What Causes Lack of Motivation?

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On a biological level, what poor motivation looks like in the brain is a depletion of neurotransmitters in the brain reward and motivational pathways. Specifically these neurotransmitters are serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine, and are typically triggered in the brain by two primary factors, psychotropic medication and thoughts.

Yes, thoughts are the primary and organic influences of chemicals in your brain as well as the pathways created in your brain by the electrical exchange of signals. So in short, the primary reason you struggle with poor motivation boils down to what you think. However it gets more complicated that this, as the thoughts you are conscious about are not necessarily the only thoughts you are engaged in.

Thinking in the brain happens on two levels, the first being thoughts within the sphere of your consciousness and thoughts outside of your consciousness, with the latter being more significant. Thoughts that occur in your sub consciousness are more significant because these are the thoughts we often act out upon. Exceptions would be when the behavior we are about to engage in is deemed socially inappropriate.

So you may be asking yourself, “how do thoughts get into our sphere of sub consciousness to begin with?” The answer to that question is much the same way we learned to swim, ride a bicycle or drive a car. In short, ideas and values we learned, which we then taught to the inner mind. Further, because we find ourselves engaged in other thoughts, we find that most of our core beliefs and values have been relegated to the auto pilot functions of the subconscious mind. So if you already are seasoned in riding a bicycle, the technical steps involved in the riding of the bicycle are so familiar to you that you execute them effortlessly without thinking.

When it comes to the issues with poor motivation, it more than likely that you subconsciously operate on a core set of beliefs and values you learned as a child, which have been triggered by your current circumstances. Take for example, years ago at a former job, I began noticing that some of the employees where no longer taking their tasks and duties seriously. When on the job they seemed to move deliberately slowly, further there are on uptick in people not showing up to work and calling in sick.

In a team management meeting, we readily acknowledged that something was wrong, but none of us could accurately identify why morale among the employees seemed to have taken a hit. Until one day it was revealed that someone had anonymously or accidentally, left a list of all the employees and their salaries on the photocopying machine in the main office. It also turned out that another person had taken the liberty to make copies of the salary list and distribute among staff.

That was the answer, the employees whom had suddenly began demonstrating a disinterest in the job, also happened to be some of the lower earners on the list. They were clearly no longer happy about what they were making, once they learned about what some of their coworkers in similar positions where making compared to them. It became easy for me to conclude that they probably felt taken advantaged of, and this line of thought most likely triggered a belief system that caused a decrease in their motivation to come to work. I also did find it interesting that there where other workers whom were among the lower to the lowest paid and even though they learned about what they were earning relative to others, their levels of motivation did not decrease.

So your struggle with low motivation boils down to what you believe about your situation. Do you feel like you are wasting your time? Do you feel you are competent and good at what you are supposed to be doing? Do you feel the playing field is fair? Or, do you feel overwhelmed by the amount of work you believe you have to do, and have concluded that it can’t be done?

Regardless, asking yourself these questions will begin the process of challenging your perception about your situation which will hopefully lead you to accurate answers. Which will no doubt restore within you, healthy levels of motivation. This being written, the process can be complicated and depending on how severe your issues with poor motivation are, you will likely benefit from the services of a therapist.

Ugo is a psychotherapist and life coach.

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My Co Workers think I am Weird

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When fielding new clients for social anxiety and Asperger related issues, this is a common statement I hear. My response to this statement is, so what?

More specifically, what is your purpose in that specific workplace? Are you there to socialize? Accomplish a specific feat, or make a living? For most people, it’s the latter two. Further questions I would typically ask is, do your co workers have any real reasons to pronounce you weird? What does weird mean? Awkward conversations? A concern for their safety around you? If so, why?

In all cases, when I have responded to the potential client with why their co workers see them as being weird, the answers have all boiled down to social awkwardness. In a recent conversation, one man shared with me about how his supervisor called him into the office to share concerns expressed to him from other employees about the client’s social awkwardness. I asked him if he had experienced any open conflicts with any of his co workers and he told me no.

