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Your Motivational Triad

Today I want to introduce (or perhaps re-introduce) you to the motivational triad. This is a model of thinking, feeling and acting that has kept us humans alive as a species for thousands of years. It is this: avoid pain (watch out for the galloping sabertooth), seek pleasure (eat, drink and procreate), conserve energy ("hey, use this cool bow and arrow to kill and capture dinner").   

Knowing where your chief centers of motivation come from means you can get a clear and objective understanding of how your brain naturally operates when left to its own devices (i.e. an "unmanaged" mind). When you gain awareness here, you're then able to course correct with consciousness and intentional thoughts and actions that point your life in a more desirable direction.

This natural wiring used to be necessary to keep us motivated to live in a way that kept us alive: seeking nourishment, procreating, conserving energy, minimizing and avoiding threats to our survival.

As we come up against this programing, we tend to think that something is wrong with us. But that is not the case. This is how a healthy, normally functioning brain works right out of the box. We have to be intentional with how we program it. Awareness of this can zap some of the power. So here's the breakdown.

Avoiding Pain

In the day pain meant death and rejection from our tribe of people actually meant banishment, which would also be a potential death sentence.  Fear is our natural emotional instinct to threats of our safety in these realms of physical and social safety. Your brain is constantly seeking for physical and social danger because those threats are a big ass deal to archaic us.  

Today that old fear around physical and social safety shows up when we're irrationally scared of "taking risks", failing or basically risking disruption of our current physical comfort or public perception. You are naturally wired to be negative. So anything unfamiliar can feel as intense as a true "threat" to our lives, but often is just a threat to our current comfort level -even if your current "comfort" sucks, your brain thinks it is familiar and you're alive, so it is good {insert cave woman grunt}.

Comfort and familiarity often trump uncomfortable and novel because they are interpreted as "safe". We might avoid putting ourselves in new experiences. Or we work to make people happy at our own expense, for instance, overworking and over stressing about a project for fear of facing potential rejection from a client. We avoid trying new things, or just stay close to our most familiar routines - even if they aren't routines that we want to keep, such as when we are stuck in an old habit or unable to build a new one. We may even do things like avoid self-promotion, even though gaining new clients is an important aspect of running a thriving business. 

The truth is, people may "kick us out" of their tribe, criticize our work, and certainly we will "fail" at something if we do new things.  Avoiding new things, the judgement of others and doing cartwheels around what we think is "pleasing" to another person sets us up to stay exactly where we are, if not fall backwards.  Moreover, since it's impossible to control the thoughts and feelings of others, you're much more likely to sacrifice your own growth, happiness and nurturing of your authentic true self while working towards such impossible feats. Working to stay the same, "people please" or avoid anything that illicit fear or risk isn't a valid, noble, worthy of our greatest efforts to maintain. It actually perpetuates more fear in us and erodes our self confidence. 

Just because your brain says "no, let's go back to the cave!" in response to fear, does not mean there is a problem you can't survive ahead. And it doesn't mean fear is a problem. 

Seek Pleasure

In the day (and, welp, today too!) seeking pleasure basically means we desire to eat food, have sex, and, well, seek pleasure. Both humans and animals do this. At our foundation those things are kind of a big to survival, right!?

Today, it's obviously still necessary, it's not really the central part of our lives any more.  Food is available everywhere, easily. It's even highly processed and packs a concentrated dose of pleasure... it's actually designed now to be addictive and overly appeal to our natural pleasure seeking sense. Which is one of our major motivations... top three in fact. 😊  

Now, tons of activities that are designed to offer up a good dopamine hit tend to be addictive in nature; think about Netflix, social media, concentrated and processed substances that are found in food and booze all intended to hook us. That pleasure offers hits of instant gratification. We likey that. So, in essence, your brain is wired to crave more of the instant gratification stuff. 

The problem is that a lot of these hits of instant gratification we are lusting after are not actually good for us. A cracker made in a factory to offer up the scientifically perfect amount of crunch, salt and fat is going to appeal to us way more than a bell pepper, for instance. But the effects of that cracker on our health are deteriorating, whereas the pepper, a naturally but different kind of satisfying food adds to our health. Getting a "like" on social media gives us a quicker sense of gratification than the more time consuming work of building connection with a new friend, or even creating a moment of gratifying connection with your longtime partner. 

Keeping some level of awareness of our natural tendency towards false, super concentrated pleasure can help to keep power over it and limit our doses.

