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3 Reasons Relying On Motivation Can Negatively Affect Our Productivity

3 Reasons Relying On Motivation Can Negatively Affect Our Productivity

We were pumped up to do great things in life after seeing an inspirational video. We rose up from the comfort of our chair and did a lot of work. The day after that — nothing. Sitting on the same chair, we had a Netflix movie marathon, and no work was done for that day. Why did this happen? Why didn’t we maintain the same amount of work in both days? It’s because we rely too much on motivation. There are 3 reasons relying on motivation can negatively affect our productivity.

1. We do things only when we’re inspired

“Yeah! I’m gonna do this s***!” thoughts rarely come. We can hope for motivation to greet us every day, but they rarely do. It’s as if motivation is the fuel that drives us to do things when it’s actually not. We need to always do what we want to do in life no matter how inspired we are feeling. Motivation can accelerate the things we do, but it shouldn’t be the thing that moves us.

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2. We are prone to waste our day and stop halfway while doing things

Relying on motivation can cause the All-or-Nothing thinking. All-or-Nothing thinking is the tendency to do things perfectly or not do it at all. How does this apply to motivation? Imagine waking up with little motivation. For those who rely too much on motivation, they’ll decide to not do anything for the rest of the day because they are not highly inspired.

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Other than that, we will find that when we are motivated on a particular day, and suddenly, bad things happen in the middle of the day. Snap! Our motivation crumbled like a fortress made of chalk. We gave up and called it a day. Why? Just because losing motivation made us think that the day’s not perfect. That’s not the way life goes. Start, middle or the end of the day — we need to use all three periods productively, whether we are motivated or not. Motivation doesn’t indicate perfection but movement does.

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3. We will forget why we do the things we do in the first place

Motivation is just a feeling. Like any other feeling, it can come and go. We need more than a fleeting feeling to move us to do the things we do day by day. What we need to rely on is purpose and discipline. Purpose is needed to ensure that we live deliberately. Aren’t we born to do great things in life? Each one of us is a world-changer so make it our purpose to make a difference in the world. But purpose is not enough, we’ll need discipline to ensure that we can fulfil that purpose. Discipline ensures consistency and it’s the cure for laziness and procrastination. Purpose + Discipline = The magic pill for success.

Stop reading and start moving!

Again, motivation is not necessarily bad. It’s good to help us do things faster but it shouldn’t be the one making us do them in the first place. To sum it up, here’s the key take-away from this article:

  1. Stop relying on motivation to help us be productive.
  2. Focus on finding a purpose in life.
  3. Be disciplined and do things consistently. (Don’t know how to improve your discipline? Read this Lifehack article to learn how).
  4. Stop watching too many motivational clips from Rocky (that includes Rocky II, III, IV, and V too) and finish that homework, report, and whatever you should be doing right now.

If you learnt something from this article, please share it with others so they can share the same experience too.

A question: Do you rely too much on motivation? Write your answers in the comment section below.

Featured photo credit: Steven Depolo via flickr.com

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Last Updated on July 17, 2019

The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

What happens in our heads when we set goals?

Apparently a lot more than you’d think.

Goal setting isn’t quite so simple as deciding on the things you’d like to accomplish and working towards them.

According to the research of psychologists, neurologists, and other scientists, setting a goal invests ourselves into the target as if we’d already accomplished it. That is, by setting something as a goal, however small or large, however near or far in the future, a part of our brain believes that desired outcome is an essential part of who we are – setting up the conditions that drive us to work towards the goals to fulfill the brain’s self-image.

Apparently, the brain cannot distinguish between things we want and things we have. Neurologically, then, our brains treat the failure to achieve our goal the same way as it treats the loss of a valued possession. And up until the moment, the goal is achieved, we have failed to achieve it, setting up a constant tension that the brain seeks to resolve.

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Ideally, this tension is resolved by driving us towards accomplishment. In many cases, though, the brain simply responds to the loss, causing us to feel fear, anxiety, even anguish, depending on the value of the as-yet-unattained goal.