The only reason your supervisor should be counseling you behind close doors should be regarding your work performance. If the business can afford to get on your case for being socially awkward, then you must be in the wrong business, or working for the wrong company.

All relationships are transactional, and for people who struggle with varying degrees of a handicap in being able to pick up on non-verbal cues, they can learn effective strategies to successfully interact with others. Just like the deaf and those unable to speak utilize sign language, those who are socially blind can learn effective strategies for effectively communicating with others.

You see, the problem is a lack of self-acceptance. It would be absurd to demand that a deaf person start listening properly, or that a bling person improve his sight. Likewise, it is just as absurd to demand someone on the spectrum to pick up on gestures he has struggled to read his entire life.

With self-acceptance, you learn to focus on your strengths and what you want. So, in communicating with others, you speak your truth and take guess work out of the exchange. If the other party is unwilling to reciprocate, this is not your concern. You adopt a goal-oriented attitude towards living your life and if you are doing no harm, you really have nothing to worry about.

In the Road 2 Resolutions Social Confidence Coaching program, clients learn how to develop concrete visions for what they want to do with their lives, while practicing the assertiveness skills needed for fulfilling their vision.

To learn more about the Social Confidence Coaching program, please visit this link.

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Practicing Change to move past feelings of Hopelessness.

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Depression is often marked by a feeling of hopelessness. People in this state of mind have come to the erroneous conclusion that their life circumstances are unchangeable. To make matters worse for some people, they have made efforts to change their circumstances for the better, but to no avail, and have subsequently given up.

For people in the predicament, after having experienced repeated bouts of failure, they truly believe that there is absolutely nothing that can ben done about their situation. Fortunately, they are wrong about this belief, for two reasons. The first being that change is a constant, and the second being that they didn’t invest enough time in become good at the change they wanted for themselves.

In truth these situations appear overwhelming to them because they have adopted an attitude of helplessness

Change and Investment

There is a popular joke regarding a man who struggled in his attempts to quit drinking. Once he was asked by a friend how his sobriety was going, and he stated that he had been sober for the past 24 hours. By accident he was doing the right thing, in taking things one day at a time, but it truth, he fully intended to resume his drinking later in the evening.

The point is that change is easy, you simply begin engaging in a preferred behavior you have seldom, if ever engaged in the past. However, that doesn’t mean you will be good at it, to the point where you begin receiving the desired results from the change you are practicing. This is the reason so many people give up, they start doing something new, in which they are novice at, and become discouraged when things aren’t going their way.

It’s like taking up golfing for the first time and becoming discouraged because you golfed a terrible score. Mastery must be achieved, before you can set realistic standards in anything you do.

So, there is hope, however in anything you are doing for which you have very little experience, it’s going to take some time before you can expect to drastically change your circumstances. Regardless of what external changes are taking place, it is important to adopt a patient mindset to create the effect you which to experience in your life.

So how does this help with depression? Well the depression itself is caused by feelings of hopelessness that comes from a belief that an undesirable situation will remain the same or get worse. Further, for those who do attempt to practice change, a lack of patience, will likely derail their progress as they will be too inexperienced to create the effects they desire at what they are doing. However, if one where to adopt an attitude of patience and subsequently humility, their sense of hopelessness becomes forgotten as they become hopeful for what the future holds for them if they continue to practice the change they are practicing. Subsequently, this also decreases the severity of their depression.

Ugo is a psychotherapist and life coach.

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Overcoming Trauma

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One of the biggest challenges most therapists face when working with clients, is helping clients overcome their issues or more specifically, their stuck-ness on their experiences with trauma. From cognitive behavioral therapy to EMDR, there have been a few psychological approaches developed to help sufferers from trauma, heal and move on with their lives.

