Motivating yourself can be difficult, especially when you plan out your work and worry about finishing it or just think it’s going to be incredibly boring. With a little imagination, however, you may be able to rewire your brain’s reward system to actually motivate you to do that work.
The frontal lobe of our brain—the part responsible for how we think about and imagine the future (and often do so poorly)—can get a bad reputation since it’s essentially what causes us to worry. Worrying aside, it’s pretty much the part of the brain that makes us uniquely human and can provide us with great rewards.
Dr. David D. Nowell, writing for Psychology Today, suggests that we can essentially hack our brain’s reward system by better understanding how it works. Dreaming of a pleasant future is one of the things that makes us feel happy—by providing a little kick of dopamine—so integrating that into how we plan can change what might be a source of worry and anxiety into a pleasant feeling. When you’re planning, Nowell suggests that you don’t just set the end goal but anticipate what it’s going to feel like:
[D]opamine – the neurotransmitter of motivation – is associated with bodily feelings unique to each of us. What motivates and rewards you might not work for me. The important thing is to know your end goal. What do you want to feel? Nobody wants a hunk of red metal. But some people do want what they think they will feel when they’re driving their very own bright red convertible.
How we feel is often absent from practical tasks like planning, but this is one big reminder of how our emotions can actually play a vital role in how motivated we are when we start a task. Bring a little imagination to the work you might think deserves none at all and you may be surprised by the results.