Self-motivation, innate or learned?

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Self-motivation is the internal drive to take initiative and action to produce, develop, achieve, pursue and keep moving forward. It’s a force that keeps pushing you to go on without someone pushing you to do it.

So, is self-motivation innate or can it be taught?

Research has found that self-motivation ignites from the part of the brain known as the nucleus accumbens. Neurotransmitters send chemical messages (dopamine) to the rest of your body to keep us alert and focused. It’s the part of the brain that influences our force to complete a project, exercise or achieve a goal.

Some people naturally have higher levels of self-motivation and higher capacity for self-control. These individuals will have higher levels of dopamine in the reward and motivation portions of their brain. Such people often have a higher need to feel in control and tend to be focused, organised, planful, goal-oriented, responsible, persistent, and highly motivated.

Despite some people having more innate biological motivations compared to others, motivation is a skill people can learn by changing their feelings and life hacking their dopamine levels.

Here are some strategies on how you can stay motivated.


Set a goal

If you’re really struggling with motivation or find that you’ve got too much going on in your life, you can keep it simple by setting one goal. If you can manage more goals, set them, but a word of caution, too many goals may bring you unstuck.


Find inspiration

You’re more likely to stay motivated if your goal inspires you. If you’re not overly inspired by your goal, try to find something within the task that does motivate you.


Get excited

It might sound obvious, but sometimes we can make a choice about being excited. Sometimes it’s difficult to get excited about things, however, talking to people about your goals may raise that excitement to come out!


Go public

Tell people, write your goal down or share it on social media. Sharing your goal will help you keep your promise to those you’ve told.


Plot your progress

Plot your progress by drawing or creating visual representations of achieving your goal as this can help inspire you.


Daily commitment

Think about your goal daily and send yourself daily reminders. A goal worked on every single day, even for a couple minutes, is a goal that will be reached.


Break up your goal

Break your goal into smaller chunks. Consider completing the easier tasks first to build confidence and progress towards the more difficult tasks.


Get help

It’s difficult to achieve your goals on your own. Seek support from others, join a class or find someone with a shared experience who can help keep you on track.


Celebrate the wins

Don’t forget to celebrate! Reward yourself each time you complete a step and get closer to achieving your goal, no matter how small or big it is.

So, is self-motivation innate? Yes, it is higher in some people than others, however, that doesn’t mean it can’t be taught. With the right structure and disciplines in place, you too can become self-motivated and get things done.

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Lynda Schenk

An energetic and strategic marketing professional with over twenty years’ experience in industries ranging from wine, not for profit, transport, logistics and manufacturing. Lynda founded Purple Giraffe Marketing Consultancy in 2014 offering an end to end marketing service that draws on her proven ability to formulate brand strategies and marketing communications plans that build brand equity, growth and profitability.

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