Love, Loss, Dopamine, and Our Dreams

The brains functions are carried out by a stew of chemicals called neurotransmitters. You’ve probably heard of serotonin, which plays a key role in our emotional life – most of the effective anti-depressant medications on the market are serotonin reuptake inhibitors, meaning they regulate serotonin levels in the brain leading to more stable moods.

Somewhat less well-known is another neurotransmitter, dopamine. Among other things, dopamine acts as a motivator, creating a sensation of pleasure when the brain is stimulated by achievement. Dopamine is also involved in maintaining attention – some forms of ADHD are linked to irregular responses to dopamine.[1]

So dopamine plays a key role in keeping us focused on our goals and motivating us to attain them, rewarding our attention and achievement by elevating our mood. That is, we feel good when we work towards our goals.

Dopamine is related to wanting – to desire. The attainment of the object of our desire releases dopamine into our brains and we feel good. Conversely, the frustration of our desires starves us of dopamine, causing anxiety and fear.

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One of the greatest desires is romantic love – the long-lasting, “till death do us part” kind. It’s no surprise, then, that romantic love is sustained, at least in part, through the constant flow of dopamine released in the presence – real or imagined – of our true love. Loss of romantic love cuts off that supply of dopamine, which is why it feels like you’re dying – your brain responds by triggering all sorts of anxiety-related responses.

Herein lies obsession, as we go to ever-increasing lengths in search of that dopamine reward. Stalking specialists warn against any kind of contact with a stalker, positive or negative, because any response at all triggers that reward mechanism. If you let the phone ring 50 times and finally pick up on the 51st ring to tell your stalker off, your stalker gets his or her reward, and learns that all s/he has to do is wait for the phone to ring 51 times.

Romantic love isn’t the only kind of desire that can create this kind of dopamine addiction, though – as Captain Ahab (from Moby Dick) knew well, any suitably important goal can become an obsession once the mind has established ownership.

The Neurology of Ownership

Ownership turns out to be about a lot more than just legal rights. When we own something, we invest a part of ourselves into it – it becomes an extension of ourselves.

In a famous experiment at Cornell University, researchers gave students school logo coffee mugs, and then offered to trade them chocolate bars for the mugs. Very few were willing to make the trade, no matter how much they professed to like chocolate. Big deal, right? Maybe they just really liked those mugs![2]

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But when they reversed the experiment, handing out chocolate and then offering to trade mugs for the candy, they found that now, few students were all that interested in the mugs. Apparently the key thing about the mugs or the chocolate wasn’t whether students valued whatever they had in their possession, but simply that they had it in their possession.

This phenomenon is called the “endowment effect”. In a nutshell, the endowment effect occurs when we take ownership of an object (or idea, or person); in becoming “ours” it becomes integrated with our sense of identity, making us reluctant to part with it (losing it is seen as a loss, which triggers that dopamine shut-off I discussed above).

Interestingly, researchers have found that the endowment effect doesn’t require actual ownership or even possession to come into play. In fact, it’s enough to have a reasonable expectation of future possession for us to start thinking of something as a part of us – as jilted lovers, gambling losers, and 7-year olds denied a toy at the store have all experienced.

The Upshot for Goal-Setters

So what does all this mean for would-be achievers?

On one hand, it’s a warning against setting unreasonable goals. The bigger the potential for positive growth a goal has, the more anxiety and stress your brain is going to create around it’s non-achievement.

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It also suggests that the common wisdom to limit your goals to a small number of reasonable, attainable objectives is good advice. The more goals you have, the more ends your brain thinks it “owns” and therefore the more grief and fear the absence of those ends is going to cause you.

On a more positive note, the fact that the brain rewards our attentiveness by releasing dopamine means that our brain is working with us to direct us to achievement. Paying attention to your goals feels good, encouraging us to spend more time doing it. This may be why outcome visualization — a favorite technique of self-help gurus involving imagining yourself having completed your objectives — has such a poor track record in clinical studies. It effectively tricks our brain into rewarding us for achieving our goals even though we haven’t done it yet!

But ultimately, our brain wants us to achieve our goals, so that it’s a sense of who we are that can be fulfilled. And that’s pretty good news!

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Featured photo credit: Alexa Williams via unsplash.com

Reference

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