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Motivation

Let’s talk about motivation.

I’ve always struggled with motivation. So, I did some digging.

Do you even lack motivation ?

First thing I would like to point out is that pathology is rare. If you look at actual diseases or things that are broken within people, those tend to be rare. For example, not everyone has cancer, it’s a rare thing. Generally speaking, the body works the way it’s supposed to. So, If the entire generation of people are facing a common shared problem which is that you know we all lack motivation, it’s not that we lack motivation, it’s not actually a problem. It’s actually how we are wired. Like, if everyone shares a particular thing, like everyone can use their left and right hand, it’s a common thing with most people, then that’s sort of how we’re designed.

Most people are highly motivated, but usually not in the direction they'd like to be. "I have no motivation to do anything. I just want to play video games all day" => I am highly motivated to play video games. So your motivation is just in the wrong direction.

How does motivation work?

First of all, motivation isn’t binary, rather our brains are constantly performing cost benefit analysis of things and assign a number called likelihood of success, which then leads to a behavioural response.

Let's take drinking a glass of water as an example, Right now I'm sitting here writing this blog post and my brain has a background process that's checking if I need to drink water or not. Now, as my blood sodium levels will increase, my brain will signal me that I need to drink water. If the water is nearby, I'll drink it. If it's not, my thirst must increase to change my behaviour.

And what are the factors that might influence my behaviour ?

  • Availability of Water
  • Thirst level
  • What am I doing right now
  • Will I be able to drink water later

You get the idea. And our brains are constantly doing these calculations for even the most mundane of tasks. It's actually very fascinating when you think about it. And understanding this mechanism of motivation will help us pinpoint what components we need to act on to change motivation

What does this mean for us?

We know that our brains are performing these cost benefit analysis and calculating a number called likelihood of success. Let's see some of the factors that affect the likelihood of success,

  1. Complexity of a task

I’ll explain with an example, say I’m jobless and I’d like to find a job. So, what’s the probability of finding a job? Who the fuck knows, like you can’t assign a number to that. And if you can’t assign a number, you’re gonna be stuck. So, you wake up in the morning and you think about finding a job and your brain is like I don’t know how to gauge whether that’s gonna work or not. And then your brain is also like, well now we’re feeling bad; and that’s almost like a need that it wants to fix, like hunger or thirst. So as negative emotions arise within you, your brain is like, hmm what can we do about those negative emotions because I’m trying to protect you buddy and I know that you’re suffering right now, why don’t we just go play a game. So your problem isn’t that you’re broken, your brain is just doing a very good job at what it knows how to do. As long as you view your problems as something that doesn’t have clear likelihood of success, you’re not gonna do them.

  1. Confidence

The other thing that plays for motivation is confidence. Confidence is willingness to do something with uncertainty. If your confidence is low, your likelihood of success will be low, which in turn will lead to low motivation. Confidence => Likelihood of success => Increased motivation

What do we do ?

So now let’s combine these two things to understand what we can do about it.

  1. Try to program your task to be clear so that your brain is like, oh actually I can do that. That’ll increase your likelihood of success.

For example, Let's take our previous example of finding a job.

  • If your task is just find a job (your likelihood of success is like 0%) But if you change it a bit to say,
  • Apply for a job (that increases the likelihood of success by say 30%, because now your brain is like I have a vague idea of what it entails) You can then further divide it a bit and say,
  • Fill out the job application (likelihood of success is like 50%, because now your brain is like oh I can do that, I understand what that means) You get the trend.
  1. Increase your confidence. Confidence comes from surviving failure. So the more you’re okay with failing, the more you’ll try and more you’ll get confident. Think about how a kid learns to walk. They're very hesitant to walk because they’re afraid of falling so they hold onto things and you try to get them to take one or two steps, and you really have to encourage a kid to learn how to walk. And they fall and then they get back up again, and they're like oh actually falling is not that big of a deal and the more they fall, the easier it becomes to try. So failure makes trying easier and trying is about success.

  2. Deal with your negative emotions. One of the things that keep us from being confident is that we are sitting on these piles of generally speaking negative emotions and if you feel bad about yourself, like if you have shame if you have fear if you have low self worth, then it’s gonna hurt, it’s hard to be confident and confidence is gonna affect of these numbers. So, if you actually deal with your negative emotions, your confidence increases and the motivation naturally goes up.

P.S.

We know that surviving failure leads to increase in confidence, which then leads to increase in motivation, and that leads to success. So, Failure -> Success 🤷‍♂️