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.
There are two types of regret, big regrets and small regrets. An example of a big regret would be accidentally killing a someone, while driving drunk. Obviously, this would be a difficult experience to recover from, giving that you have no way to truly make amends to the family of the person. Your process of healing would take a great deal of courage to self-forgive, improve your life and experience the guilt free happiness you desire and deserve.
Then there are the small regrets. As painful as big regrets are, small regrets are more difficult to deal with, because they are difficult to identify, all the while influencing your every decision making. Small regrets come from issues such as procrastination, and feelings of shame from experiencing everyday failures people typically experience in life. The primary problem with small regrets is that unless identified, they keep people stuck in old and detrimental habits. Every day you engage in the same types of routine, while life outside of yourself progresses forward.
People with unresolved small issues of regret, are stuck in their non-conscious states of anxiety, related to making the same mistakes again, that they seldom make steps in improving their lives. The good news is that it is possible to move past small and accumulated issues of regret, even if you are having a difficult time, identifying them.
First you must identify where you would currently like to be in your life. As simple as this exercise is, some people have a difficult time completing it, because they get caught up with what they perceive as possible and what they don’t. The key to successfully completing this exercise, is to suspend your beliefs and create the life you want for yourself on paper. Suspending your beliefs is beneficial for this exercise, because you are trying to access your feelings of joy. A joyful mindset is exactly what you need towards tackling and overcoming challenges in your life.
Secondly, it’s important to note that feelings of joy can not be accomplished from external sources, most notably, approval and acceptance of others. Your feelings of joy can only be accomplished from your unconditional approval and acceptance of yourself and subsequently others. The exercise helps to rekindle you with feelings of joy because it puts you in a mindset where you are no longer anxious, overwhelmed or depressed with the current challenges you experience in your life. The joy does not come from the imagined acquisition of material possessions or approval of any second or third parties, but instead the joy comes from the recognition that you possess the power to influence peace in your life.
It is with this joyous mindset that you can transition past feelings of regret regarding past decision making that have led you to experience unwanted consequences in your life. Further, this joyous mindset will aid you in identifying steps you will take in real life to begin the process of creating the life you want for yourself.
This process is easier said than done, as most people who attempt this exercise on their own, will get lost in their unhealthy thoughts which reinforce their experiences of anxiety and depression. As common sense as the exercise is, you will experience a high chance of success working with a trained professional who will guide you through the challenges created by your perceptions.
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.
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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 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 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.
Imagine you are on an island, let’s give this island the name, Island A. So you are on Island A and you have found yourself unhappy with the island for a number of reasons. So you go to a travel agent’s office and you request for a ticket to leave the island. The travel agent agrees with you for the number of reasons you are fed up with Island A, and asks you where you would like to go. Then it occurs to you, you don’t where you will like to go.
This is precisely what happens whens we struggle to get past feelings of resentment, we have not yet identified how we will like to feel about the person and or situation we feel resentful about. We are stuck on our feelings of hurt, in regards to what was done/ or what we believe was done to us. The reason we find ourselves stuck with these feelings of resentment, is because our rules on how others should treat and behave towards us has been violated. This leads to a part of us, wanting the other party to change to our liking or at the very least make some sort of amends.
Such a mindset leads to a false sense of control, specifically over the thoughts and actions of others. Overcoming feelings of resentment comes down to the practice of accepting others for whom they present themselves to be. Accepting others for the things they say and the actions they carry out, leads to a focus on those whose words and actions we find ourselves in agreement with.
In short, rather than dwell on what someone has done to you, you can focus on aligning yourself with another person whose actions are consistent with your belief system. So going back to the initial analogy, if you walked into the travel agent’s office with the intent to leave Island A, the focus of your conversation is not going to be on expressing yourself on how much island A sucks, the focus of your conversation would to instruct the travel agent to put you on another specific island. For example, you would ask to be placed on the next ferry to Island B. At that point, if you and the travel agent were to become engaged in a casual conversation, the conversation would be on why you want to travel to Island B. Most people in this instance, would be more likely to focus their attention on what they consider to be the merits of Island B, rather than what they don’t like about Island A.
If you are stuck with feelings of resentment, chances are that you have unintentionally bought into a belief system on how other people should behave towards you. Moving past acute or lingering feelings of resentment comes from focusing on what types of people and subsequently, new and other relationships you will find beneficial.