However, by themselves, these psychological approaches are not effective. The reason for this is because, for a person to heal effectively from trauma, there needs to be paradigm shift in the person’s thinking. Specifically, in the person’s world view.

To further understand this, we must first examine what trauma is. The most common definition for trauma is “a deeply disturbing experience.” Then we must ask ourselves, what is a deeply disturbing experience? To understand what constitutes a deeply disturbing experience, we must first examine what constitutes a non-disturbing experience. A non-disturbing experience would be described as an experience meeting a person’s expectations, an experience meeting a person’s expectations would be described as a normal experience. So, if experiences where to be judged by an individual on a spectrum, the middle of the spectrum would be normal, while either end of the spectrum would be deeply disturbing, and surprisingly joyful.

So therefore, anything outside of the normal range would be either positive or negative experiences the person did not expect. So, what makes a deeply disturbing experience traumatizing?

Deeply disturbing experiences are traumatizing because like all types of experiences, they shape our perceptions of life. The more significant the experience, the more it demands that we alter our perceptions of reality. Take for example, a situation where you lose your wallet with a significant amount of cash in it, only to have it returned to you by a stranger, with all your monies intact. Such an event will be joyful one for you and it will be so significant that it will cause you to alter your perception of the world at large. However, with a joyful occurrence such as this, you will be altering your perception for the better. Specifically, you will be altering your perception to become a bit more trusting of people,” this will be easy to do, since the alteration is positive.

But what about a negative experience? One that involves you becoming less trusting of people? This is where trauma comes in, as we are naturally resistant towards making negative alterations of our perceptions. Especially when we think it will be permanent. For issues like extreme violence, betrayal and apathy, people have a difficult time having to adjust their perception of reality to fit these narratives. This is because often times, they interpret the consequences of these negative adjustments as having to live their lives without the support of others. This is precisely where trauma is created. For one to alter his perception of experiences to accommodate bad truths, is a difficult process. Difficult because it calls for a person to make radical changes in his life. Changes so drastic that people, places and things are not ever seen the same again.

So instead of making these changes, the sufferer, chooses to hold on to his old perceptions, which he deeply knows are no longer true, and this is what creates and prolongs the trauma.

So, how can a person heal from trauma. By a concept simple to grasp and but challenging in practice. That concept is to use the same truths he has come to, to create a new life of meaning and value for himself.

By doing so, he now permits himself to let go of the pain to hold on to a new joy.

Ugo is psychotherapist, life coach and owner of Road 2 Resolutions PLLC

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On Doing Difficult Things

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There are strategies for accomplishing just about anything someone has been able to accomplish. Yet, it is not uncommon for people to avoid using reasonable strategies to address their situation. The most common reason people give for this, is that it is too hard.

It is true, overcoming symptoms related to anxiety and depression is going to be difficult. Be it getting out of bed in the morning or moving past your feelings of fear to engage in an activity you know will be of benefit to you. Hardship is inevitable and subsequently to be expected.

So how do people get past issues with difficulty to improve their lives? The answer is that it is an issue with mindset. Learning to change one’s mindset regarding doing difficult things helps in getting past issues related to doing difficult things to improve one’s life.

If you find yourself in a position to practice necessary change in your life, and you find yourself thinking that it is “too hard,” here are three things to help better orient your mindset.

  1. Difficulty is temporary

Imagine if you broke your writing hand and while it healed, you had to resort to writing with your healthy non-writing hand. The question for you once you have this scenario in your head is this, will it be possible to for you to learn to adequately and legibly write with your non-writing hand?

Most people will instinctively say yes, and they would be correct. As neuroscience has demonstrated, the brain will rewire itself to learn a new skill. The initial attempts will be difficult, but, with applied consistent effort there is a certain threshold where the process gets easier as you become more efficient at writing with your non-writing hand. As in all new things you practice for the first time, the initial stages of difficulty are simply your brain’s way of adapting to a new process.

