I hear it all the time: “I’m not motivated.” For many of my clients, they are referring to not having the motivation to perform basic life responsibilities such as paying bills, cleaning the house, making calls, and taking care of their health.
When do they get motivated? When they are in the danger zone. A late fee motivates them to pay bills. When friends come over, or when the house is so disgusting they can’t take it, is when they get motivated to clean. They get motivated to make a call just minutes before a negative consequence, and motivated to take care of their health in times of sickness.
What is really happening is that procrastination has trained the brain to dump adrenaline right before the event, and we get energy to take action. Adrenaline does give us energy, so we wait for the adrenaline dump to get motivated.
Things eventually get done; however, it comes with a huge physical cost, and low-level living that can lead to depression, anxiety, and lack of enjoyment. The undercurrent of daily living is a negative environment. Motivation to get things done comes from the danger zone of fear, worry, and anxiety. This can make life feel dull and hard, keeping the stress cycle of procrastination going and flooding your body with harmful stress hormones.
The good news is that you can change the undercurrent. Here are five steps to increase positive motivation for a healthier, happier life:
1. Educate yourself.
Know that the same human brain that dumps adrenaline has the same to potential to dump happy hormones such as serotonin, endorphins, and dopamine.
Serotonin gets released when you feel significant and important and have a sense of internal satisfaction. Endorphins (endogenous morphine) are the body’s natural opiates designed to relieve stress and enhance pleasure. They get released with certain foods, social connections, and light to moderate exercise. Dopamine motivates us to take action toward goals and desires, and gives us pleasure when achieving them. But you have to actually taking some action to release dopamine, even in small increments.
2. Stop the adrenaline dump.
Pay at least one bill every week. This is not about the timely manner in which you pay bills; it’s getting your brain away from the danger zone to stop the adrenaline dump. Clean 10 minutes each day and maybe an hour on the weekend instead of the adrenaline-rushed four-hour “motivated” cleanup. Your brain will have no reason to dump adrenaline at the last minute if you do small increments and you get the benefit of helping your brain release dopamine more often.
3. Become aware of perceptions.
Simply observe thoughts while doing your small increments. Do you perceive the event as dreadful, painful, and boring? If so, you perceive the event as an emotional danger zone, and of course you procrastinate. Your brain also has potential to change thoughts toward perceived mundane activities which make up about 80 percent of daily life — such as eating, showering, cleaning, driving, and walking.
4. Be truthful.
Draw into the truth of the actual experience, not your creative stories about how dreadful it is. When you wash the dishes, feel the warm water. See the suds. Smell the dish soap. Pick up a cup and plate. Lift the cup into the drain board. Clean the cup. Is this really so dreadful?
When you pay bills, go to the bank website. Look at your balance. Open an envelope. See the amount owed. Pick up the checkbook. Reach for a pen. Write letters and numbers. Affix a stamp to the envelope. Walk to the mailbox. Or, lift your fingers a few times to pay online.
5. Tap into gratitude to finalize new perceptions, and know that there is more truth.
You are glad to have children who track mud in the house. You are glad to have a house to clean, to pay for, and for a cell phone bill that keeps you closer to friends and family. You are grateful to have a house that friends want to come to, and glad you have friends. You are glad to have the food that you are cleaning off dishes.
You are glad that you have a body that hugs and kisses, and is able to speak, see, and hear words of gratitude. You are grateful to have all these things, and you are motivated to take care of and appreciate them.