When I was kid I was rarely motivated to do anything other than video games or watching TV. To say I struggled in school would be laughable to my friends and family who used the phrase “problem child” when mentioning my name in the same sentence.
I was the very first sixth grader in my school district to be enrolled in the Alternative Education Program (AEP) where highschoolers (not elementary students) struggled with serious behavioral and emotional disorders. This is where the school district sent students they did not know what to do with.
Back then it was a room with cubicle like desks and instead of teachers, they had security guards or retired police officers managing the class or I might say securing the room Ha.
My mom seeking help from any source, went to the Doctors where they diagnosed me with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and prescribed a new drug they were testing out with kids called Ritalin. I was prescribed a very high dose and had other negative consequences from the medication which I am glad we eventually stopped.
It is an absolute surprise, some would say “miracle, how I turned out. In fact I too am fascinated with my current motivation.
But it wasn’t until I saw my own kids struggle with their own internal motivation where my own fascination with how people are motivated turned into desperation. Drum lessons, sports, homework, teeth brushing, putting up their shoes. You name it we struggled with it.
On top of that my kids also had my obsession with TV and Video games that I knew I had to figure this Motivation Problem out.
Every time my kids were excited about something that they had a genuine curiosity their motivation diminished and I had to use the typical parent strategy called,STICK CARROT TECHNIQUE. Meaning if you do this now, you will get (Insert Carrot Here). (Stick) If you don’t do this you won’t get (Insert Carrot Here) to push them toward my goal or worse yet this might be their own goal. So why are they not motivated?.
This became exhausting and tiring and I started to wonder…..
What if my kids were stuck in this endless cycle and were never internally motivated. Never would they taste the fruit of feeling excellent in anything, never would they learn to commit to something long enough to achieve success.
Each day they begged to watch TV. At the end of the TV show or video game, what do you think happened? They wanted more. Same goes for candy, after candy was consumed they want more.. Same goes for toys. When they received it and consumed it. They wanted more.
You see the Video Game Industry in Silicon Valley knows everything about motivation and how to keep people's eyeballs on the screen. They are NOT motivated to see your child's success or see you achieve your goals and dreams.
According to the National Institute of Health, research shows that video games can impair educational, social and occupational functions as well as cause depression and anxiety.
BUT WHAT IS THEIR SECRET?
It starts with your Nucleus Accumbens.
This small inconsequential part of your brain controls your reward center and holds the key to your own motivation as well as your child’s.
Dopamine Kick--It drives us to take action and keep taking action. We are hardwired to move away from pain and move towards pleasure.
Here’s where the villain enters our story. Because every good story needs a villain right, and our villain is the app and game industry. The tech giants have known about this for a very long time and know how to push this button freely. As we all know they are making Billions of dollars because of it.
I started studying Video Games and why people were addictive, I studied highly successful people and how they used video game like strategies to in effect kick their own motivation into overdrive.
We have many tactical strategies for our family and students, and have received massive success but I’ll share one of our strategies today.
Define what Mission you want to be accomplished
Agree on a Mission
Agree on a Reward
(depending on Mission it can be an affirmation “ex. Good Job”)
Rinse and Repeat
Every time we receive a reward we receive a dopamine kick. It can be an affirmation or physical item but each time, your brain gets a dopamine kick. Why do you keep checking your texts or Facebook?
These apps have trained your brain to “Do Action” and get a dopamine kick.
Affirmation is a reward sometimes given but it is not as effective if it is given long after the action has been done. If the reward has no association with action then you or your child will not connect it the action or the Mission.
Big Picture View
Another reason this strategy works is because it gives the person the big picture of what they're working towards.
Where there is no vision, the people perish: (proverbs 29:18)
Is this not just a Carrot Technique?
Yes you are creating Carrots and helping you or your child create the game (Mission), and yes it looks similar to a Carrot Technique. But the key difference is:
- Vision agreed upon before hand (Mission),
- Ongoing dopamine kicks (Rewards)
- Celebration of achievement (Hitting your mission)
- Next Mission PLEASE mindset
After you have hit a few missions you have created MOMENTUM.
What happens after you clear a level or complete a game? Do you want to stop? Do you say to yourself “mission accomplished and let's do something else?”
If you're anything like me and my family, you want to take a “another hill.” Another Mission please, another dopamine kick please.
It takes work to be successful in anything, and that goes for parenting as well. I love me some EASY BUTTON. It's hard for me to be consistent, it's hard for me to do something different for more than a few days.
But can you imagine what your life would look like if you were motivated to complete your missions. Think of all the problems of life you can help solve, parenting, marriage and work.
That is why I am so excited about this subject. I have seen the results in my life and our students and it is my moral obligation to spread the good strategies on to others.
"If you aim at nothing, you will hit it every time." –Zig Ziglar
Please let me know if this has been helpful to you. It is our purpose to help others and we get our own dopamine kick with your feedback below.