That list of business to-dos sites on the desk wondering why it’s taking so long to complete anything. The business meeting creates a pit in the stomach because who wants to attend another meeting? While setting up an online business, there will be times when motivation is lacking. It happens sometimes, and that’s why we talk about this topic, our free webinar training on how to stay motivated and improve a new business venture. Don’t stress when a lack of motivation strikes — push forward and figure out some solutions.
For starters, Success discusses suboptimal motivation and how you can maintain that by staying focused on your goals.
Suboptimal motivation is like junk food. Think about what happens when you are low on energy and go for the quick fix—a candy bar, an order of fries, a caffeinated drink. Your blood sugar spikes and then you crash. That doughnut tasted really good going down, but it didn’t do your body any good—especially in the long term. When your motivation is based on disinterest, external rewards (tangible and intangible), or feeling imposed, you will simply not have the energy, vitality or sense of well-being required to achieve your goals.
Does money motivate you? Yes. Do power and status motivate you? Yes and yes. Pressure motivates you, too. But these are suboptimal reasons for being motivated that undermine your ability to get done what you need to do. Research shows that even if you achieve a goal while motivated for suboptimal reasons, you are unlikely to sustain your effort over time.
Forbes follows up on Success’ suggestions by discussing what role Dopamine plays in feeling motivated. Dopamine affects a person’s ability to work, and in some cases, makes it challenging to stay motivated.
We normally associate dopamine with pleasure, but it has a far wider effect than that. Dopamine has been found to fire before a reward is given, in addition to showing up in times of stress, pain, loss or pleasure. As a result, dopamine levels are now believed to be strongly linked with motivation. Interestingly, one behavioral neuroscientist discovered that rats with lower dopamine levels weren’t willing to climb a small fence to get to a larger pile of food, compared to rats with higher levels of the hormone.
However, although the link between dopamine levels and motivation isn’t a straightforward connection, a team of Vanderbilt scientists has demonstrated that dopamine has a strong impact on your willingness to work. To come to this conclusion, they used brain-mapping technology to analyze the brain patterns of “go-getters” who were willing to work hard for rewards and “slackers” who weren’t.
Forbes also discusses where the willingness to stay productive comes from and how to turn it around so that this productivity continues.
This process of getting things done represents the intersection between motivation and willpower; the place where you not only want to take action, but where you have the ability to execute as well. Therefore, no discussion on the science of motivation is complete without also mentioning the science that underpins our willpower; or, our ability to get things done.
One of the most interesting discoveries of the last few years has been the realization that willpower is a finite resource. That is, you only get a certain amount of willpower on any given day, and once you’ve exhausted that supply, you’ll find yourself feeling much less able to do the right things and act on the motivation that you may feel.
For the scientific background underpinning this issue, consider a really fascinating study by researchers at Columbia University, which found that judges tend to make more rulings in favor of prisoners at the start of each of their three decision-making sessions. Rulings made later in the sessions – as demonstrated in this graph – were far more likely to favor the judges’ interests; a result the researchers chalk up to “decision fatigue.”
So what can you do to prevent decision fatigue from interfering with both your willpower and motivation? Consider the following tips:
Develop solid routines. From the moment we wake up, we’re inundated with potential choices, like whether to wear the red shirt or the blue, or whether to eat cereal or pancakes for breakfast. Sticking to regular routines minimizes the number of decisions that must be made, allowing us to save this energy for more important uses.
Tackle important priorities first. No matter how good your routines are, you’ll likely still experience some degree of fatigue by the end of the day. Therefore, making sure that you address your most important work priorities first thing in the morning will ensure that these tasks receive your highest possible level of focus.
Do you understand the correlation between motivation and dopamine? Since both are related, as UConn Today states, there’s an ongoing study on how the two can help people stay focused and ultimately succeed.
