You want to do something, accomplish something — and yet, some part of you isn’t getting it done. Now what? Enter the science (and cottage industry) of motivation. While researchers have taught us a lot about motivation in recent decades, too often we get stuck in deepening cycles of self-blame and helplessness. So here, we explore the essence of authentic motivation, and how to make it work for you.

This week we’re talking about Motivation — the force that gets us to do, accomplish, and change the things we want to. And the force that sometimes fizzles without our really understanding why.

So here, we talk about the nature and source of motivation, and the art of cultivating it in the service of our highest goals.

From the dynamics that cause us to procrastinate and avoid fulfilling ostensibly worthwhile commitments, to the science behind making change even when change is hard, we explore the realities of harnessing the willingness to do what must be done.

We also acknowledge the reality that an unlimited supply of superhuman willpower is often not the magic bullet that many motivational gurus might have you believe.

Finally, we offer you some experiments to help you tap into your own best sources of motivation, and to put them to work in ways that feel most rewarding to you.

“Motivation” Episode Highlights

  • The neurochemistry behind motivation and the role of dopamine
  • Dr. BJ Fogg’s behavior-change model relating motivation, ability, and a triggering prompt all converging at the right moment in time
  • The classes of motivation: extrinsic (external) vs. intrinsic (internal)
  • Pilar’s concept of catalysts and catastrophes as motivators
  • Dr. James O. Prochaska’s Transtheoretical Model — the six key stages of readiness to change
  • Dallas’s intuitive, values-based approach to motivation
  • Pilar’s halting motivational ride in finishing her book proposal
  • The importance of Preemptive Repair — one of Pilar’s Non-Conformist Competencies of Healthy Deviance — in maintaining the motivation to reach goals
  • The conflict between our rational (“The Rider”) and emotional (“The Elephant”) minds as the largest obstacle to change, as described by Jonathan Haidt
  • Drs. Chip and Dan Heath’s “Switch” work about the art of making change when change is hard:
    • Directing the Rider’s planning and analysis skills, motivating the Elephant’s passion and sustained energy, and shaping the Path
    • Motivational tips: Finding the bright spots rather than the problems, shrinking the large goal into small steps, tweaking the environment to set yourself up for success, and rallying the herd to support you
    • Seeing beyond the obvious: What looks like resistance may be lack of clarity; what looks like laziness may be exhaustion; what looks like a people problem may be a situation problem
  • Challenging your assumptions about your own lack of motivation

Think about the thing you’ve been putting off or wanting to do, and what the first step in doing that thing would be. Do that first step today.

Think about the last thing you satisfactorily accomplished and break it down. Notice what it was about the goal that allowed you achieve it, and compare it to a goal you’re trying to achieve now. Consider for example:

  • Does it meet the same high standards of something you truly want to accomplish?
  • What were the steps you took in reaching that previous goal? Did you set out to do it all at once or was there a process you discovered over time? Were there multiple attempts? How can that apply to the thing you’re working on now?
  • What were the skills and strengths that you brought to that challenge? How did you use your intellect, physical strength, stamina, focus, relationships, resources? How can you leverage those same strengths towards your current goal?
  • Reflect on what it felt like to achieve the goal, and what the rewards have been. Were there unexpected benefits? Were the rewards part of the motivation? Think about how those results might help motivate you now.

Big Thanks to Our Friends at Optimize!

Thanks to our sponsor, Optimize by Heroic, for supporting The Living Experiment. Now you can get Optimize membership (formerly $250) for FREE just by signing up here. And check out the Heroic social training platform, with a goal of creating a world in which 51% of the world’s population is flourishing by 2051 — starting with YOU!

Optimize with Brian Johnson

Share the Love!

Have you told your friends and family about The Living Experiment? If you dig the podcast, please share it! Every recommendation from you means a lot!

We’d also love to have you connect with us on Facebook. Tell us about your experiments, and share your thoughts, stories and reflections there.