Another example would be weight lifting. If you are lifting for the first time, and you intend on lifting heavy in the future, the process on working on your form and even managing the current weight you lift will be difficult at first. However, after a period of applied consistent effort, the process gets easier.

  1. Difficulty is necessary

The process of doing something difficult will initially serve as a shock to your system. It will signal to your brain, that all resources need to be dedicated to your adaptation to the new task at hand. So long as your commit to applying consistent effort, the fact that you are having trouble engaging in this task means that your brain is rapidly rewiring itself for you learn to do what ever it is that you are doing.

The idea that you should only focus on doing things that come easy to you is inaccurate and unhelpful information. This is because, while it certainly helps for you to engage in things that come easy for you, inevitably you are going to have to do other things to gain new frames of references for achieving growth.

  1. You become more disciplined at doing difficult things.

If it is true that change is a constant, then it is inevitable that you are going to go through changes in your life that will require you doing new and difficult things. The good news is that if you allow yourself to submit to the process you need to change your life, you gain the experience of practicing self-discipline in your daily life.

If you struggle with symptoms related to depression or anxiety, the change you need to practice in your daily life is going to be initially difficult and rewarding in the long term. The choice to change is always yours.

Ugo is a psychotherapist with Road 2 Resolutions PLLC.

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Why Your Thoughts Are More Important Than Your Feelings.

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Feelings are important, but your thoughts are more important. The reason for this is because, your feelings are influenced by your thoughts. For people who struggle with symptoms of anxiety and depression, this can be frustrating because they certainly have no intention of entertaining thoughts which cause them to feel anxious or depressed. This frustration is understandable given that people don’t consciously give precedence to depressive and anxious thoughts.

Two types of thoughts.

The problem is that most people don’t understand that they have two types of thoughts that go on in their heads simultaneously. They have thoughts, that they are conscious about, and then they have non-conscious thoughts.

Conscious thoughts.

Conscious thoughts are thoughts that we actively create, through our interactions with our daily experiences. Through our interactions with daily experiences, we are either confirming what we have already come to believe, expanding on the principles of what we have come to believe, making corrections on the principles of what we have come to believe, or completely disregarding what we have come to believe and embracing an entirely new concept.

Conscious thoughts are thoughts we actively and intentionally create, through our inner dialogue or dialogue with others. This is the reason people often have a difficult time believing that their thinking about an experience or a series of experiences have led to their issues with anxiety and depression. No one intentionally thinks their way to depression.

Non-Conscious thoughts.

Non-conscious thoughts are previously established thoughts that work automatically in the background while you are consciously focused on tasks and activities you have determined to be more important. An example would be learning how to drive. When you first learn how to drive, you are consciously aware of the reasons for every little thing you do with the driving of the car. You are consciously aware of when you decided to time the breaks, when you decide to accelerate, when and how you make a turn and so on and so forth. After six months of driving, the thoughts you give to these activities occur beyond your awareness when driving as you give more attention to other things, such as finding a radio station you like or seeking out directions in a new place.

Non-Conscious thoughts are pre-programmed and occur automatically, in response to specific stimuli. With the car example, the stimuli in question was pretty obvious, however in most cases the stimuli, or trigger for unhealthy non-conscious thoughts are subtle. Keep in mind that most of these powerful thoughts were formed during early like experiences, most of which people don’t remember.

The solution is to identify what a life without any of the symptoms associated with depression or anxiety would look like. This process involves the practice of optimistic thinking and identifying the behaviors that go along. The next step would be the process of behaving as if you were already in a place of calm and happiness. This process triggers a reverse feedback loop where your behavior begins influencing your feelings, which in turn strengthen your practice of new thoughts.

The process of practicing change for the better is a difficult one and well worth it.

