The funny thing about motivation

I’ve been working on a project for a large organisation for the past six months and recently we’ve run into some delays that were out of our control. That has meant that much of the work on the project has had to slow down. As someone who does her best work when there’s a lot to do and when deadlines are looming, I’ve been struggling to stay motivated and enthusiastic.

This has got me thinking about how motivation works.

Motivation and pressure

Isn’t it funny that for many of us – and I know this because I’ve spoken to a LOT of people about this very subject – motivation comes much more easily the more pressure we are under.

Just think of every working parent you know… juggling work, kids, school homework, housework, pickups, drop offs – and goodness knows what else – while the rest of us look on in awe and wonder how they do it.

Motivation drivers

Ian Crawford, a motivation and procrastination expert, says that motivation is driven by three things; need, value, and goals. If that’s true, then I guess it stands to reason that the higher the need, value or goal, the higher the level of motivation. It sounds obvious and most people would agree that they easily achieve the things that they feel are necessary, provide them or others with value and are goal-based.

But why do I (and many people I know) do my BEST work when there is less time to do it? And why is the quality of my work not so great when I have all the time in the world to finish it?

“Human motivation is highly influenced by how imminent the reward is perceived to be”, explains Mitchell Moffit from AsapSCIENCE. “The further away the reward is, the more you discount its value.”

In the same article, Robbie Gonzalez from Lifehacker, says it’s a myth that we perform better under pressure and that this is just another excuse for procrastination. In other words, it goes something like: “I do my best work under pressure, so I won’t start on this yet.”

Motivation and dopamine

I’m also interested in the effects of dopamine on motivation. In an I Done This Blog article on the science of motivation, Kevan Lee and Willa Rubin say that “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.”

Further, motivation happens when your dopamine spikes because you anticipate something important is about to happen. The brain can be trained to feed off of bursts of dopamine sparked by rewarding experiences. You create the dopamine environment (I like the sound of that!), and the brain does the rest.

Well, motivation seems a very subjective thing. Perhaps you work best under pressure like me, or perhaps we’re all deluded and really just procrastinators in disguise. But I prefer to believe that it’s dopamine that drives us to action and impending deadlines are one way to trigger the dopamine environment.

* Image sourced from Pixabay

Angeline-Zaghloul-copyright-gina-digitalAbout Angeline: 

Angeline Zaghloul is an expert in business strategy, client management and business processes, and is the Managing Director of Peer Business Consulting, a Sydney-based consultancy providing strategy and operations advice to startups and SMEs. Angeline also publishes a regular blog which provides research, advice and tips on key issues facing businesses.

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