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The first rule of a motivation club is to tell everyone you can about the motivation club to get a reward. The second rule of the motivation club is that too many rewards exclude you from the club. This also happens if you have too few. The motivation club has a lot of rules.
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We often bump into motivational quotes on social media, and coaches in ads promise to charge us with motivation overnight for a lifetime. But for some reason, not even the most inspiring quote can save you from procrastination. And it's not even that the quotes are bad. It just doesn't work like that, primarily on the brain level.
Check out new research from discussion groups of Founders Club startup studio.
Evolution has given us control over our behavior, but to make the human development process more efficient, it has also introduced a "reward system" for the brain. It is this system that reinforces the behavior that promotes survival, and turns us away from potentially deadly things.
One of the main chemical factors in this system is the neurotransmitter dopamine (remember this name). It will manage our motivation club, learning and retention processes from the very beginning.
It is the release of dopamine that helps us remember the moments when we experienced pleasure, and then strive to reproduce them again. It adds motivational importance to events and is tied primarily to the instincts of survival and reproduction.
Motivation is what drives us to action.
The factor that ultimately shapes our behavior, pushes us towards certain decisions and turns us away from certain actions.
Purposeful behavior, like the learning process, is possible precisely because of the motivation system. We are able to do, among other things, something that does not bring immediate results, because we have a "memory of reward", formed by dopamine.
We differ from animals, which also have a "reward system", by a more developed consciousness, and, accordingly, a more complex system of motivation. The multidimensionality of consciousness and the context in which we are immersed every day complicates the whole process of motivation. Food and physical comfort is not enough for us to feel fully satisfied. We have a more developed system of complex values, which ultimately expands natural motivation, adding incentives to it that are determined by our environment, time and culture.
The context of our life is getting more and more complicated. Events are gettig more and more intensive, and the available information sources give us an ever-growing stream of information. It is absolutely certain that what motivated our parents can no longer motivate us just as well: we have different values, needs and priorities for complex stimuli.
According to research by The Incentive Research Foundation, different generations are motivated by different incentives when it comes to work. Thus, Generation X, as children of the post-war generation of workaholics, are more eager to maintain a work-life balance. Therefore, the possibility of flexible hours and long vacations will be an effective additional incentive to maintain their work motivation.
Unlike lone wolfs from the parental generation, Millennials are team players, according to researchers. Where it is important for the genration X to hear individual praise from a leader face-to-face, the Generation Y employee will get a stronger motivation through positive feedback from colleagues.
And don't underestimate Millennials' following generation Z! Zetas are the first generation to grow up with widespread access to the Internet and technology. They get the hang of SaaS products and new digital platforms easily, and trust Internet mediums more than any previous generation. You can’t “hunt” them using the old methods as they tend to trust employers who have reached out to them through digital channels more.
And if you have already managed to attract such workers, it will be most effective to motivate them through what is important for this generation. Give them space and opportunities for growth, respect their independence, celebrate the efforts invested and support the community. Zetas are more social than previous generations, also due to being raised in the social media environment. This is why community recognition and public recognition of merits are important to them. It’s basically like getting likes on Instagram, but in real life.
It takes a separate skill to understand all the incentives and needs, how they are layered on each other and on the reward within the framework of basic incentives, how they fit into the surrounding reality and relate to our values.
This is necessary in order to understand the sources of your experiences and actions, and awareness can help you do so. The ability to stop in the moment and check-up your state and surrounding events makes it possible, among other things, to timely notice how your individual motivation system begins to limp.
And the moment you understand that motivation suffers, there is an opportunity to help yourself (as we already figured, motivation is a must for achieving your goals and performing the tasks). This is where the skill of mindfulness comes in handy as it helps you understand how the motivation system works in your case.
Analyze and understand what your dopamine machine responds to the most.
What’s your perpetual-motion machine? Is this praise from others? Is this seeing the result of your work? Find it and strive to create corresponding conditions.
Making a list of your needs or values will also help remind yourself why you do what you do.
It is difficult to radically and directly affect the level of dopamine, even if you praise yourself every day. But it is possible to develop a skill of mindfulness that potentially takes motivation to another level.
