Self-improve Logically
Self-improve Logically

Constant motivation: A unique guide to get your work done.

Constant motivation means a constant rush of neurotransmitters/brain chemicals through your neural pathways. One of the neurotransmitters that play a vital role in motivation is dopamine. 

But, the problem with neurotransmitters is they don’t constantly rush, instead, they spurt and then go off.

Moreover, dopamine doesn’t release in your brain when things start to become familiar. This is why motivation never lasts. This is why you quit your diet, gym, and all the future planning after a few days of repetition. 

So, is constant motivation possible? If yes, how?

Let’s begin…

constant motivation

What is motivation and how does it work?

One day you watch an Arnold Schwarzenegger or a Dwayne Jhonson movie, and you fantasize about their physique. You wish to have a good physique like them or at least a healthy physique so that you can live your life a little better.

Just imagine, you tell yourself how it will be when you have abs, biceps, and healthy-looking skin. 

This future image of yours fuels you with motivation, and you also read some motivational quotes or watch a motivational video where the life coaches are screaming that anything you dream of is possible, anything you set your mind is possible. You are an elephant, you are extraordinary, you are exceptional, and you are going to do it because you know you are going to do it.

That’s it. Nothing else requires. 

You are going to crash the gym. The same day you go to the best gym and take a yearly membership, not monthly because yearly is cheap and the gym is forever.

You start working out the same day of your admission, take a personal trainer if you have the budget, and start hitting all the machines, barbels, free hands, etc. on the very first day.

Of course, hitting everything on the first day is a bad thing, because of muscle soreness, but who cares, your motto is ‘no pain no gain’. 

This continues for a few weeks, you meet new people and familiarize yourself with all the supplements you need for further growth. You buy protein shakes, multivitamins, BCAA, etc., and keep training hard.

After a month, you never missed a day, except rest days. You plan at night, what you are going to do the next day in the gym, you watch youtube videos on bodybuilding, and you feel happier, relaxed, and positive. Things are going to get better now. 

Except, it doesn’t.

One day you missed your gym session. You say to yourself; That is okay because you had a severe muscle cramp. 

After a few days, you missed two days in a row, and this is because you had to go out of the station with friends. It is a genuine reason. 

Again, after a few days, you find yourself struggling to even get up from your couch and go to the gym. You are just not feeling like going to the gym today.

You want to relax, watch t.v and eat pizza. God, you haven’t eaten a pizza for a long time. 

The next day, you pack your gym bag, but the gym is so boring, you cannot work again for two to three hours, and that crazy trainer is going to scream why did you miss yesterday. 

You cannot deal with it right now, so you switch your phone off and play video games on your pc. 

Within the next few days, you quit the gym saying, you will start after a few weeks because your mind is not working and you need a break, but you never join. 

You say to yourself; bodybuilding is not for you. You will just maintain your figure with your healthy diet. 

But, we all know how healthy your diet is going to be.

So, why did this happen to you or most of us? Where does the motivation go? Why does it fade? 

Let’s talk about the neurotransmitter called Dopamine.

John Douglas Pettigrew, emeritus professor of physiology at the University of Queensland, Australia found that our brain divides the external world into two separate regions, i:e- The peripersonal and the extrapersonal which basically means near and far.

Peripersonal is whatever is in your arms reach; you can control it right now without wasting any time. Anything beyond your arms reach is extrapersonal.

If you have to grab the packet of apple juice that is in the kitchen freezer, then you have to get up from your study table, go to the freezer, open it, and then you drink it. There is space between your desire and goal. 

If there is no apple juice in your freezer then you have to go to the market, and buy it, and then you can drink it. There is a longer space between your desire and goal.

Whenever there is space, you need time to manage the space. 

You have dreams and goals, and to reach your goals you need time. 

Dopamine is the neurochemical that deals with space or in other words, future rewards. It makes you desire what you currently don’t have, a future potential reward and drives you to seek it. 

It is because of dopamine you wanted that good physique; it is because of dopamine you feel that burst of energy and motivation to achieve anything. It is because of dopamine you plan to reach your potential goal.

It is because of dopamine you feel happy when you think about your crush or the thrill of meeting your best friend after a long time. 

