Everything You’ve Been Told About Motivation Is Wrong


Forget willpower.

Forget positive thinking.

What if you could motivate yourself on a physical subconscious level?

What if you could chemically train your brain to CRAVE being productive?

Do you think you would be more successful? Of course you would!

You would wake up in the morning itching to get to work.

The “usual suspects” – Facebook, video games, social media – would not distract you.

You would not be able to wait to do EXACTLY what you needed to do to move your business forward.

And – with the right plan – you would finally achieve your income goals.

Sound impossible? It’s not.

It all comes down to understanding how motivation works on a physical level.

Think motivation is all in your mind? Think again.

Everyone is always telling us to get motivated with sheer willpower.

Or by focusing on a long-term goal.

This is not enough. And most of the time it does not work.

(Ever created a vision board or made a new-year’s resolution? What happened with that?)

That’s because like so much of our behavior, motivation involves physical, chemical processes.

Specifically, there is one chemical in our brain that is essential to our survival and therefore so powerful that it can actually make you do things that you wouldn’t otherwise do.

It’s the motivation chemical.

It’s called dopamine

Dopamine gets us to hunt and gather rewards that make us feel good.

In the past, we used to hunt and gather food.

We would see an apple tree from far away. Dopamine would get released in our brain, and cause us to go towards the tree and pick an apple.

That’s how we survived. Without dopamine we would not get food and end up starving to death.

Dopamine – the motivation chemical

Today we hunt and gather Facebook likes, information on Google, and points & levels in video games.

They are all rewards that make us feel pleasure. Either physical or emotional.

And we feel compelled to get them because of dopamine.

Sometimes dopamine gets us addicted.

Sometimes it pushes us to abuse drugs and alcohol.

And sometimes it can motivate us and help us focus on productive behavior – more than we ever thought possible.

Dopamine makes us want to overcome challenges in order to get a reward

You know the feeling of satisfaction you experience when you solve a puzzle?

The high you get when you struggle with a problem and finally resolve it?

That “I-did-it” feeling?

That is dopamine being released in your brain.

I did it!
Dopamine is released when you overcome a challenge: I did it!

How does dopamine work?

Dopamine plays an important role in two different pleasure-related responses:

1. It is released when we actively feel more pleasure from something than we had originally expected — we’ll call this “liking”.

2. It is also released when, based on past experience, we expect to feel pleasure. It then acts a a motivator, pushing us to take action to achieve the pleasure we know is imminent. We’ll call this “wanting”.

Dopamine is the main chemical player behind this liking/wanting cycle.

When we are moving towards our goal, it makes us feel energized, focused, and sharp.

We are “in the flow”.

And that’s why dopamine has been nicknamed “the molecule of motivation”.

It tells us:

That felt good! Let’s do it again…

That’s how dopamine works: If something feels good, it motivates us to do it again.

Even if that action is bad for us

Take gambling for example.

You go to a slot machine… pull the handle… and try your luck.

Eventually you win something.

Dopamine then does its job and tells you:

That was a reward. It felt good! Let’s do it again….

The next time you see a slot machine, dopamine will be released in your brain, and you will want to pull that handle.

And that “let’s do it again” is very powerful and hard to resist.

(It HAS to be because it is essential to our survival. Rats who were injected with dopamine-reducing agents, died because they didn’t go foraging for food.)

Are you constantly on Facebook? Can’t stop playing Candy Crush? Did you really just eat half a cheesecake? That’s dopamine.

Chances are that if it is something we continually like and want, there’s dopamine involved.

That was a reward. It felt good! Let’s do it again….

Is dopamine hurting or helping your business?

Where are you getting your dopamine from now?

Do you sit down to “work” and instead check your Facebook account?

Do you open every get-rich-quick email and devour all the sales pages which promise you millions in minutes?

Do you click on all the links which promise you that THIS time, the money is just WAITING for you to deposit it in your bank account?

Those are all distractions. Dopamine-rich distractions. They will not help you make money. They will not help you achieve your goals. They will not move your business forward.


Every time you get a Facebook like you get a dopamine rush.

Every time you FEEL you are getting closer to making money online (maybe THIS business model will work for me) you get a dopamine rush.

That was a reward. It felt good! Let’s do it again….

And then another day goes by in which you don’t accomplish anything. 🙁

That’s dopamine working against you. But what if you could change that?

Make dopamine work for you

You can control what gives you dopamine.

You can make responsible behaviors release dopamine in your brain.

You can actually use dopamine to help you like/want things that are good for you (and your business!).

