Understanding Motivation to Make the Most out of it

00:04:06 – Reading Time. Why is working or studying so tough? Why is it less enjoyable than social media? And why do you need a lot of motivation to get started with working? The answer lies in understanding motivation.

If you ever felt motivated at the start but then as you went on, you started losing motivation; then this article is for you.

It is not your fault for not understanding why you feel like giving up. After all, your understanding of motivation is foggy. If you understand motivation, then you’d be able to make the most out of it. 

But first…

What exactly is motivation? 

Motivation is often said to be the drive towards a goal. All living organisms need motivation for their survival. We all need to cover basic needs like water, food, and social interaction. (1)

Motivation is a desire. It’s an objective. It involves you and a specific outcome you’re looking to achieve.

Interestingly, if you understand motivation, you can manipulate it and have it on your side. You would know what to do when your motivation fades and how to breakthrough. 

While it may be impossible to stay motivated all the time, you can still have high motivation levels if you get a glimpse of how motivation works.

The second important thing to know is there are two types of motivation.

What are the two types of motivation?

The first type is Extrinsic motivation. 

It is any reason you do something other than the joy of doing it. You often do it for a specific reason, such as a promised raise, promotion, appreciation, potential danger, or any outside influence. (2) It is called extrinsic because it’s ‘external.’ 

On the opposite side, we have Intrinsic Motivation. 

It is any reason you do something for the joy of the activity itself. You enjoy performing the task. You do it out of desire. No one is forcing you to do it. Whether or not you got paid for it doesn’t matter to you. You do it for the sheer pleasure the task provides. (2) It is called intrinsic because it’s ‘internal.’

So why is it important to know the two types?

You can always find ways to be extrinsically motivated. But it’s tricky to develop Intrinsic Motivation if the task/goal is just something that doesn’t inspire you. And this is where the importance of understanding Dopamine comes.

The unrealized role of Dopamine in Motivation

It was long believed that Dopamine was just the reward center of the brain. 

You do something good, you get Dopamine. But research over the last few years revealed that Dopamine also controls your motivation. Dopamine can be described as the ‘command center’ of your brain. It tells your brain if something is worth doing or not. (3) 

Dopamine is released in your brain before you even do something. That’s how the brain knows whether something is worth taking over or not. So, this is where you must condition yourself to view the outcome as entirely positive and be honest with yourself about it. (3)

In other words, your beliefs literally shape your actions. 

If you don’t feel like doing something, even if that thing is essential, it may be a dopamine issue.

Some experts have said that laziness is just the result of having an overstimulated brain with Dopamine. For example, social media releases massive doses of Dopamine. While completing work/study, chores don’t release much Dopamine. So, your brain will obviously want to choose to be on social media rather than study or do work.

As your brain collects more and more Dopamine, it starts getting used to high amounts of Dopamine. Thus, it becomes normal for your brain to view work or studying as ‘boring.’ The key is to cut out high Dopamine releasing activities like social media, Netflix, pornography, video-games, and sugar.

The controversial truth is that you may not hate working or studying. Your brain is just used to activities that release enormous amounts of Dopamine. That is why prisoners often develop a fondness for reading books or working out. These activities become their ‘dopamine stimulators.’

If you’re suffering from your motivation fading or coming and going, then ‘detoxing’ from Dopamine may help cure your ‘laziness.’

Take-home message

Understanding motivation is the key to make the most of it. It is common to feel unmotivated from time to time. You need to make sure your dopamine levels are ‘in check.’ Most often, your brain is overstimulated from activities that release high amounts of Dopamine. They’re usually unproductive activities that condition your brain to get used to high levels of Dopamine.

Try to decrease social media usage, entertainment, sweets, and you may notice yourself being more motivated.

Motivation is just a feeling controlled by your dopamine system. Control your dopamine system, and you’ll be able to control your motivation. Even the work that you most dread, might, in fact, seem quite enjoyable.


(1). Simpson, E.H. and Balsam, P.D. (2015). The Behavioral Neuroscience of Motivation: An Overview of Concepts, Measures, and Translational Applications. Behavioral Neuroscience of Motivation, [online] pp.1–12. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4864984/#:~:text=Motivation%2C%20defined%20as%20the%20energizing,water%2C%20sex%20and%20social%20interaction  [Accessed 21 Dec. 2020].

(2). Psychology Today. (2020). Extrinsic vs. Intrinsic Motivation at Work. [online] Available at: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/creative-leadership/202004/extrinsic-vs-intrinsic-motivation-work   [Accessed 21 Dec. 2020].

(3). ScienceDaily. (2013). Dopamine regulates the motivation to act, study shows. [online] Available at: https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/01/130110094415.htm  [Accessed 21 Dec. 2020].

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