Motivation: Motivation and Dopamine

Lesson 2: Motivation and Dopamine


Motivation and Dopamine

If you’ve ever seen a baby crawl around a room, you know what motivation looks like. More specifically, you know what intrinsic motivation looks like.

Babies are constantly exploring and learning new things, and they do so without anyone forcing them or any reward. Something inside of them gives them the desire to understand the world around them. That same force is inside of you too.

Sometimes, it may feel like we lose our motivation, that desire to discover and improve, but studies of the human brain tell us that we have the ability to affect our own, internal motivation.

Seriously, we can actually control how our own brains work. There are limits, of course, but how and what we think actually changes our brain. It’s called neuroplasticity.



Now before we explore ways of doing that, we need to understand a chemical called dopamine.


Dopamine is a neurotransmitter and they move, or transmit, signals in the brain. They allow the parts of your brain to communicate with each other. In fact, without them, our brains wouldn’t work at all.

Dopamine is considered to be the most important neurotransmitter in motivation.

Let’s say you are thirsty and want to go get a cup of water to drink. Your brain provides a low level of dopamine to give you the motivation to get the water. Once you drink the water, your brain then rewards you with an increased surge of dopamine, which leads to a positive feeling.

This entire process will motivate you in the future because your brain now thinks, “getting water feels good”.

This doesn’t only happen for water though, this type of learning and habit formation is used by our brains for all sorts of things like learning to play a new instrument or improving basketball skills.

People often think dopamine is just something that makes us feel good, but it does much more than that. It also helps us form habits, learn from our mistakes, and, you guessed it, become more motivated.

See how dopamine can affect your shopping habits.