The big implications of this change in understanding come at the level of overlapping motivational symptoms of depression with those seen in other disorders such as schizophrenia, multiple sclerosis, and Parkinson’s disease. Symptoms of fatigue may be related to low levels of dopamine or changes in other parts of the same brain circuitry.
On the one hand, this lack of perceived energy is maladaptive, because it reduces the tendency to interact with the environment. But, Salamone says, it could also reflect the body’s attempt to save energy in a crisis.
He points out that new ideas in science are traditionally met with criticism. But after all the mounting evidence, he says he’s no longer regarded as “a crazy rebel,” but simply someone who thought differently.
“Science is not a collection of facts. It’s a process,” he says. “First we thought dopamine was involved only in movement. Then that faded and we thought it was pleasure. Now we’ve gone beyond that data on pleasure.”
American Association Society continues to study motivation as well, which hopefully in the future can tell us more about how to stay motivated. The more scientists continue to learn, the more you can use their findings to feel motivated to learn more and apply your knowledge to your business.
The times have changed, however. In recent years, researchers have recognized the importance of more unified and cross-disciplinary approach to study motivation (Braver et al., 2014). This multidisciplinary, multimethod pursuit, called Motivation Science, is now an emerging field (Kruglanski, Chemikova & Kopez, 2015).
Our Motivation Science lab takes an integrative approach, drawing from multiple disciplines (e.g., cognitive, social and educational psychology, cognitive/social neuroscience) and multiple approaches (e.g., behavioral experiments, longitudinal data analysis, neuroimaging, meta-analysis, statistical simulation/computational modeling, network analysis ). We explore a number of overlapping basic and applied research questions with the ultimate goal of providing an integrated view on human motivation.
Motivation and learning
If you are motivated, you learn better and remember more of what you learned. This sounds like an obvious fact, but our lab showed that the reality is more nuanced. The critical fact is that not all motivations are created equal.
In the literature of achievement goals, for example, people study primarily for two different goals — to master materials and develop their competence, which are called mastery goals, and to perform well in comparison to others, which are called performance goals (Dweck, 1986; Nicholls, 1984). Mastery goals and performance goals represent the same overall quantity of motivation, but they are qualitatively distinct types of motivation. We conducted a series of behavioral experiments to examine how these two different types of motivation influence learning (Murayama & Elliot, 2011).
In the study, participants were engaged in a problem-solving task and received a surprise memory test related to the task. Critically, participants performed the problem-solving task with different goals. Participants in the mastery goal condition were told that the goal was to develop their cognitive ability through the task, whereas those in the performance goal condition were told that their goal was to demonstrate their ability relative to other participants. The participants in the performance goal condition showed better memory performance in an immediate memory test, but when the memory was assessed one week later, participants in the mastery goal condition showed better memory performance. These results indicate that performance goals help short-term learning, whereas mastery goals facilitate long-term learning.
That was a laboratory study where the learning situation was somewhat artificial. To further test whether mastery orientation facilitates long-term learning, we turned to an existing longitudinal survey dataset. In this study, we used longitudinal survey data on more than 3,000 schoolchildren from German schools (Murayama, Pekrun, Lichtenfeld & vom Hofe, 2013). Using latent growth curve modeling, we showed that items which focus on the performance aspect of learning (“In math I work hard, because I want to get good grades”) in Grade 7 predicted the immediate math achievement score whereas items focusing on the mastery aspect of learning (“I invest a lot of effort in math, because I am interested in the subject”) in Grade 7 predicted the growth in math achievement scores over three years. These results mirror our findings from the lab, providing convergent evidence that mastery-based motivation supports long-term learning whereas performance-based motivation only helps short-term learning.
With some additional neuroimaging and behavioral experiments, we are now examining the underlying mechanisms of this time dependent effect of motivation (Ikeda, Castel, & Murayama, 2015; Murayama et al., 2015).
Join us during our next free webinar training to learn how to start your own online business and what steps you must take to succeed and make a profit!