How can you do that? You train your brain to release dopamine when you are working productively.

Here’s the basic idea:

In order to produce dopamine most successfully, you need the following:

1. Something which brings you pleasure or a reward. The greater the reward, the more dopamine your system will release.

Keep in mind that the reward cannot be in your control. It is not something that you give to or buy for yourself; it must be something you hope to achieve through your work. You cannot know for sure that you will be successful.

2. A challenge which you must overcome in order to get that pleasure or reward. Again, the greater the challenge, the greater the dopamine response.

3. The belief that you CAN overcome that challenge. If you do not believe that the pleasure is actually attainable, you will not release the dopamine essential for motivating you to try to attain it.

4. It’s better if the reward is variable and unpredictable. You cannot know for sure to what extent you will be successful.

It’s really important that you enjoy the quest, and that you enjoy the reward.

Here is a simple dopamine plan:

1. Make a list of tasks that are easy to do. Each task should bring you closer to a simple goal you’d like to achieve (like write an article or set up a website).

2. Cross each item off the list upon completion of the task.

Let’s see how that fulfills the four different criteria I listed above:

1. Does it bring you pleasure or a reward? Yes. Just the fact that you set a goal and completed it will release dopamine in your brain. If you cross off the item and congratulate yourself, you will get even more dopamine released.

2. Is there a challenge to overcome? Yes, there is a task to complete.

3. Do you believe you can overcome that challenge? Yes, because you made a list of easy tasks to do.

4. Is the reward variable? Maybe a little. Because each task is different.

This is a very basic plan which will give you consecutive dopamine rushes, feelings of “I did it”, and consistent focus and motivation.

Here is a stronger dopamine plan. One that I now use in all of my courses:

1. Start with a simple task you can do to make a small amount of money.

Freelancing is a great example. Both Income Steps Academy and Constant Profits Club show how you can get simple, small jobs which are almost guaranteed to make you money.

2. Repeat the task again and again until the challenge is too small for you, and the reward is no longer exciting.

3. Continue to a bigger task you can do which will make you more money.

This can be higher-paying freelancing jobs, creating your own niche site, or any other legitimate way to make money.

The 2 main legitimate ways to make money online are explained here

How does this fulfill the criteria?

1. Does it bring you pleasure or a reward? Yes. The reward is money earned and good feedback on your job. At first the amount of money is going to be small, but it will FEEL like a huge breakthrough. (I’ve been trying to make money for years, and now I’m finally doing it!) As you continue with the process, the reward will get bigger and bigger.

2. Is there a challenge to overcome? Yes. You may need to complete a project for someone. Or create a profitable site for yourself. These are all challenges.

3. Do you believe you can overcome the challenge? Yes. Don’t set your sights too high, and don’t try to progress too quickly. You want to make sure that you believe that you can do it. (A support group or a coach can help you with this.)

4. Is the reward variable? Yes. It’s unlikely that you will always get paid the same amount. Sometimes you will earn more, sometimes you will earn less, and sometimes you will not earn anything at all.

So as you can see, this dopamine plan fits all the criteria. And that’s why it works so well.

Make your dopamine work for you

And an added bonus: You can apply this plan to anything in your life, whenever you want to get yourself motivated and focused so you can achieve your goals, whatever they are.

Use it on your kids too!

Cutting-Edge Neurochemistry and Your Success

Dopamine works. Ask my students.

As soon as I started using my dopamine plan in my courses, the number of people who took action and earned money ended up being MUCH higher than anything I have ever seen for ANY online course.

It can work for you too.

More ways to increase dopamine

There are other ways to increase dopamine in your brain.

It’s mostly about eating the right foods and taking on some simple habits.

Like listening to a specific type of music.

Get the entire list of dopamine-inducing foods and habits here

I want dopamine. And I want it now. Will you help me?

Dopamine made me write this blog post. Your comment or Facebook share is my reward.

Will you give me more dopamine by telling me what you think?

Facebook Comments:

34 thoughts on “Everything You’ve Been Told About Motivation Is Wrong”

  1. I would love to get your comments on this. It’s just the tip of the iceberg too… there is so much more you can do with dopamine and other brain chemicals. Let me know if you’re interested in more!

  2. Great information Sara. It’s so interesting how the brain works! I will definitely use the 4 questions when setting my goals and tasks for the day to set myself up for more dopamine and more success!! Thank you!

    • The mind is absolutely fascinating. Understanding dopamine and other chemicals gives a lot of insight into motivation, focus, and success.

