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How to stay motivated: neuroscience behind our driving force

Updated: Mar 23, 2023

Motivation is a fundamental concept that refers to the driving force behind our thoughts, emotions, and behaviors. It is what compels us to take action towards achieving our goals and fulfilling our needs. While motivation can fluctuate over time and can be influenced by various factors, including personality, environment, and individual differences, it is essential for success in many domains, including education, work, and sports. Understanding the science behind motivation and adopting effective strategies to maintain motivation can help individuals to achieve their goals and lead fulfilling lives.


The science behind motivation is complex and involves several brain regions and neurochemical processes. These are just a few examples of the many brain regions and processes that contribute to motivation:

  1. Dopamine: A neurotransmitter that is released in the brain when we experience pleasure or rewards. It is often referred to as the "feel-good" chemical and is thought to play a key role in motivation.

  2. Nucleus accumbens: A region in the brain that is involved in the processing of rewards and is heavily influenced by dopamine. This region is often activated when we engage in activities that bring us pleasure or satisfaction.

  3. Prefrontal cortex: A region of the brain responsible for decision-making, planning, and impulse control. It is thought to play a role in regulating motivation by determining the value of rewards and helping to guide behavior.

  4. Basal ganglia: A group of nuclei in the brain that are involved in the regulation of movement and motivation. They are thought to play a role in helping to establish habits and routine behavior patterns.

Motivation can be intrinsic, stemming from an internal desire to pursue a particular task or activity, or extrinsic, influenced by external factors such as rewards or social pressure.

Athletes may have intrinsic motivation, meaning they are driven by internal factors such as the satisfaction of achieving a personal best or the joy of participating in the sport. They may also have extrinsic motivation, such as the desire to win or receive recognition or rewards. Nevertheless, motivation takes some mental strength attributes.

There are several reasons why people may struggle to stay motivated, including:

  1. Lack of clear goals: If people do not have specific, achievable goals to work towards, it can be difficult for them to maintain motivation.

  2. Lack of progress or results: If people do not see progress or results from their efforts, it can be demotivating and lead to a sense of futility.

  3. Overwhelming challenges: If people face challenges that feel too difficult or insurmountable, they may feel discouraged and lose motivation.

  4. Negative self-talk: If people engage in negative self-talk or have a negative self-image, they may struggle to maintain motivation and may even become self-sabotaging.

  5. Burnout: If people push themselves too hard for too long without taking breaks, they may experience burnout and lose motivation.

  6. Lack of support or resources: If people do not have adequate support or resources to pursue their goals, it can be challenging to maintain motivation.

One of the main factors that affect motivation is self-esteem.

When an individual has high self-esteem, they tend to feel confident in their abilities and have a positive self-image. This can lead to increased motivation, as individuals who have high self-esteem may be more likely to believe in their ability to achieve their goals and to take action towards them. Conversely, low self-esteem can be a significant barrier to motivation, as individuals who do not feel confident in themselves may be hesitant to take risks or pursue challenging goals.

It is important to recognize that motivation is a complex construct that can be influenced by many factors, and what works for one person may not work for another. However, by identifying the factors that are affecting their motivation and adopting effective strategies to address them, people can increase their likelihood of staying motivated and achieving their goals. Sometimes all we need is a specialist who can guide us on the right path, this is where the mindset coaching and brain training can be helpful.

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