I don’t have Motivation. I’ve lost my Motivation.
Something I hear in clinic a LOT. It’s funny to me actually, how many of us (myself included) rely on this transient thing called “Motivation” in order for us to feel like we are ready to get up and get on with things. Whether that be exercise, cleaning the house, sorting paperwork or even just cooking dinner. If being in clinic has taught me anything, it’s that relying on Motivation to be successful in something that only YOU want, is kind of like relying on a bad friend to show up to help you with something that only YOU are interested in.
Let’s pretend that the feeling of Motivation is a real person – they blow in into your life unannounced bringing with them LOTS of hype and you can’t help but feel excitement and inspiration around them, however they are so unreliable that they often just leave for long periods of time without any reasoning. And so, your new-found excitement and inspiration disappears with them, and so does your happiness and success as it is balancing on the ability of Motivation to stick around – which she doesn’t. And she never will. So why then, do we all cling to this word like it will save us from ourselves? If ‘Motivation’ was a real person in our life, we would have stopped paying attention to them a long time ago because we know they don’t really stick around to get things done! Perhaps if we look at what is really going on behind the Motivation feeling, we can learn to create those feelings without the despair that can come when the feeling leaves us.
What creates Motivation?
It usually always starts the same way – someone, something or some idea has gotten into your head and triggered a deep down desire that you really want or perhaps never knew you wanted. This can be to lose weight, to get fit, to be healthy, to stop smoking, to start hobbies, to build careers. Motivation turns you into the “Go-Getter”. Everyone loves being that guy!
What does it do to your Brain?
Why do you feel the excitement and euphoria that you feel when Motivation comes knocking? I’ll tell you why because it has everything to do with a Neurotransmitter called Dopamine and not much to do with your tea-spoon collection (it really doesn’t). You may have heard of it due to 1: me banging on about it in our appointments together or 2: it’s darker reputation being abused by street drugs (they aim to increase copious amounts of this chemical in the brain to invoke pleasure). Dopamine’s impact on the body is felt in many different areas, including motivation, memory, behaviour, cognition, attention, sleep, mood, libido, learning and pleasurable reward. When we are talking about Motivation specifically, Dopamine helps to stimulate the mesolimbic pathway, which originates in the middle of the brain and branches to various places like the cerebral cortex, which is known as the most important pathway in the brain for feelings of “reward”.
One of the mesolimbic’s stops is the Nucleus Accumbens (try pronouncing that quickly). Increased Dopamine levels in here signal feedback to your Brain for predicting rewards. Basically, your brain recognizes that something important is about to happen, thus triggering motivation to do something. This can be both good and bad.
A study done by behaviorial neuroscientist, John Salamone, confirmed the link between Motivation and Dopamine as a group of Rats were given the choice of one pile of food or another pile of food twice the size but behind a small fence. The rats with lowered levels of Dopamine almost always took the easy way out, choosing the small pile instead of jumping the fence for greater reward. This tells us that in humans, there can be a link between feeling flat, slacking off at work, not feeling engaged in life or like a go-getter, could be related to insufficient Dopamine production in the brain! (Something I see tons of in Clinic and can be quite easy to manage if you know how!)
What destroys Dopamine and Motivation?
Well, stress and fatigue seem to be the biggest Motivation zappers that I see in clinic. But that is for a good reason. You see, the nutrients and compounds required by the brain to actually build Dopamine, are also some of the same ingredients that are used by the Thyroid and the Adrenal glands to make their own hormones. If you are chronically stressed or anxious or overworked, all the attention (and nutrients) gets sucked into the Adrenals to help make your stress hormones to get you through. Over time, your Thyroid function can begin to change (speed up or slow down depending on your genetics). The levels of the ingredients needed to make adequate levels of Dopamine can slowly deplete over time, which means not much Dopamine production going on in the Brain at all! Goodbye Motivation and good vibes and Hello sluggish metabolism and moods!
