How To Increase And Sustain Your Motivation LevelJul 11, 2022
It's tough to be productive when you're not feeling motivated. And it's difficult to sustain a high level of motivation through the ups and downs of the recruiting business and life. Many people think that productivity is about tools and techniques while overlooking the importance of motivation. I know many people who have the right tools and techniques but don't consistently use them. Can you relate?
There's much more to motivation than most people realize. Also, many false beliefs about motivation are difficult to discard. These myths often lead people down paths that move them away from being consistently motivated.
Let's start with the basics of motivation. There are three fundamental sources of motivation
- Extrinsic motivation: This is motivation that's focused on external factors/outcomes. It's either reward-based or fear-based. Reward-based motivation includes money, recognition, and the desire to win. Fear-based motivation includes fears of loss, failure, and missing out.
- Intrinsic motivation: This is motivation focused on the inherent satisfaction you get from performing a task that you enjoy. For example, talking and connecting with others, solving challenging problems, etc.
- Purpose/Mission: This is motivation focused on something that is beyond or bigger than you that drives you to take action whether you're in the mood or not. Examples include helping people further their careers providing for your family, helping companies hire the people they need to succeed, etc.
Our level of motivation naturally ebbs and flows throughout the days, weeks, months, and years. Becoming clear about your relationship with each of the three sources of motivation allows you to keep it from falling too low and when your level of motivation for one source wanes, you have two other sources to turn to. If you continuously go back to the same source of motivation, it can lose its edge over time. When you vary the source of motivation you focus on, you minimize the natural decline that can happen from too much repetition.
The chemical part of motivation
Science has demonstrated that the brain chemical dopamine directly impacts our level of motivation. Dopamine drives us to take action in the form of seeking rewards or avoiding pain/loss. In fact, if your dopamine level drops to zero, your body will be paralyzed! That's how vital dopamine is to taking action on anything in your life.
Your dopamine levels can rise and fall instantaneously based on thoughts, emotions, behaviors, and substances. When your dopamine level increases, your desire to take action increases. And when you take action, your dopamine levels naturally increase. For this reason, taking action even if you don't "feel like it" is important to increase your dopamine level.
That's why when you start doing something you don't enjoy, you may find yourself "getting into a groove." Then what you're doing becomes less distasteful or even enjoyable! As your dopamine level rises, your motivation level increases with it. Focusing on any of the three motivation sources mentioned above naturally increases dopamine since it quickly responds to your thoughts and emotions.
A key element in dopamine management is that you want to increase it naturally while minimizing substances and behaviors that cause it to spike quickly. Activities that require focus and effort increase dopamine production naturally without spiking it. That's why they lead to longer-term satisfaction rather than a quick high and then a drop. The problem with frequently spiking dopamine is twofold:
- There's a limit to how much dopamine your body can produce in a given time period. When you spike your dopamine regularly, your usage exceeds production, causing a depletion. This causes your baseline level to drop, leading to lower motivation and feeling down. When you're engaged in activities for enjoyment but can't seem to get engaged and don't feel satisfied, dopamine depletion is likely the cause.
- When you spike dopamine, you must keep increasing the spiking substance or activity to get the same effect. In other words, you build a tolerance to your level. The problem is that as you build a tolerance to higher dopamine levels, things that would typically provide pleasure or satisfaction (e.g., the work you do) can become dull and unmotivating. This is why addictions have such a damaging impact on motivation.
People caught in the above dopamine spiking patterns experience constant ups and downs, leading to damaged motivation, confidence, and productivity.
Below are some practices to sustain a healthy level of motivation:
- Make a list of the specific extrinsic, intrinsic, and purpose-based motivations that drive you personally. Identify the ones with the greatest motivation for you and focus on them. Mix them up when you feel that a motivation source loses its edge. Keep revisiting this list.
- Make sure to emphasize the intrinsic and purpose-based motivations since most of us are conditioned to over-emphasize the extrinsic ones. Studies have shown that the intrinsic motivations are far more motivating over time. Purpose-based motivations have great value in helping you to keep going when things are tough, and you want to quit.
- Don't fear "fear-based motivations." Many people have been taught to practice "excessive positiveness." They only focus on what they want and not what they want to avoid. The truth is that humans are twice as motivated to avoid a loss than we are to achieve a gain. It's best to focus on both what you want and the negative consequences of not taking action. Just don't go overboard since living in constant fear is demotivating and unsatisfying.
- Strive to maintain a steady attitude and not overreact to positive or negative news. Getting too pumped up when "something good happens" can set you up for a fall when "shit happens'' which it often does. Learn to roll with bad news knowing that you don't control outcomes and will continue to get both.
- Do the things that help your body produce a healthy level of dopamine. This includes the things that lead to good health in general: healthy diet, regular exercise, managing stress, proper sleep, etc.
- Minimize usage of addictive substances and behaviors. These substances include drugs, alcohol, tobacco, excessive caffeine, etc. Behaviors include addictive video activities and heavy engagement with social media. Social media companies set up their platforms to lure people in with "dopamine hits" that make it difficult to disengage. The risk of these substances and behaviors is that they spike and deplete dopamine and make normal work activities seem dull in comparison.
In summary, maintaining a high level of productivity requires much more than knowing effective tools and techniques. Motivation inevitably plays a crucial role, and there is a science to staying consistently motivated. Once you learn and practice the scientific principles, productivity-enhancing tools and techniques can lead to sustainable jumps in productivity that transform your business and personal lives.