Train Your Brain to Crave Motivation

Rumor has it that some people are slackers, procrastinators, would rather fold socks until the end of time than tackle their chemistry homework, etc. Staring at a cursor on a blank screen, when your paper is due in 24 hours can feel overwhelming.

But has some good news! You can actually train your brain and fool yourself into wanting to do the work, because you crave the brain chemical that signals reward. Get yourself addicted to dopamine, and you’ll be riding the A-train express to the dean’s list (in clean socks, no less).

How to Harness Your Brain's Dopamine Supply and Increase Motivation

The Origins of Motivation: It’s in Your Head

To trace the source of motivation, let’s begin in the brain where neurotransmitters spark chemical messages to keep us alert and on task. One specific neurotransmitter that plays a role in motivation is dopamine.

Dopamine’s chemical signal gets passed from one neuron to the next. For motivation specifically, it matters which pathway dopamine takes. The mesolimbic pathway…is the most important reward pathway in the brain.

One of the mesolimbic’s stops is the nucleus accumbens. Increased dopamine in the nucleus accumbens signals feedback for predicting rewards. Your brain recognizes that something important—good or bad—is about to happen, thus triggering motivation to do something.

But Wait, I Thought Dopamine Was All About Pleasure?

Common knowledge is with you on this one. The dopamine-pleasure connection has been curated by scores of different studies and media reports. The pleasure reputation is well-earned because it’s true. Dopamine is the brain’s pleasure chemical.

But stopping there would be missing the complete story. Pleasure is just the tip of the dopamine iceberg. Dopamine’s impact on the body is felt in many different areas, including motivation, memory, behavior and cognition, attention, sleep, mood, learning, and oh yeah, pleasurable reward. 

Can Motivation Be Hacked?

The brain can be trained to feed off of bursts of dopamine sparked by rewarding experiences. You create the dopamine environment, and the brain does the rest. One way to achieve this is by setting incremental goals, according to neurologist Judy Willis. In essence, what you are doing is rewiring the brain to attach a dopamine response to the task you want as a reward. Allow yourself to experience frequent positive feedback as you progress through a series of goals. Dopamine will flow as a result of your brain’s positive reinforcement every time you complete a step and meet a challenge.

Dopamine has a biological connection to our motivation to achieve. If there’s anything we can do to increase the flow of dopamine like reinforcing positive feedback through incremental progress, embrace it. Along with this, we must include effort. Sometimes, the cure for low motivation may simply be old-school determination and perseverance, sticking with doing things even when we don’t want to.

Want more information on how to train your brain? Click on the link above.