The Science behind Motivation

“I am not motivated enough to complete what I have started. I need some sort of “push.” I think I am still missing the spark within me to do it.”

I hear similar statements being made all the time. Does that mean I have to sow a ‘motivational seed’ to reap results? Let me try map the real meaning and scope of the word Motivation, so we can understand how it works.

“Motivation is a reason for us to react or follow a pattern, a looped physiological behaviour of an individual.” The argument regarding the difficulty of staying motivated is perhaps real, and it’s actually a hard task to stay motivated or to motivate some one. The science behind it identifies these 4 distinct aspects of motivation:

Neurological aspects
Physiological Aspect
Internal aspects
External aspects

a) Neurological aspects: As per neurosciences, motivation is the desire, the need, or the drive to achieve something. Motivation can be further categorised into “the liking phase” and “the seeking phase.”

The Liking phase – When you want to repeat an activity because you ‘like’ doing it. For example, the interest felt by a boy in meeting his girlfriend or the drive felt by an athlete to practise his game.

The Seeking Phase – When you want to win a competition over your colleagues or competitors, or for an entrepreneur, winning a bid or the felt urge to expand their business.

The similarity in the liking and seeking phases is that you always feel pleasant and positive. This is nothing but a series of chemical reactions called ‘dopaminergic reactions,’ that start in your brain. The Dopaminergic reaction releases dopamine (DA) or the ‘pleasure drug,’ which signals to the brain and the central nervous system when you “like” a particular event or situation, and makes you responsive to that event.

b) Physiological Aspect: The physiological aspect of motivation is unique to an individual. The physiology of your motivation depends on your thought, behaviour, and lastly, your performance. Take a look at this representation of the physiological cycle of motivation:

Thoughts translate into behaviour—>Behaviour/attitude impacts performance—>Good performance affects your thoughts—>and the cycle repeats.

You can relate the above cycle to anything you want to achieve. Say that I have a thought towards staying fit and healthy. This thought can be reflected in my eating and workout patterns, and that becomes my behaviour. When I behave in a positive direction aligned to my thoughts, I will perform well. My performance will generate more good thoughts that will help continue what I have started. And the cycle repeats.

c) Internal Aspects: An example of internal motivation can be the INFS students who have registered themselves for the foundation or expert level courses. The internal aspect that motivates them to register themselves will be the goal to learn nutrition and assist people with health and nutrition related queries. Internal motivation can be a force that naturally drives an individual to an action or event.

d) External aspects: When you perform a task either out of threat, reward, or competition, you basically fall into this category.

Threat : Threat of losing the job makes the employees work late hours and be productive.
Reward : Rewarding a promotion to the best performer is yet another way to motivate them.
Competition : When you compete, the motivation to be first makes you practice harder.

Now let us come back to where we started from, and answer a crucial question regarding motivation for fitness goals: “How to stay motivated for fatloss?”

Well there is no magic wand to stay motivated, but I will say look for the following factors to keep yourself on track –

  1. Stay positive: When you stay positive at the start of an event, you will end it well.
  2. Dedication: A good example to explain dedication is the role played by women as daughters, mothers, sisters, and wives. Each of these roles require them to adapt and adjust to a different identity. But they do it all the same, in the best way possible.  What motivates them to do this? Does anyone motivate them to commit to their different roles? No, this commitment stems from their dedication, which is directly proportional to motivation.  Every undertaking needs a commitment to closure when it is executed. Staying true to this commitment is dedication.
  3. Stay busy : When you have time to kill, you will either end up eating or sleeping. So its best to stay occupied and reduce idle time. Or, if there is idle time, go to sleep.
  4. Start slow: Don’t expect swift outputs, give yourself some time to achieve small milestones.

The word ‘Motivation’ can seem rather overrated. When you say “I am not motivated enough,” either you are unable to stick to a plan, or you don’t know why you had started it. It depends on every individual to find out what drives them towards an action or an event. Rather than complaining that you are not motivated, try to answer these questions :

Do I want to do it?
Why do I want to do it?
What is the end result if I do it?
Is it just because he/she is doing it, that I want to do it?
Am I ready for it?

Hence, shift the emphasis from something unquantifiable and subjective, like motivation. Instead, stay focused and clear about your thoughts and goals. Having clear thoughts will undoubtedly set off the chain reaction required for your internal motivation to see you through to the finish!


Article Credits : Navdeep Chawla