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How Tricking the Brain Can Keep You Motivated

What's the secret behind lasting motivation?

Any of us who have worked on complex, lengthy projects know that there are times when staying motivated can be a challenge. We've also probably learned that the best motivation comes from within ourselves in the form of passion for whatever we are doing. As long as we feel that passion, we keep doing whatever we need to do to reach our goal.

But how do we maintain that feeling? And what happens when we don’t?

Scott Duffy, the author of the book Breakthrough, wrote, “When things get tough, really tough, your business will fail it you don’t have a deep sense of purpose tied to it. Without a clear reason to stick it out, it’s just too easy to walk away.”

So that raises another question. How do we generate and sustain that kind of clear reason over the long term?

Here’s what we’ve learned. Motivation, thriving-style, happens when we identify the future feeling we’ll have when we accomplish a goal and begin experiencing that feeling now, well before we’ve actually achieved our goal.

When we do so, with real intent, the power of that future success, experienced in the present moment, draws us toward it like a magnet, inspiring us to act. By practicing this technique, we can actually reach the point where our subconscious mind becomes utterly convinced that the goal has already been accomplished. It then employs its own unconscious filtering mechanism to begin scanning reality for all of the pathways that support that reality. In other words, it starts looking for how the future success happened.

Allowing ourselves to be motivated by a future emotion is a strategy that’s been used by successful athletes and performers for decades. And now it’s being used more and more frequently in business and day-to-day life. For those of us who have experienced this dynamic, we know how powerful and persistent this kind of inner motivation can be. It’s strong enough to survive the variety of challenges and obstacles that inevitably appear along the way.

Another secret to keeping our motivation alive is using the buddy system. If we share the feeling of our future success with someone we can partner with, then we can also invite each other to remember and tap into that magnetic feeling when the going gets tough.

But it’s not enough to simply stoke the fires of future success. They need to be followed by actions, even small ones, that signal to our brain that we are actually engaged and on course. Acknowledging and celebrating the small successes along the way also triggers a chemical response in our endocrine system that provides us with an internal reward that helps keep the feeling of our future success alive. It’s like a self-reinforcing loop.

In our book Thriving in Business and Life, we talk about the “slinky effect” to describe this connection between vision and action. The Slinky was a toy invented in the 1940’s. It’s still around and millions of us have enjoyed starting one down the stairs and watching as the back end caught up with the front end. In our metaphor, vision is the front end, action follows, pulled by the vision, which then drives the vision forward again, followed by more action.

Here’s your Thriving challenge for the week:

Pick an area of your life where you want to stoke your motivation.

Create a clear vision of what you want to accomplish and identify how you will feel

when you have achieved success. Call upon this feeling throughout the day or week to help motivate you as you infuse that feeling

into the actions you engage in throughout the day.

Will Wilkinson and Christopher Harding

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