top of page

Dopamine and motivation

"Intrinsic motivation occurs when we act without any obvious external rewards. We simply enjoy an activity or see it as an opportunity to explore, learn, and actualize our potentials."


“Extrinsic motivation is a motivation that is driven by external rewards. These can be tangible, such as money or grades, or intangible, such as praise or fame.”

I’d venture a guess most everyone has experienced the fact of life that trying to motivate to perform a task we genuinely enjoy is much easier than motivating to perform a task we think we should do so we’ll be rewarded with something outside of ourselves. In fact, it’s been shown in studies that extrinsically rewarding humans for doing things they genuinely enjoy doing can lower their enjoyment of that activity. i.e. kids who liked to draw in their free time actually drew less when teachers began giving them gold/silver stars on their drawings as a reward. The act of drawing itself was the enjoyable part. The stars get in the way and act as a disincentive.

I recently came across the video linked below. It’s from the After Skool YouTube channel and features Neuroscientist Andrew Huberman. It’s only about 11 minutes long and packs a punch. (Don’t skip the video) The quick a dirty is this: We know dopamine is involved in pleasure. But, I was mistaken in thinking that the dopamine we get from actual enjoyment of pleasure was the end of it. Not true according to Huberman. Dopamine is not as involved in the actual enjoyment of pleasures (food, exercise, sex) as I thought. In reality, dopamine is very much involved in the motivation to actively work towards these pleasures. And once it was explained to me in the video it makes sense. It also makes sense how we can use this fact to steel man our motivations to work for our benefit.

Working towards and receiving pleasure is good. Pleasure experienced without requirement for pursuit is bad. If you are craving a banana split, it is much better that you go out to the local creamery, stand in line, order, and pay for it than it is for you to sit on the couch and have someone bring it to you. This realization made me think about Huxley’s Brave New World. Pleasure on tap was used to control the citizens of World City London. No desire to look outside oneself when flush with sex and Soma.

Getting to a place where we are intrinsically motivated to habitually perform our health and wellness routines is an incredibly positive point of no return. When we crave the process, the results are effortless.

3 views0 comments


bottom of page