Welcome to this month’s newsletter! This got longer than I intended, but I want to build on interest in the moment! We’ll touch on building long-term momentum and cultivating consistent motivation, especially around goals and changes and habits we want to sustain.
Motivation is the driving force behind our actions and behaviors. For individuals with ADHD, maintaining consistent progress can be challenging because we’re often asked to do things that don’t align with our motivation. This taxes our reserves and our more limited inhibition. And a lot of it we will still have to do! It’s important to understand that motivation is not always constant; it fluctuates, and that’s okay. The key is to find strategies that work for you to keep your motivation levels up when you need them the most. And in the long run, building towards more things you are motivated or interested in doing is key. It’s the only sustainable way.
The Science Behind Motivation
Motivation is deeply rooted in our brain’s reward system, primarily involving the release of dopamine, a neurotransmitter associated with pleasure, drive and movement . When we are motivated, dopamine levels increase, creating a sense of reward and satisfaction. This surge in dopamine reinforces our behavior, making us more likely to repeat it. Dopamine, a neurotransmitter in the brain, plays a crucial role in motivation. It transmits pleasure, reward, and motivation signals. In individuals with ADHD, the brain’s reward system may be less responsive, making it more challenging to maintain consistent motivation for things that aren’t of interest. However, we can develop strategies to enhance motivation by understanding the underlying neurobiology. (for more on dopamine catch this episode of the Huberman Lab Podcast: https://youtu.be/QmOF0crdyRU)
Internal vs. External Motivation
Motivation can be categorized into two broad types: internal and external.
Internal motivation is driven by personal desires, values, and intrinsic rewards. It stems from a genuine interest in the activity itself and a sense of fulfillment derived from its completion. Because ADHD is an interest-based nervous system, learning to understand and leverage your internal motivation is essential!
External motivation is fueled by factors outside ourselves, such as rewards, praise, or recognition from others. Over time, primarily being driven by urgency and doing things to please others will create burnout.
Leveraging Internal Motivation
Now, let’s explore strategies for harnessing internal motivation, which can be particularly effective for individuals with ADHD:
- Align with Your Values: When pursuing goals or tasks, consider how they align with your personal values and aspirations. Engaging in activities that resonate with your core values enhances intrinsic motivation, as they are inherently meaningful and fulfilling. Reflect on what truly matters to you and incorporate these elements into your pursuits.
- Tap into Curiosity: Curiosity is a powerful driving force that fuels intrinsic motivation. Embrace a sense of curiosity and approach tasks with an open mind. Explore different angles, ask questions, and seek new knowledge. By nurturing your natural curiosity, you can sustain motivation and find enjoyment in the learning process.
Harnessing Short-Term Motivation with the PINCH Model
The PINCH (Play, Interest, Novelty, Competition, Hurry Up or Urgency) model offers five key motivators that can help individuals with ADHD cultivate and sustain their internal drive—this is more a moment-over-moment model, but still helpful!
Humans love to play. Many of us have forgotten or view it as unproductive, though. Among its many benefits, adult play can boost your creativity, sharpen your sense of humor, and help you cope better with stress. Play creates a light-hearted way of looking at tasks that can help overcome boredom and overwhelm. Connecting with a greater purpose can fuel intrinsic motivation and help you focus on your goals. Can you make a game of something you’re avoiding? (Even if it’s dumb, can you empty the dishwasher before the end of a song? Find a new way to lay out your clothes as you fold them.
As individuals with ADHD have an interest-based nervous system, leveraging your natural curiosity and pursuing activities that genuinely interest you is crucial. Identify areas that capture your attention and allow yourself to explore and dive deep into those subjects. When you are engaged in something that fascinates you, motivation naturally follows.
Consider finding something that could make this current thing more bearable one classic strategy is task paring. Do something less interesting than something you want to do—binge-watch missed seasons of Stranger Things, but only while exercising?
Novelty can be a powerful motivator for individuals with ADHD. Introduce new elements, challenges, or approaches to keep tasks fresh and engaging. Embrace variety and add novelty to your daily routines—brush your teeth with your opposite hand, take a new route on the way to work. This can prevent boredom, stimulate your interest, and maintain a higher level of engagement.
Seeking competition, either with yourself or others, can boost motivation. Consider gameifying or seeing if you can better your earlier results. But sometimes competition can also cause anxiety, so use with awareness of this!
5. Hurry Up or Urgency
While urgency is a more external motivator, it shifts the active part of the brain and is a familiar and accessible way to motivate. Until it doesn’t. But, used with your own creativity and discretion, it can be a great kick-start. Creating a framework for yourself that creates urgency instead of being a victim to the winds of fate. A few ideas:
- Schedule to have a friend over for lunch to cultivate a sense of urgency so you clean the kitchen and purchase groceries.
- Plan a meeting with your coach and has them to follow up with you on your task or project.
These are more self-driven uses of urgency vs a looming deadline from your boss!
Short-term motivation is where a lot of our energy goes. Play with some of these ideas this week. Let me know how it’s going.
On August 1st, we’ll post part 2 which deals with some big ideas around longer-term motivation.
See you then,