be the best reward for you or your employees.
Numerous studies imply that external stimuli make things worse. External rewards often impede motivation and decrease productivity and level of productivity.
So what might hinder this self-motivation?
All the external impositions like
- Someone sets deadlines for you;
- The provision of negative feedback;
- Someone openly speaks against you or your ideas;
Reprimand and embarrassment, especially in public, being the worst case scenario for our motivation.
Now let’s check the main points cultivating your intrinsic motivation and provide examples.
Checklist of your Motivation
1. Check if Motivation is Intrinsic
Do you wake up for your work eagerly? That’s the only question that needs your honest answer to help you understand your motivation.
Aligned with the inner sense that you “do something good” is enough. We’re intelligent enough to immediately realize if our actions are deemed “good” or “bad” by our own conscience.
Write a positive statement about yourself and analyze it. Your inner vision will help you find the right thing to do. Motivation will no longer be a problem if the cause is right. The reward for that will be ultimate.
If you consider all the great things we’ve built, we get the idea that everything was made out of the good intention.
2. Check if Your Goals are Really Yours
We can only be drawn far by something deep in ourselves, something that is in our nature, that “calls to us”. That type of motivation will keep you going no matter what, despite any travails.
Just for fun, imagine yourself as a product company. Now, what would be your elevator pitch if you were to pitch it to an investor? Or imagine yourself talking with the management of your company, what would you like them to think of you? Would you not want to have a well-rehearsed “elevator pitch” when you might need it?
Bottom line, you won’t enjoy doing it if the goals are not yours. If someone has to tell you what you should be doing, you’re not living your dream, and therefore cannot perform your best. So what’s your personal elevator pitch sounds like?
3. Align your Motivation with Everlasting principles
If your goals are constructed on something everlasting and good it has statistically more chances to come to pass. If it there’s something fleeting and ill underlying them, you will fail.
A desire to live a healthier life is a great motivator to lose extra weight. Looking better than someone, on the other hand, is not and probably won’t get you very far beyond the ruinous sense of envy.
4. Align your task with your passions and skills
Our intrinsic goals have a remarkable tendency to “fit” us, our personalities, passions, and skillsets. The desire to do something great can help you find the capacities accommodating for the task itself.
The reason why so many people fail at what they set for themselves is that they get stuck when the first enthusiasm dissolves. People who succeed have one thing in common: they tie their goals to something they would do anyway. Out of sheer enjoyment of doing it.
5. Surround yourself with the right people
Finding your own tribe is one thing to rule them all.
Surround yourself with motivated people: inspiration is highly contagious and you’ll be getting boosts of energy by just hanging out with active people.
Attend a meetup or join a workshop on something that intrigues you or something that you cared to tried for a long time. Meeting new people is a powerful.
6. Add milestones to your goals
Add milestones to your goals to celebrate each small step toward it. Make notes of what has been done already. Praising yourself for achievements will make you crave for accomplishing more.
Success is very addictive and soon you’ll find yourself wanting more of it. With each no matter how small success you will strive for more. Adding milestones to your goals will help you celebrate and further associate the work already done with.
7. Organize schedule and prioritize tasks
A Schedule can do wonders to your brain. Instead of re-motivating yourself every morning, make it a useful habit.
Your brain will adjust to your timetable and will be prone to certain tasks at certain periods of the day.
Top tips to manage your time and space more efficiently:
- Don’t look at the clocks. Time will seem relentlessly slow if you keep looking at the clocks every 5 minutes. Instead, make it a habit to check your task list (yes, get one immediately if you still don’t have any) and plan how many can you cross out this day.
- Take regular breaks. It’s all down to your personal characteristics. Some very productive people take a small break every 30 minutes of dedicated work, some more often, some less. Bottom line is your performance levels will drop after some hours of continuous work. Use breaks for rehydration, stretching, meditation or just moving around.
- Make your workplace more enjoyable and personalized. Think of your desk/stand as an extension of yourself so you can spend more time among the things you love.
Extrinsic vs. Intrinsic
It’s your connection with the self what inspires, motivates, and keep you going with your goals. Remember that we fail our goals not because we suffer the defeat, but because we capitulate too soon. Your persistence, however, has little to do with self-discipline. It’s all about the intrinsic nature of the chosen goal that makes all the difference.
External motivators are fleeting and fragile. Extrinsic motivation not only last for a long time but is also autolytic — requiring more and more external impetuses up to the point when it’s no longer feasible.
Intrinsic motivation is the only reliable source of drive. Creating a natural alignment with your inner and outer states (your aspirations and actual skills) you bring balance to your work and life simultaneously.