This is why Dopamine is also known as a pleasure molecule.

So, why does dopamine do that? Why do we feel the thrill of a future reward? What is the purpose?

Why do you want to improve yourself? Why do you want to be successful? Why do you want money? Whatever you do, there is a reason behind it. You can keep asking the question ‘why’ behind your every action, and it will lead you somewhere else.

Why do you go to school; To have a good education. Why do you want a good education; to have a successful life?

Why do you want a successful life; to live happily. 

It seems that, behind all our acts, our ultimate goal is happiness. But, when you ask, why do you want to be happy? The ultimate answer becomes clear, survival. 

The ultimate purpose of our brain is survival. It will record all the activities in our brain that are important to survival, both good and bad. 

Experiment on rats and monkeys.

In my last article ‘Your brain on leaving social media. An in-depth article ’ I have mentioned these experiments.  

In a study, scientists put electrodes in rat’s brains to measure the spike of dopamine on food and drugs. As soon as the first food pallet was dropped, dopamine spiked just like expected. 

But the scientist didn’t stop there and kept dropping the food pallets day after day. The rat ate enthusiastically, but the unexpected thing the scientists found was that, despite the enthusiasm of the rats eating the food, the dopamine stopped spiking. Why did the dopamine stop spiking despite the food kept coming?

Wolfram Schultz, a professor on neurophysiology at the University of Fribourg, implemented electrodes on macaque monkeys to test the hypothesis of dopamine spike. After that, he introduced two lights and two boxes to the monkeys. One light indicating to each one of the boxes containing the food pallets. 

For example, light 1 signals that the food pallet is in the right box, and light 2 signals that the food pallet is in the left box. 

Though it is easier to understand these signals for a human, the monkeys took time. They randomly opened the boxes at first, and when they found the food pallets their dopamine spiked, just as expected. Soon, the monkeys figured out the signals and went for the correct boxes every time, the lights signalled. 

Something amazing happened here: Once the monkeys figured out the signal, the dopamine spike changed from finding the food pallets to the lights firing. 

The firing of light was always unexpected, they didn’t know which light is going to go on, and once the light went on the dopamine spike. The going on of the light meant they were going to get food.

Conclusion: Dopamine releases on the anticipation of the unexpected- on the possibility of a reward.

How will you look when you have a good physique? What will happen when you see six figures in your bank account? A notification on Facebook. Uploading your photo on Instagram and checking the comments after 20 seconds over and over again. 

How does it feel to become a celebrity? How would it be to meet your favorite singer? Results, promotion, confessing your love are all the examples of the anticipated future that rush dopamine in your brain.

Dopamine releases more on the activities that are close to survival.

Sex releases more dopamine than working on your good physique. Sex means protecting your DNA for your future generation, and your brain will try to protect your DNA more than anything.  

A good physique is also important for survival, but it is distant and not immediate. Our brain likes immediate gratification because of our primal brain. Our ancestors constantly scan the environment for food, and once they found it, they devoured it as soon as possible. 

The concept of leftovers came later. Immediate gratification was necessary for our ancestors to survive in that environment, though in today’s world, immediate gratification has become a hindrance to progress in life. 

A good physique will lead you to better mating opportunities; better health will prolong your life expectancy.

Similarly, your goals are also important for your survival, but again, these are indirect to your survival and not direct like food, shelter, and sex. 

Food, shelter, and sex are often the motivational factors for people to pursue their dreams, directly or indirectly. The prospect of meeting these goals releases dopamine in our brain, but there is a dark side of it, for which almost all of us fail to meet our goals and our constant motivation dies on its way.

The dark side of dopamine

Once the prospect of the future event starts to become familiar, the release of dopamine goes down and eventually stops. 

Sure, joining a gym is exciting, but once you become familiar with the daily routine, your motivation starts to deplete. There is no new information available. 

You know what is going to happen. Today is leg day; you will go to the gym, do your workout, drink your protein shake after that, go to bed, and sleep. 

The prospect of the possible good physique no longer motivates you anymore. When there is nothing new, your brain stops paying attention to it. 

Our brain constantly scans our environment for survival opportunities and threats, once it identifies a new activity as a survival opportunity, your dopamine releases. 