      Once you delve into it there are so many other common issues that start to make sense… like ADHD, addictions, relationship problems, and lots more.

  3. Thanks, Sara! This is synchronicity at work, because I have been researching ways to increase dopamine over the past couple of weeks. This makes sense.

  4. Very interesting! I admit that I’ve really been unmotivated! I’m going to do the talk list right now and see what happens! Would love to know more!

  5. Thanks Sara, great article! Yes it would be great to hear more about it. I think learning a new language must be good for dopamine, it’s so gratifying when you start to understand and communicate in another language.

    • Yes! Learning something new triggers dopamine. A new language is great because you are constantly learning new words and grammatical structures, and getting a better understanding of the language.

  6. Great article as ever Sara! I got a dopamine rush just reading it and quickly thinking about all the large tasks I can break down into smaller, achievable, dopamine-inducing checklists. Thank you so much for the post! Cheers!

  7. Nice idea and well put over Sara.

    However, getting motivated sounds like it needs someone or some ‘thing’ to come and motivate you; push you into action. Force you to do the tasks. While the dopamine rewards for getting things done are certainly there, a better way to make sure you achieve them is to replace motivation with inspiration. When you feel inspired to overcome your challenges and meet or exceed your goals then you feel far better all the way through. You are not relying on ‘getting motivated’ because your inspiration is self starting. You’ll WANT to get things done and feel then Dopermine rush rather than ‘hoping’ you’ll get motivated.


    • Thanks for the comment, Tony. This is about internal motivation that keeps growing on it’s own, and I wonder if that is what you mean when you say “inspiration”. Maybe it’s a matter of word definition. If not, feel free to explain what you mean.

  8. Well done Sara,

    I am a great believer in, and student of, the advances in neuroscience. The recent discoveries and learnings have very important implications to how we can think and act in conscious, well informed ways. I can see and feel how you have translated the science into your program design and teachings. This has given me even more confidence and faith in working through all the steps of CPC. I love the way you and Andrew are “on song!”

    Keep it coming, I have learnt that taking time to read blogs from both of you are NOT a diversion! They have their own dopamine reward.

    • Totally had this in mind when designing the program. Constant Profits Club also has elements that give you other chemicals like oxytocin, serotonin, and endorphins. They all feel great and keep you going. Maybe I’ll write about that in a future post.

  9. Thanks a lot,last week i lost my job and was demotivated and your blog helped me a lot,by this i think your dopamine also might have rushed as you helped a disgusted man,but as i went on reading, i felt my computer got struck and did not know that the blog is over !. please put more information and help me achieve in my life. thanks once again

  10. interesting… I have been wondering about this general subject awhile now. I think you are on to something…. I will experiment and get back to you. But even trying to make small amounts of money can be challenging… example, setting up shopify store, using facebook…. there are so many little UNPLANNED things to overcome… but once you actually make some money I think you get a boost but how long does it last? Just trying to be objective…

    • Shopify and Facebook take too long. You need something simpler than that to get started.

      The boost does not last forever, but long enough to get you motivated to get the next boost… as long as you keep things simple.

    • I did send out an email… so it sounds like you need to join my mailing list 🙂 If you are already on my list, look for my email in your “spam” or “promotions” folder and move it to your inbox so you get future emails from me.

  11. Thanks, Sara – as a CPC member, I appreciate that everything you write and say is so direct and actionable, and this piece is no exception. Now I just need to apply this technique to help me actually get my product reviews done!

  12. Thanks Sara
    A real ahhaa article!
    You’ve related the story of my life and shown me that blaming myself is pointless when we are all programmed to win well or win badly based on our choice of outcomes!
    I’m taking off my rose tinted glasses and put on shades cos the future (on average) has to been brighter!!
    Best wishes

    • Love this! No need for self-blame when you realize that so much of our thinking is controlled by physical processes, and that once we understand what they are – we can use them to our advantage.

  13. I love your motivational system and I believe that it works and will like to get more tips and how to start up , although finance disrupted most business ideas and making people hopeless.

    There is success around the corner and heaven has shown it.

    Godwin nweke

  14. Amazing article Sara! Have some dopamine! This is something I’ve struggled with for a long time. I LOVE dopamine and have experienced first hand how it can make you or break you. Dopamine helped me get good and playing guitar and fixing computers, Dopamine also allowed me to stay in a relationship that wasn’t good for me for way too long. Your tip on the checklist with small attianble goals is awesome and something I’ve already implemented in my life. I subscribed for the full list of foods and habits :).

    Please keep doing this type of content!


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