In my effort to help you achieve Badass Brain Boss status, I want to share a concept called the motivational triad. This will explain how your brain works and why you do a lot of the stuff you do – even when you don’t want to do it anymore.
The history of the motivational triad
The primary purpose of your brain is to keep you alive. Both humans and animals have brains that focus on 3 simple motivations to increase the odds of survival:
- avoid pain
- seek pleasure
- be efficient/conserve energy
These 3 simple things form your brain’s motivational triad. You will always be motivated to do something that won’t hurt you, feels good, and is easy.
This is how we humans survived back in the day. We were motivated to hunt, have sex and seek warm shelter by our desire for pleasure. We stayed alert to avoid danger. We didn’t go jogging just for the sport of it. We conserved our energy.
The problem with the motivational triad today
Being governed by this motivational triad is a bit outdated for today’s society. You don’t live in a cave, and the risk of being eaten by a tiger is very low. Your primitive brain is no longer serving you!
For example, the desire to avoid pain will result in you avoiding new experiences. You may find yourself avoiding conflict, people pleasing or staying in a marriage that makes you unhappy. Your survival instinct will associate anything new as a threat to your survival. That will keep you stuck.
The desire to seek pleasure will have you doing things that generate instant gratification but may not be in line with your ultimate goals. Things like eating comfort foods, watching Netflix and buying stuff.
What about the motivation to be efficient? Given the chance, your brain will stay on autopilot re-thinking the same old thoughts and beliefs you have relied on since childhood. This allows your to experience the same feelings and behave like you always have.
Challenging the motivational triad
You can be grateful for the motivational triad for keeping your ancestors alive. But, if you want to do more than drift through life, you will require a different triad. You need to make sure that your primitive brain no longer gets to drive the bus.
Instead of seeking pleasure, consider seeking discomfort. If you eat for pleasure, use your higher brain to override that immediate hit for something that will give you pleasure long term. Discomfort is the currency of achieving your goals.
Instead of avoiding pain, you can open up to it. Consider going toward it, welcoming it in, and riding the wave as it passes through you. Avoid the temptation to distract yourself from pain. Pain is not dangerous and does not need to be fixed. Pain is a normal part of life, and we can feel the emotion without fear. By allowing pain to pass through you, this enables you to fully process the pain and move forward. Unprocessed pain will remain below the surface and does not serve anybody.
Lastly, instead of maintaining brain efficiency, you get to turn your brain upside down. Your brain is capable of change, new thoughts and new feelings to drive new behaviours. Challenge your old beliefs and consider that they are not true.
Your brain won’t like the new triad
When you do something different than what you have done for years, expect your brain to prefer that you did not do it. That is not a red light. It just feels like one.
I dare you to flip the switch on your motivational triad. Seek discomfort, welcome in pain, and clean up the old habitual thought patterns. This will be the foundation to creating what you want rather than drifting through life.