Conserve Energy

In the day, when we weren't sure when your next meal will walk by, our bodies couldn't be frivolous with expending a lot of energy on physical or mental tasks on just anything. That instinct would have us minimizing the amount of discomfort we endured to exert physical energy of our bodies, but also what we do inside our brains, like learning something new. This is why we are so heavily governed by autopilot - concentration and awareness burn vital calories. Having a built in system that puts our repeated and familiar tasks and even thinking on autopilot means we conserve energy by not having to think about things we do everyday - from walking to how we do our jobs. It also kept us looking for ways to make life sustaining tasks easier and more efficient. The desire to minimize physical effort has motivated us since the beginning of time from bow and arrows to remote controls. 

As creatives we have built up certain routines and practices that make creating natural. Creative thinking, to some degree, is in our autopilot activities. We also have patters of thinking, belief, emotions and behaving.  Our brain is good at it. And sometimes, we find ourselves feeling very stuck there. 

We feel like we can no longer relate to our old identity, but creating a new one feels difficult. 

Our brain naturally uses the past as evidence to confirm who we are, as opposed to looking to our future to decide who we want to be. Efficiency is all about the thinking that has already been thought... feelings that are felt on the reg, behaviors we are familiar with.

Being wired to be efficient means we just keep on repeating.  

You have neural pathways that are strong because you've done, thought, and felt a similar way over and over. That repetition is what makes them strong - like lifting a weight. Who you are now is because of those pathways. The amount of money you make, your body of work, your physical weight... these are results you have in your life because of your thinking, feeling and acting. When you want new results, you may not have evidence that you can create them. This creates resistance. This is simply your brain trying to be efficient. There is nothing wrong with you. Until you change what you decide to believe about yourself, you'll just keep recreating the same.  

Flip it and reverse it...

If you're not managing what your mind thinks with awareness and then guiding it to think on purpose, you're going to get hung up. So, in modern life we have to go against the triad.... seek discomfort, actually go towards pain instead of avoid it as our wiring would have us do.  Rather than conserve energy and brain power by doing less , we have to make extra effort towards our goals or deeper desires. Be willing to be new at something, embrace what's unfamiliar and go off of autopilot to instead be more aware, thoughtful and intentional. And instead of going for the super concentrated instant hit of false pleasure, we must program ourselves to go after the deeper pleasures that actually offer a deeper more satisfying gratification, it's just that the reward/pay-off is much more delayed. Think about activities that build deep connections with others and ourselves, or eating healthy, satiating foods our bodies were meant to eat. 

On one hand, this is mind management 101: be aware of the natural programing of your brain, recognize when that wiring is kicking in and driving you to act in a way that doesn't serve you.  Decide on purpose to walk into discomfort and forego instant gratification.  It's applicable in any area of your life. 

This is the formula for blowing your own mind. Do hard shit. Get uncomfortable on purpose. What if you just went for all the things that bring up irrational, fearful warning lights in your mind? What if you traded the instant gratification of a false pleasures for the deeper but delayed pleasure of blowing your mind?

Thanks to the ability to build new neural pathways, you can condition your mind to choose bell peppers over crackers, to build habits that breed deep connection, and learn the new skill that makes you competent in an area you were once weak. Before you know it you'll have a new normal and your autopilot will start working for you, making the "little" but incrementally beneficial habits more automatic and natural. 

You won't want to at first. But nothing has gone wrong. Your brain is wired for easy, pleasurable, and safe.

Look at your desires for your life. Pick one. What scares you about it?  Where do you get hung up on pleasure or taking the "easy" way? Why don't you have this result in your life already? Ask yourself these questions to see how the triad is working against you. Those reasons are what you have to go through in order to achieve this goal. Make a list of to-do's and make a plan for the obstacles you'll have to overcome as you become a person that achieves it. 

Preparing yourself to be tripped up somewhere is setting yourself up for success in advance. Which means you are less likely to fall back on this natural "motivational triad" programing when you have a plan you have thought through. 

How does the person that has this result in their life think and feel and act? Practice being this person now. Just like a toddler learning to walk, you'll get stronger, more capable and acting, feeling and thinking more and more like a person with this result. (For more on what to do with the discomfort of the desires, read here.

If you need a hand, I gotchew! Schedule a 45 minute discovery call with me to see if my program to help creatives get unstuck to gain momentum and confidence is right for you! Click here!



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