Regular Rewards a Key to Maintain Motivation

If you've ever started a new project full of enthusiasm and energy, only to find that your motivation has dried up and disappeared within a few days/weeks/months, you are not alone.
I've been doing some interesting reading about the way the brain works recently. General health and stress levels can affect motivation, so can addictions. However, for the majority of us, a major secret to maintaining motivation lies in engaging the cooperation of the unconscious mind.

The unconscious brain has many functions. One of them is focused on keeping us safe, and moving us away from pain and towards pleasure.

When we first start a new project working towards some future goal, the conscious and unconscious parts of the mind are usually working harmoniously. Our conscious mind has "sold" the pleasure of our future goal to the unconscious, and for a time they work together.

Conscious Mind: "We are saving for an overseas holiday at the end of the year. So we need to work really hard and save now to bring in extra money for that."

Unconscious Mind: "No problem. Work hard now, lots of pleasure later. I can do that. Let's go!"

The unconscious mind is fully engaged, and gives you all the motivation you need. You put a firm schedule of work and saving in place and off you go.

After a few months, however, your enthusiasm begins to flag. You may find yourself procrastinating on essential tasks, or wasting money on items you don't really want or need, even though part of you is screaming 'You wasteful idiot! What are you doing that for?'

Before you know it you are falling further and further behind in work and financial targets.

What's happening is that the unconscious mind, which governs motivation, has realised that the anticipated pleasure is either too long in coming, or simply not worth all the pain and deprivation you are going through now.

At that point an inner switch flicks off, and your motivation simply vanishes. The unconscious starts trying to create as much fun (i.e. pleasure) as it can right now. It is interested in instant gratification and is simply not satisfied with the promise of a holiday at the end of the year.

The answer is to re-train the unconscious to support your project, by rewarding yourself regularly and frequently .

In financial terms a way to manage this is to allocate a proportion of savings to 'fun' – and make sure you spend that money every week/month/fortnight (depending on what income schedule you budget on)

In terms of work and general motivation, a trick that works for many of my clients is to create a list of 10 or more instant rewards and to make sure you have at least one every day.

Rewards do not have to be expensive or time-consuming. Here are some time and cost-effective treats that have worked for me and my clients.

  • Sitting in the sun doing absolutely nothing for 10 minutes.
  • A 15 minute walk looking for all the different shades of one colour you can see.
  • Slowly eating a piece of fresh fruit, savouring every mouthful.
  • A luxurious bubble bath complete with candles and mood music.
  • Giving yourself a hand or foot massage. (Getting someone else to do it for you is even nicer)
  • Deliberately allowing yourself 15 to 30 minutes to read a book, or watch a favourite programme.
  • Turning on some favourite music and dancing and/or singing for 10 minutes
I'm sure you get the picture and will come up with ideas that suit you and your tastes. Whatever you choose, maximise your pleasure by engaging all of your senses fully in the activity.

Just remember: to maintain motivation, keep the unconscious mind on side by rewarding yourself with pleasurable activities every day.


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