The Neuroscience of Motivation | Scott H Young - Deepstash
The Neuroscience of Motivation | Scott H Young

The Neuroscience of Motivation | Scott H Young

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Success is gained through systems, not inspiration

Motivation is just a kind of system.

If you can understand the system, you can change it and use it to gain a better outcome.


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How motivation works inside the brain

How motivation works inside the brain

Our brains are parallel computing systems. Billions of neurons and trillions of synapses all fire independently. Yet, we can only take one action at a time. For example, we can't sit and jog at the same time.

The basal ganglia is situated in the brain's neocortex and receive inputs from many cortical regions, such as your frontal cortex (thinking, working memory) and motor cortex (physical actions). It controls which action to support based on which set of activities will lead to the best rewards. But the system is very short-sighted.


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Comparing motivation to water flowing downhill

Motivation can be compared with water flowing downhill. Water will always flow in the path of least resistance. If there's a slight lip of land, the water will pool because it can't get over the hump.

Our motivations are similar. We want to be rich, fit, intelligent and successful, but the action to get there requires some effort (uphill). Our impulse is to procrastinate instead.


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Staying motivated by designing better goals

  • One solution is to tilt the playing field if your temporary motivation is strong enough, keeping in mind that there will be lots of little bumps.
  • An alternative can be to smooth the bumps by reducing friction to your goal.
  • Another is to block the easier routes to help you stay focused.
  • Better though is to design a new path for your goal that will flow where you want it to go. The person who gets in shape doing an activity they love (skiing, hiking) might not need so much motivation to get there.


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