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Taming the Motivation Monster

By Dr. Jill Ammon-Wexler, Pioneer brain/mind researcher |

One of the greatest mysteries we face is how to get, and stay, motivated. But some new research into how our brains work has provided exciting clues about how to tame the "motivation monster."

Recent research has proven there's a direct route from your eyes to a unique part of your brain called the amygdala (ah-mig-da-la). So what? This happens without going through the conscious portion of your cerebral cortex (your thinking brain.)

Here's how it works, and why it is so important: Suppose you are in your garden, you pick up a rock to move it, and a rattlesnake crawls out. That image is propelled directly into your amygdala to initiate an immediate life-saving response.

You leap out of reach of the snake before you are even aware of what you saw, or why you reacted. Interestingly, this powerful direct pathway can also be "trained" to carry images of anything of critical importance to you – such as your master goals.

The secret is this: The more emotion tied to those images, the more likely they are to be rushed directly to your amygdala. And once they're there ... the more likely they'll cause an automatic positive response in support of your goals.

This is why packing your goals with hot desire and emotion builds and sustains motivation. The more intense your emotion, the more likely you'll notice anything in your field of vision that relates to reaching your goals – even if you are focused on something else at that time!

Building "Motivation Power"

We humans are motivated by basically two things – gaining pleasure, and avoiding pain. Anthony Robbins claims that that pain is a greater motivator that pleasure, and I tend to agree with him.

Here's a little exercise that could help you fire up your emotions, and get your "amygdala shunt" working for you:

Imagine walking into a room and meeting the "you" of ten years from today. What will you look like? How will you be dressed? Where will you be living? What will your lifestyle be like? What car will you be driving? Will you be running a business? If so, how successful will you be? What will your net worth be?

You really only have three choices about how your image of the "you of the future" will look. Your choices look something like this:

Choice One: Somewhere between how you are today, and a totally broken mess. Here's where the "avoiding pain" motivator could kick in.

Choice Two: An exact duplicate of how you are now except ten years older. Absolutely nothing will have changed in a decade. Again – not a very satisfying picture for most of us, and perhaps a strong "avoid pain" motivator for many.

Choice Three: A happier, healthier version of the "you of today." This will kick in the "gain pleasure" motivator.

Selecting Your Best Motivator

Obviously, no one would choose to visualize choice number one. But in doing so, you may in fact create a hot and intense "amygdala shunt."

So every time you see some image that reminds you of NOT moving ahead, your amygdala shunt will spur you to take automatic action. "Make that phone call NOW," it will insist – and you will have the telephone in your hand before you even think to procrastinate.

If you choose option number 2, you are effectively saying that nothing will change over the next ten years. You will be older – but your lifestyle will basically remain the same as it is today. That is – the "you of 10 years in the future" will be identical to "today's you."

You will still face today's problems and frustrations, but will have ten more years of them piled up. This is an active decision to remain in your comfort zone – which is actually only an illusion of safety.

It's an illusion because in today's rapidly changing world, what you call your comfort zone is being eroded beneath your feet as you read this.

That leaves option number three. This is the arena of dreams and wishes. If all we had to do was have a dream, and if would then automatically come true, none of us would ever have to set goals ...and try to build the motivation to achieve them.

But the fact is – dreams only come true if we wake up and go to work. And unless you are a most unusual person, you usually find that the problems and challenges of everyday life take priority over working to manifest your dreams.

So – obviously holding a happy picture of some future life may NOT build the intense fire and desire required to create that desired lifestyle!

If your motivation is NOT adequate to overcome procrastination, you might want to take a good hard, look at what you DON'T want in your life. If you can fire up some intense emotion about NOT continuing to have that in your life, you may well find your amygdala shunt pumping some new action-energy into your life!

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