The Personal MBA

Master the Art of Business

A world-class business education in a single volume. Learn the universal principles behind every successful business, then use these ideas to make more money, get more done, and have more fun in your life and work.

Buy the book:


What Is 'Motivation'?

Motivation is an emotional state that links the parts of our brain that feel with the parts that are responsible for action.

There are two basic desires that spark Motivation: moving towards something desirable, and moving away from something not desirable.

Motivation is an emotion, not a logical activity. Just because your brain thinks you should be motivated, that doesn't mean you'll become motivated automatically.

Conflicts result when there are "move towards" and "move away" signals at the same time. This defense mechanism was developed to avoid risks in the past, but most present risks are no longer life or death situations like they used to be.

As long as there are also "move away" signals that create a Conflict, it's hard to feel motivated to do something. Eliminate the inner conflicts that make you move away from potential threats, and you'll find your motivation.

Josh Kaufman Explains 'Motivation'

Motivation is something that you probably think about all the time, using terms like "I'm feeling really motivated to get this done," or "I'm not feeling very motivated to do this right now." Since so many of us rely on the term to explain our daily experience, it's worthwhile to understand what we're actually talking about.

Motivation is an emotional state that links the parts of our brain that feel with the parts that are responsible for action.

Using the Onion Brain as a basic model, motivation is the link between the midbrain (which perceives the world) and the hindbrain (which sends the signals to our body to take action).

In most cases, motivation is automatic-our mind perceives a difference between the way things are and the way we want them to be, and the body acts to eliminate the difference.

You can break down the experience of motivation into two basic desires: moving toward things that are desirable, and moving away from things that aren't.

Things that fulfill our Core Human Drives appear desirable, so we experience an impulse to move toward them. Things that appear dangerous, scary, or threatening are undesirable, so we experience an impulse to move away from them.

In general, "moving away" takes priority over "moving toward." The reason comes back to Caveman Syndrome-if you value your survival, running away from a lion takes priority over cooking lunch.

Let's say you have an exciting opportunity to start a new business. A feeling of excitement may cause you to move toward that opportunity. At the same time, if the opportunity requires you to leave a high-paying job you like, which feels risky, you may be compelled to move away from the very same opportunity, resulting in Conflict.

As long as the risk outweighs the excitement, you'll hesitate, even if there's very little chance you'll ever be in personal danger if you take the leap.

This safety mechanism in our minds developed for very good reasons, but today, most of the decisions we make don't have life-and-death consequences.

Motivation is an emotion-NOT a logical, rational activity. Just because your forebrain thinks you should be motivated to do something does not mean you'll automatically become motivated to do that thing. (If only it were that easy, right?)

Very often, Mental Simulations, Patterns, Conflicts, and Interpretations hidden in the midbrain can get in the way of making progress toward what we want to accomplish. As long as there are "move away from" signals being sent, you'll have a hard time feeling motivated to move toward what you want.

In the same vein, you can't "motivate" other people by yelling at them to work faster-all the drill sergeant approach accomplishes is making them want to move away from you. They may comply with you temporarily if they perceive some threat to themselves if they don't, but you can bet that they'll move away from working with you at the first available opportunity.

Eliminate the inner conflicts that compel you to move away from potential threats, and you'll find yourself experiencing a feeling of motivation to move toward what you really want.

Questions About 'Motivation'


"BUT I DON'T WANNA!!!"

Two-year-old children everywhere


From Chapter 6:

The Human Mind


https://personalmba.com/motivation/



WANT TO BE NOTIFIED WHEN UPDATES ARE PUBLISHED? Subscribe to Josh Kaufman's email newsletter. You'll receive Personal MBA updates, Josh's award-winning research, and useful resources that will help you make more money, get more done, and have more fun. It's free!

The Personal MBA

Master the Art of Business

A world-class business education in a single volume. Learn the universal principles behind every successful business, then use these ideas to make more money, get more done, and have more fun in your life and work.

Buy the book:


About Josh Kaufman

Josh Kaufman is an acclaimed business, learning, and skill acquisition expert. He is the author of two international bestsellers: The Personal MBA and The First 20 Hours. Josh's research and writing have helped millions of people worldwide learn the fundamentals of modern business.

More about Josh Kaufman →