Ugo is a therapist with Road 2 Resolutions PLLC

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Dealing with Stress and Anxiety

Feelings of stress and anxiety are predominantly influenced by the bio chemicals adrenaline and norepinephrine. The chemicals come into the play during situations the brain perceives as dangerous, activating a fight or flight response. The problem is that most times people experience stress and anxiety are related to situations that are not life threatening. The fight or flight response system is perfect for life threatening situations, such as a house fire, or narrowly avoiding a car accident. However, the fight or fight response system is grossly ineffective for inconveniences such as the possibility of job loss or an ongoing feud with a neighbor whom you perceive as aggressive.

When the fight or flight response system is employed for non-life-threatening situations, the bio chemicals involved remain in the system for longer than necessary and begin to cause health issues in the person who is experiencing prolonged stress and anxiety. A common unwanted effect of prolonged stress and anxiety is a compromised immune system, which leaves the sufferer susceptible to a wide range of illnesses.

With this being written, there are three strategies to effectively cope with and move past issues with stress and anxiety. These strategies are as follows.

Control your thoughts.

The space between what you think and how you choose to behave, lies your feelings. Therefore, all feelings are influenced by your thoughts. What you think produces a spectrum of positive or negative feelings to the degree that things are going your way or otherwise. Your thinking influences your perception of everyday events, which include your perception of your ability to get your basic and psychology needs met, regardless of the challenge. This in turn influences your overall sense of confidence and subsequently your behavior. To control your thoughts means that you should begin practicing positive and reality-based thinking. So even when things are not going your way, your positive thoughts will help you in practicing resiliency through challenges and in resisting the temptation in resorting to old negative thoughts.

Recognize your triggers

Once you begin practicing strategies for positive thinking, you need to become aware of people, places and things that trigger your old negative thoughts. After all your brain is still wired to think this way, and it usually takes about 30 consecutive days of practicing the new thoughts, for you to develop significant resiliency to the old ways of thinking. Once you have successfully identified people, places and things which trigger your old ways of thinking, and subsequently behaving, you have two options. Your first option is to avoid these identified triggers. In most cases this isn’t feasible, this leads to option number two, which is to change your thoughts on how you perceive these identified triggers. Ideally, it is best to exercise both options, if possible.

Create your new reality

This is synonymous with controlling your thoughts, in fact it is the same thing, but taken to another level. To create your new reality, is to identify what types of people, places and things you would ideally engage with. The next step will be to identify the pragmatic steps towards making your ideal situation a reality. This is the most powerful step in the process of dealing with stress and anxiety and the most challenging. Because in the process of identifying the types of people, places and things you prefer to be surrounded by, you are now tasked with the difficult step in orienting yourself towards becoming more compatible with your ideal reality. So yes, this involves the process of picking up where you last left off in changing yourself for the better.

All these steps are possible, and they involve commitment towards practicing the necessary cognitive behavioral strategies towards dealing with and moving past issues with stress and anxiety.

Ugo Uche is a psychotherapist with Road 2 Resolutions.

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Moving Past Fear and Towards Your Goals.

I have a new quote on the bottom of my email, it goes; “We are our own prisoners and consequently, our own liberators.” It’s a quote I came up with and it was inspired by works of Victor Frankl and David Hawkins, but it’s not quite new as I have been using it for at least the past three months to date.

Most of the reasons we have for experiencing fear in our lives, make sense. However, nursing these fears leads to anxiety, and results in you resorting to primal instincts of either being confrontational or avoidant. When this happens, this creates the illusion that external factors prevented you from realizing your goals, or in some cases, creating your goals in the first place. However, the fact is, your goals where not realized because you did nothing.

So regardless of what rules you follow, what beliefs you hold or what you witnessed someone in a similar position to yours, go through, you prevented yourself from thriving. This is good news, because since you have control over the choices you make, you can then go through the challenging process of liberating yourself. Yes, the process is challenging, but you can liberate yourself.