Thus, psychologist Abraham Maslow, the author of the famous "Maslow pyramid", believed that, having satisfied all the basic needs underlying motivation, a person begins to feel the desire to step up and realize their ultimate potential. Then they acquire a state of “metamotivation”, where they are guided by the need to achieve such things as, for example, justice, beauty, goodness and truth.
You can develop the skill of mindfulness with the help of special practices, here digital solutions come to the rescue. There is more than one app on the market today that offers mindfulness tools. These are meditation services, mood trackers, and even marketplaces of psychotherapists, if you need an expert to help you on the way. You can, of course, get yourself a collection of motivating quotes, but only if you create comfortable conditions for yourself with a harmonious balance of incentives that work for you at the same time.
Without understanding this ratio, you may find yourself emotionally burnt out even if you have a well-paid job. When you receive a salary, that is, positive reinforcement, with the help of dopamine, you reinforce the following link in the brain: "I completed tasks — I received a reward as a result". This will motivate you for the next month. But money is the primary external stimulus, and it won’t take you very far. In modern realities, we also need more complex reinforcements.
If you can create a situation around yourself that motivates you nonstop, then it will stimulate your further growth. This is roughly what Maslow said: by satisfying basic needs, we release our potential for more complex systems of values, goals and motivations.
And this knowledge allows us to manage these processes more confidently — both our own and those of others.
Identify the source of the problem:
Take a closer look at when you have a block on a seemingly needed action. Why can't you "just do it" — at what stage does it fail?
Maybe you do not have a physical resource, because you managed to imperceptibly emotionally deplete?
Or does the task not correspond to your real goals and values? Usual incentives no longer work, so you need new ones, but still don’t understand where to get them from?
A point for managers: Analyze how different the types of motivation you give your team members are. And remember that just salary, even a high one, won’t motivate anyone for a long time.
But this is not the reason to cut salaries in favor of interesting projects. Learn the "balancing act of the leader": the art of balancing different types of motivation for employees of different ages and psychological types. Without this, instead of developing the entire team, and therefore the project, you will face stagnation or regression because your team members burn out one after another.
Study and Help Yourself:
Once you find the cause of the breakdown, engage in a pleasant process of remembering which incentives work best in your case. Is this money? Is this an opportunity to grow your competencies? Or recognition of merit in the face of colleagues and the world? From now on, try to surround yourself with the right proportion of your chosen stimuli.
This does not mean staring at a movie screen while lying on the bed. Instead, this is a long and difficult, sometimes painful process of boosting the skill of awareness, not a reason to procrastinate a little more.
To make the process easier and faster stock up on ready-made tools. There are mood trackers, meditation apps and psychotherapy available. You can eve find a therapist in the marketplace app in the same store as the previous tools.
Sky is the limit
Don’t stop after going through the difficult yet deliberate path of identifying how your personal motivation mechanism works.
The fact that you have acquired a great skill of mindfulness that scales to all areas of life, does not mean you will know how to properly motivate yourself once and for all.
As we already said, our psychology depends on the circumstances of our lives: if the latter never stands still, then why should the motivation be the same at any moment?
Practice motivation “check-ups”. Ask yourself once in a while what has changed in you and in your environment and how it affected incentives and motivation, respectively. And again, mindfulness apps are there to help.
Do Not Condemn, but Accept
And most importantly: having figured out how motivation works, try to stop forcing yourself to do something. The ability to influence its mechanism does not include a constant "stick", it is more about choosing various "carrots".
That is why "pull yourself together!" will not lead to anything productive in the long run, whether you say this to yourself or your employee.
Finally, a little glimpse into the future.
A therapist and your own reflection skills can help you cope with awareness and understanding of your internal systems, but who will help you take the next step? Time may provide the answer in the form of specialized motivation experts - mentors who accompany your process of tuning a machine of your own motivation — just like it already gave birth to specialists in the field of other skills and needs.
But why not take it a step further? Given the speed of progress, chances are they will want to solve this task using AI capabilities. If you load the data of your biography, life context and individual response to various external stimuli into a conditional neural network, then it can, among other things, help you construct a “recipe” for working motivation right now and adjust it, learning from new data coming every day. If today neural networks successfully determine the basic emotions of a person, then, taking into account the development of neural interfaces, endless possibilities open up.
Let’s just hope scientists and developers themselves will stay motivated.
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