8 tips on how to make your own self-filling Motivation Bucket
1. Set one easy, specific, measurable goal. No “I just want to feel happy” or “Lose weight”. How much weight? By when? How will you know when you reach “happy”? Make it specific and something you can track.
2. Write it down. Put it on your wall or in your diary. Writing down your goal or your idea helps give it a life of it’s own and helps manifest it to come about sooner. Perhaps it’s because it no longer lives in your un-spoken thoughts and is now out in the world as a real ‘to do’ list. Easy to forget about something if it doesn’t exist in real life. (Personally – I use a Whiteboard to write down my goals and so I can see them daily to act as little trigger reminders of why I do what I do).
3. Log your progress daily for a month.Make this a priority until it becomes more like a habit. This can be a note scribbled in your diary or marked on your phone but making notes of how you are travelling closer (or not closer – this is all ok) really helps you to keep planning and re-evaluating. What did you do well and what did you fail at. Oh, and get used to failing – it’s part of the learning journey and is impossible to avoid.
4. Tell others about your idea. I think this is key. You can do it on your blog, on an online forum, with your spouse, or friends or family, or a workout partner, or a coach, or a group, or a class. The more people you talk to about your plans and ideas, the more they help feed your excitement and commitment to it. Remember that the day your Motivation feelings fade, you will want the people around you that you told, to be able to help refill the bucket once again.
5. Find a Mentor.And no I don’t mean go out looking for a person to follow around but more to have a clearer picture in your head of someone who you feel has what you want. Whether it be a job, their body, their fitness level, the way they interact with people. It can be anything and it can be anyone! You don’t need to know what they did or how they did it, because we are all on our own journeys. But use the things that you feel they did successfully and take on board what you can do for you. Careful not to start comparing yourself though – that is one of the biggest DE-MOTIVATORS and is completely pointless. You will never be that person, nor will they be you. But you can be the BEST you that you can create. And the good news is that it is all in your hands.
6. Stop Stressing! Ok I know how hard this one is to do but trying to reduce your stress and improve the way you deal with and manage your stress levels can have DRAMATIC positive effects on your Dopamine production. Reducing workload, delegating, being more prepared, exercising, laughing more – these all help to get your stress hormones under control, which means we can preserve as much Dopamine as we possibly can! Plus I have some amazing herbal medicines that I use to help re-gain control and balance back to your Nervous System and help you and your body deal and cope with stress better.
7. Good Nutrition. This is often where I come in (as well as giving herbs to help support this exact Dopamine-stress-thyroid pathway). You need good levels of Vitamin C, all of your Vitamin B’s, Zinc, Magnesium and Protein to be able to produce healthy levels of Neurotransmitters and hormones. A diet based on lots of fruit, fresh veg, raw nuts, seeds, good fats and adequate levels of protein are exactly what your Naturopath ordered!
8. Don’t force it & stop beating yourself up! Remember guys that if you have to force it – whether it be Jobs, motivation, friendships, relationships, hairstyles – just don’t. If what you are doing isn’t working for you (despite it being something you used to love or do all the time) ask yourself why you are trying to hang on to it? Maybe it’s time you found a new exercise to do or a new hobby to try instead of flogging the same old horse.
Listen to your body and your mind – your “lack of motivation” might just be your souls way of telling you it’s time to let go and move on to something else. And that’s exciting!
- Do you struggle with Motivation?
- Do you have problems thinking positively about things?
- Do you crave Sugar or Caffeine to keep you going?
- Do you suffer from feelings of depression or feeling flat or down?
- Do you have high or consistent stress in your life?
- Do you suffer from low libido or minimal sex drive?
- Do you use recreational drugs on a regular or semi-regular basis?
- Do you have trouble concentrating or focusing on tasks (even really simple ones)?
- Have you lost your Passion? Your Mo-Jo in life?
- Have you put on weight recently that seemed to have come out of nowhere? Struggling to lose it?