One common reason why you have failed to meet your goals is that you understandably play it safe. Often when people play it safe, they are living dangerously. They could be living a situation that they find convenient and perhaps comfortable, but they are not thriving. When their attention is turned to towards promising situations, they find the investment too costly and risky if they cannot be guaranteed the outcome they desire. So, they remain in their current situation. The problem with this strategy is that things change, and things change because change is a constant.

This means that stagnation is an illusion, because if you are not keeping up with changes then you are regressing. When people play it safe, they don’t develop the necessary skills compatible with changing times and subsequently find themselves out of practice in taking action when it really matters. Further, playing it safe brings you closer to your worst fears, when you are no longer able to maintain your “safe” situation. A good example would be finding yourself phased out of a job. Deep down you knew the job was really a dead end, but you shied away from opportunities to improve your situation due to the amount of sacrifice involved and not being guaranteed an favorable outcome.

The solution lies in knowing this open secret; while there are no guarantees in life, for as long as you are alive and in good health, you will always get your needs met. Things will always work out for you at the bare minimum, because you are simply not going to sit still and allow yourself to wither away. Herein lies your guarantee, aim high enough, and even if you don’t reach your mark, you will land above where you started.

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3 Tips for Managing Depression

Depression is a state of mind, caused by an overwhelming loss of hope. People who experience depression have reached the erroneous conclusion that they can never find happiness due to a series of unfortunate life experiences. As a psychotherapist, I am a firm believer that people can permanently transition past chronic experiences of depression. However, such a transition is a process, that comes from the exercise of practicing positive and reality based thinking.

Here are 3 cognitive strategies for effectively managing difficult periods of depressive feelings.

 

Reestablishing Hope

There are more than one ways to be happy, however as creatures of habit, it is understandable that we would become habituated to a lifestyle, we believe we can find happiness in. To make matters worse, we often surround ourselves with a tribe of people who agree and reinforce our path to happiness, even though such a path may have run its course.

Most people in this predicament, find it difficult to imagine themselves reinventing their lives, for fear of the ties, connections and conveniences they would lose. While there is a kernel of truth to their concerns, establishing a path in your life cannot come from fearing what you will lose, instead it can only come from envisioning, what you truly desire.

The process of reestablishing hope, comes from focusing mostly, on what you desire. Creating a picture in your head of your desire, experiencing the feelings of joy from the picture you have created, then going through the process of modifying your behaviors to make your vision a reality.

 

Staying Fit

It is well known that daily exercise helps your body release a cocktail of chemicals known as endorphins. Endorphins bind with receptors in your brain that relieve you of feelings of pain, which allow you to create positive thoughts and ideas which trigger positive feelings.

The most important step towards addressing depression is reestablishing thoughts and feelings of hope. Such a feat cannot be accomplished when you are engulfed in negative thoughts and feelings. Being engulfed in negative thoughts and feelings, leads to you brooding over worst case scenario along with chronic feelings of despair.

Another benefit of staying fit, is that it boosts overall brain performance and it also allows more access for use of the executive functions of the brain. This is important for being able to solve complex problems. Such as being able to transition past an overwhelming sense of hopelessness.

Establishing a Routine.

Most people who struggle with depression, will often forgo routines pertaining to self-care and self-development. A good example will be daily hygiene. The reason for this is that the depressed person desires to feel good again, and has non-consciously decided that the only way they are going to engage in any meaningful tasks is if they feel good.

While good feelings are important, they are not consistent. This is because change is a constant in the world around us. Due to this, our perception of whether we are getting our needs met changes often, and subsequently so does our feelings. So therefore, relying on our feelings to determine whether, we are going to follow through with tasks in our daily lives is notoriously unreliable.

Establishing a routine is a matter of self-discipline. You need to practice doing things that are important, regardless of whether you are in the mood to do these things or not. Also, once a routine or several routines have been established, it helps with your sense of self confidence even in your most troubled days. This is because you will have certain things going for you are a result of your routine.

Ugo is a psychotherapist and life coach.

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