The Neuroscience of Motivation

“I know what I have to do – I just need to do it”. Sound familiar?  Workplace, workout or life in general, if motivation is lacking, it’s so much harder to achieve anything. So if you lack motivation how can you fix it?

Understanding how to change your mindset may be the key to unlocking the motivation you need to achieve work/fitness/life goals. Here we analyse the neuroscience to help you manage your mindset and motivation.  

5 Steps to Get Motivated - Behavioural Change and Mindset Hacks 

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Begin by defining your ‘why’. Why do you want/need to do it? 

Knowing WHY you want to do something is the first question to ask yourself. Get past the ‘superficial why’ (e.g. I want to lose weight so I look good on the beach) and find your deep rooted WHY.

Mindset Hack

  • Write down what you want to change. Then ask why you want to change it. Dig deep until you have your deep rooted why


You are far more likely to achieve your goal if the process of getting there is enjoyable. Dopamine is a chemical released by your brain that is involved with motivation, and reward. It makes you feel good. Neuroscientist Gabija Toleikyte explains: “dopamine is triggered in different people by different things, for example: exercise with a friend, trying novel new exercise classes or seeing clear results”. 

Let’s release some dopamine and feel good!

Mindset Hacks

  • Find activities that you enjoy and move you towards your goal e.g. exercising with a buddy!

  • Imagine how you will feel when you achieve your goal


Your prefrontal cortex is responsible for behaviour, speech and rational decision making.

When energy levels are low, the prefrontal cortex’s role in decision making is massively reduced and the amygdala (unconscious brain) takes over. The amygdala evokes an instinctive fear and anxiety and deactivates large chunks of the prefrontal cortex.  When low on energy we are less likely to act rationally, and far more likely to reach for that chocolate bar. 

Mindset Hacks 

  • Get the quality and quantity of sleep your body needs

  • Shape your environment to make the healthy decision the easy one

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Author of ‘Mindset’ Carol Dweck sees two types of mindset: fixed and growth.

In the context of health and wellbeing, let’s imagine you have been going strong on a health-kick but just indulged in some chocolate cake. You have two paths:

  • Fixed: Beat yourself up because the failure is tied to your identity. You enter a downward spiral and the diet crashes to an end

  • Growth: Forgive yourself because your love of learning and resilience will help you recover and resume your healthy lifestyle

You will be much more likely to succeed with a Growth Mindset.

Mindset Hacks

  • Focus on times you changed your behaviour to achieve your goal

  • Believe in yourself


Here’s the good news...Willpower is trainable. 

As you exercise your self-control it gets stronger over time. Once the healthy choice is hard-wired as habit, achieving your goal becomes easy. 

Mindset Hacks

  • Keep exercising self-control to build healthy habits

  • Every time you make a healthy choice, take a moment to notice

If you could do with some support, or would like more Neuroscience of Motivation info, we can help