Moreover, Dopamine is extrapersonal and not peripersonal as discussed above. Once you have the thing that you desired the most, your dopamine secretion shuts down. 

This explains why love fades over time. You stop doing all the crazy things once you have your crush in your life. Most of the time, you get confused thinking do you really love her/him, because you don’t feel that passion for her or him, you don’t feel that rush of excitement anymore. 

But, what about the successful relationship? What about the bodybuilders? How do they live happily without a dopamine rush? How do they have their constant motivation for a good physique?

Of course, dopamine is only not the pleasure chemical in our brain. There are serotonin, oxytocin, vasopressin, and endorphin which are known as Here and Now, (H&N) chemicals. 

These chemicals release at the time of the event, that is peripersonal and not in anticipation of a good future. These chemicals release when you are in the gym and working out, when you are with your crush and having a good time, when you are experiencing the event that you anticipated the most. 

Once you have what you desire, your dopamine circuits shut down, and your happiness depends on the release of H&N chemicals. If your H&N chemicals don’t match up with the rush of dopamine chemicals, you feel disappointed and low.

This is the basis of your constant motivation. Here is how…

 

The secret of your constant motivation

Do you have an activity that you love doing, without caring for the outcome or a possible good future? Have you ever done something, which you disliked in the beginning, but after doing it several times, you start loving it?

To understand constant motivation, I have to introduce neuroplasticity. 

Our brain physically changes constantly with new activities, repetition of existent activities, or stopping an old one. 

When you start a new activity, that you have never done before, new neurons in your brain are created, once you repeat the same activity over and over again, the neurons grow and get strengthened, but once you stop the activity, the neurons get shrink and become dormant. 

The stronger the neurons for that activity, the stronger will be your urges to perform that activity over and over again, the easier you will feel doing it and more enjoyable than before. Why?

Because through these neurons, our neurotransmitters travel. This is why these collections of neurons are known as neural pathways. The stronger the pathway, the stronger your habit will be for that activity.

Once you start a new video game, you struggle at first, but with enough repetition, you become better at it. It is the same with all the other skills, like cooking, reading, writing, singing, speaking, walking, swimming, etc.

Moreover, our brain likes to repeat those activities that are close to survival, as discussed above. The brain marks some activities that are important by the quantity of neurochemical that rush through your neural pathways. Higher the quality, the higher the importance.

Love and sex release a higher quantity of neurochemical in our brain because it is close to survival. On the other hand, going to the gym releases less depending on how strong your pathways are. 

In summary, the stronger your pathways will be, you will enjoy your work more because of H&N chemicals. Again, for constant motivation, you need to strengthen your neural pathways. 

How to strengthen your neural pathways, when there is no constant motivation in the first place.

Dopamine will get you started for your dream. To reach your goals, you need to depend on your H&Ns chemicals. The H&N chemical will flow more, once you repeat the same activity over and over again. To repeat the same activity over and over again, you need motivation. 

But, how can you increase the flow of your H&N chemicals, when your neural pathways are still weak. It’s like chicken and egg situations again. 

To repeat an activity, there is one more thing besides motivation, which is known as willpower. 

You will say, I don’t have that willpower. 

You don’t need high willpower. You only need it for the beginning. 

Let me explain…

There is a concept called ‘small practices’ to form a habit. For example, if you don’t like working out and there is no motivation, you have to work out for two minutes. This push will activate your H&N chemicals, and make you feel good. 

This good feeling will motivate you to push further.

There are over a thousand times, you don’t feel like going for a workout, but once you are in a gym, your mood changes.

There are over a thousand times, you don’t feel like working on your novel, but once you commit yourself to write only 50 words, your motivation kicks in. 

This happens because once you start your activity, the H&Ns chemicals rush into your brain. 

For constant motivation, don’t rely on motivation to kick in, instead start small, very small, and motivation will show up. The more you do this every day, the bigger your motivation will be to continue your work. 

How to strengthen your neural pathways, when there is no constant motivation in the first place.

Dopamine will get you started for your dream. To reach your goals, you need to depend on your H&Ns chemicals. The H&N chemical will flow more, once you repeat the same activity over and over again. To repeat the same activity over and over again, you need motivation. 

