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How the science of motivation can supercharge your results.

Anything related to matters of the mind


Legendary Contributor
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May 10, 2015
Islands of Calleja
First things first, I apologize for my poor writing today. I’m very tired, but I wanted to post this before I forgot. I may go back and edit it later.

Want to supercharge your motivation? What we’re about to discuss is literally like adding Nitrous to your motivation tank.

The first principle in Think and Grow Rich is to have a Burning Desire.


I’ve been publicly harsh on Napoleon Hill, but is there any truth to the idea of having a burning desire? You bet there is!

To understand, let’s look at the science of motivation and the role of dopamine in motivation.


We used to think that dopamine was the pleasure chemical, but research in the past few decades years has unveiled that it’s role is much more nuanced than that. Dopamine actually comes more before the reward, and when the reward is obtained other chemicals are released, such as: Serotonin, GABA, and/or Endorphin (opioids.)

In other words, dopamine is the ‘wanting' chemical. Not the 'liking' chemical.


Screen Shot 2018-09-19 at 12.07.05 PM.png

‘Wanting’ stimulates action
‘Having’ stimulates relaxation.

To get what we want we need more action and less relaxation.

To illustrate this better, let’s look at drugs. Amphatamine (speed) and Cocaine both stimulate dopamine. Those are considered uppers. Alcohol and Benzodiazapines (xanax/valium) stimulate GABA. Opiates like heroin stimulate Endorphin receptors. Those are considered downers. Which do you think are more helpful in helping you attain your goals.... uppers or downers? Now we’re certainly not promoting the use of drugs in your goal pursuits, but there are natural things we can do to stimulate those energizing chemicals without the use of drugs.

The trick is to stimulate desire, and minimize the feeling of ‘having'. When you want something, dopamine is released and you’re inspired to action. When you have something, your body says ‘it’s okay to relax… we have what we want..”

The mammal brain releases dopamine when you approach a reward. A lion’s dopamine surges when it sees a gazelle it can reach. That releases energy for the chase, and it feels good. A thirsty cave man released dopamine when he saw signs of a water hole, and he started feeling good before he actually drank. Dopamine gets your attention and releases your reserve tank of energy when you see a way to meet a need.

Loretta Graziano Breuning, PhD Author of “Meet Your Happy Chemicals"​

5 Ways to Boost Your Natural Happy Chemicals – Make Peace With Your Inner Mammal – Medium

Dopamine performs its tasks before we obtain rewards, meaning that its real job is to encourage us to act, either to achieve something good or to avoid something bad.

As UConn Researcher John Salamone explains, “Low levels of dopamine make people and other animals less likely to work for things, so it has more to do with motivation and cost/benefit analyses than pleasure itself.”

- Kevan Lee, writer

How can we use this knowledge to our advantage? Well a popular idea is that of the Vision board. But it’s very important to use this idea correctly, because if used incorrectly, it can actually harm your chances of success.

The trick is to make those things stimulate desire rather than the feeling of ‘already having it.’ It’s a very important difference. If your brain feels like it already has the object of your desire, it turns off, deciding that there’s no reason for it to expend energy.

When these wacky cookey Law of Attraction ‘gurus' tell you to ‘visualize your result as if you already have it’ it actually causes your brain to release chemicals that say ‘okay we have what we want.. now need to expend any energy!’ Experiments by Professor of Psychology Gabriele Oettingen found that positive visualization, like that promoted by Law of Attraction ‘gurus' actually significantly decreases one’s odds of success.

Visualize Success if You Want to Fail - Forbes

Stop Being So Positive - Harvard Business Review

But stimulating desire does increase productivity.

Looking at the picture of the Lamborghini you want will stimulate dopamine in the same way the lion’s dopamine is stimulated when it sees a gazelle. Looking at a pamphlet of the college you want to send your kids to will push your motivation through the roof. Set it as your wallpaper. Set it as your screensaver. Review your goals daily. Write out exactly the life what you want. Wha will you do every day. Make it so it generates as much emotion and desire as possible. WHY do you want something? Do you want the feeling of freedom? Do you want a better life for your family? Your wife? Your kids? Your grandkids? How would it impact their lives. How would it make their lives easier and increase the chances of them having an amazing existence.

Why, why, why.

Your first grade spelling teacher was actually wrong. ‘Motivation’ actually begins with a ‘why.’ (okay, okay, sorry I’ll keep the puns to myself lol)
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