It is a New Year. We have dreams, we have visions. We have set goals. Some of us will have to work harder than others to achieve the same goals. Some may surpass their goals. Others may not achieve them. But there is so much satisfaction and happiness that comes with effort and hard work, that success cannot be measured on achievement alone.
What drives us? What inspires us? What motivates us?
Motivation builds our mindset, it gathers our senses and pulls us up from laziness and inactivity to accomplish, to achieve, to build. It’s a force— it wakes us up and gets us going— a first step in achieving great success. A motivated mind is an energized mind and can be taken in any direction. Inspiration provides that direction. Inspiration induces creativity, innovation and empowers us to execute.
Inspiration can also be derived from suffering. When we experience hard times, we are often inspired to solve problems and make the world a better place.
There is science behind motivation and inspiration. It all starts in the brain where neurotransmitters spark chemical messages to keep us alert and on task. Neurotransmitters carry chemical messages that play out in the brain and affect the rest of our body. They help to motivate and inspire. They are also called “Happy Chemicals” because they are pain-relieving and pleasure-promoting.
There are 4 primary chemicals in the brain that affect happiness and motivation:
- Endorphins– help block pain and produce feelings of pleasure.
- Serotonin– flows when we feel valued, essential and significant.
- Dopamine– is often referred to as the “chemical of reward”. It motivates us to take action toward achieving goals, desires and needs, with a surge of reinforcing pleasure when they are achieved.
- Oxytocin– builds healthy relationships and strong bonds.
How do we unleash these “feel-good” chemicals?
- Exercise– harvest your energy indoors or outdoors, aerobic or anaerobic. The “Runner’s High” is not for runners alone- dance, row, skate, paddle, swim- choose your favorite mode and work it!
- Laughter– attend a comedy show, and take your sense of humor wherever you go.
- Dark chocolate and spicy foods– moderate amounts, of course.
- Aromatherapy– research has shown that the smell of scented oils such as vanilla, lavender can release these chemicals. My favorites are freshly cut grass and just about any Italian restaurant.
- Celebration– of accomplishments or milestones large or small, motivates us toward further achievement— score a goal, hit a target, accomplish a task. Even reflecting on past achievements does the trick, since our brains can’t tell the difference between what’s real or imagined — happy chemicals will be released in either case. So take the time to acknowledge your victories!
- Gift giving, volunteering of time or resources, performing random acts of kindness— our greatest expressions of gratitude for our own blessings can help heal the world.
- Intimacy and breastfeeding– raise levels and even boost the immune system. Even loving thoughts can bring on the high.
- Music and Sound– jazz, hard rock, birds at play, ocean waves- whatever turns you on, turn it up!
- Sunshine– John Denver sings it so well.
Take advantage of the New Year. The ball may have dropped, but the celebration should continue. Strive for your own personal best, set short term goals and micro-deadlines, reward yourself and others often. Most importantly, appreciate the process– it makes the outcome that much sweeter, and will inspire you for a repeat performance.