But, how can you increase the flow of your H&N chemicals, when your neural pathways are still weak. It’s like chicken and egg situations again. 

To repeat an activity, there is one more thing besides motivation, which is known as willpower. 

You will say, I don’t have that willpower. 

You don’t need high willpower. You only need it for the beginning. 

Let me explain…

There is a concept called ‘small practices’ to form a habit. For example, if you don’t like working out and there is no motivation, you have to work out for two minutes. This push will activate your H&N chemicals, and make you feel good. 

This good feeling will motivate you to push further.

There are over a thousand times, you don’t feel like going for a workout, but once you are in a gym, your mood changes.

There are over a thousand times, you don’t feel like working on your novel, but once you commit yourself to write only 50 words, your motivation kicks in. 

This happens because once you start your activity, the H&Ns chemicals rush into your brain. 

For constant motivation, don’t rely on motivation to kick in, instead start small, very small, and motivation will show up. The more you do this every day, the bigger your motivation will be to continue your work. 

Let me tell you a full example to understand this whole article:

You have decided to write your first novel. 

You have started strong because of your dopamine motivation. But, as we discussed above, dopamine motivation will disappear soon. 

You have written 2000-3000 words a day in the beginning, but soon, after 10 or 20 days, you don’t even feel like writing a single word. This is because the dopamine has shut down now. There is no new information.

You have decided to write 50 words a day. 50 words are too easy; it will take like 3-5 minutes. You don’t need motivation for this.

Once you write 50 words, there is a good feeling in you that you can write some more. This is because of H&N chemicals.

You write 100 words more. But still not enough, because your neural pathways are still weak and less H&Ns chemicals travel.

You repeat the same to write 50 words every day because this is too easy to miss. Once you repeat the same and chemicals run through it, your neural pathways start to grow stronger. 

After 90 days, you still don’t have the motivation to write, but once you start, you can write 400-500 words extra, because your neural pathways have grown stronger a bit.

After a year, your neural pathways are even stronger and bigger, and you can write additional, 1000 words each day. 

Now, your neural pathways will rapidly strengthen because you are spending more time on your writing, and more chemicals are flowing. After two years you can write more than 2000 words per day, you love doing it. You cannot live without writing, and you found out that writing is your passion.

The process of strengthening your neural pathways will be slow in the first few months, but once you find the momentum, you will start to grow rapidly. 

But, there are bigger pathways in our brain that have been made accidentally by our life events.

We know smoking is bad, we know procrastination is bad, we know watching porn is bad, but still, we do. We know we have projects to complete, but still, we waste our time on social media and youtube. 

Once you stop doing something, your neural pathways shrink. This explains why we become less efficient in our skills when we stop doing it. 

This article is not about breaking bad habits, that is for some other time.

One more way for constant motivation is boredom. 

Our brain constantly searches for sources of pleasure. Pleasure indicates survival. 

Once we shut down completely from all the sources, like social media, video games, t.v our brain crave pleasure. 

It accepts anything that gives pleasure. This is a good time to introduce your work to your brain. This is why sacrifice works. 

You can say you are sacrificing your happiness for your work, but what you are doing is, you are transferring your happiness to your work instead of the short-term gratification. 

Soon, you will enjoy your work more than watching youtube videos or doing social media. I stopped WhatsApp and social media a year ago. I thought I was sacrificing, but now these things don’t interest me at all. Whatsapp is boring; social media is even more boring.

Conclusion

The fundamental characteristic of dopamine is more. Don’t fall into the trap of dopamine. Dopamine is necessary for the start, without it, there will be no hope and depression will take its place, but once it starts to shut down, you have to transit your motivation from dopamine to H&Ns chemicals. 

Best 

Ahbab.

The above article is based on these four books. If you are interested to know more about your brain activity and constant motivation, go for these. 

  1. The Molecule of More by Daniel Z. Lieberman

2. Meet Your Happy Chemicals: Dopamine, Endorphin, Oxytocin, Serotonin by Loretta Breuning 

3. Habits of a Happy Brain by Loretta Graziano Breuning

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