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Motivation vs. Science For Self Improvement

Motivation vs. Science For Self Improvement

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Alex Nekritin

CEO and Founder of Ultiself

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Motivation vs. Science For Self Improvement

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Motivation comes from different places. Sometimes people like Tom Bilyeu or David Goggins can help motivate you. But if habits like your sleep aren’t optimized, you’re not going to have the needed motivation.

We’ve all struggled with motivation before by staring at that assignment we have yet to start, or passing by those running shoes that we’ve yet to put on. Getting the motivation to start a task is often the hardest part.

Generally, we think of people as either having or lacking motivation, but luckily, motivation levels aren’t set in stone with your personality. There is a range of ways you can use to optimize performance and improve motivation.

We’ve rounded up the top motivational tools and scientific hints to help you get the most out of your day.

Motivational Science: The Latest Trend

Since motivation plays a key role in almost every part of human behavior, research into motivation can tell us a lot about the ways we learn and act. However, until recently, much of the research into motivation has been segregated, and the data and theories across social, education, neuroscience, and organizational psychology have not been connected.

Luckily, the importance of engaging multiple disciplines in the study of motivation has recently become a priority, and a new field of study called Motivation Science has begun to emerge.

Motivational literature was once relegated to the self-help section of the book store, and while motivational coaches still have their benefits, the latest trends in research tell us how important biology and science are to understanding and improving motivation.

Attitude Matters

It probably comes as no surprise that attitude plays an important part in the way we handle stressful situations and manage our motivation levels. Your attitude toward your task at hand can even make a difference in the outcome. 

A 2013 study found that Grade 7 German mathematics students’ results were directly tied to their performative goals. Students who stated they “worked hard in math, because they wanted to get good grades” saw better immediate math scores.

Students who stated they “invest a lot of effort in math, because they are interested in the subject” had better math scores over three years. This study tells us that when motivation is focused on mastery, long-term learning is supported, and when motivation is based on performance, the results are only seen in the short-term.

There are a couple of great books to read about mindset. 

One is called GRIT by angela Duckworth. This book discusses how passion and perseverance are essential for success and the type of attitude that many successful people have. 

Another great book is called Mindset by Carol S. Dweck. This book discusses the benefits of  always trying to improve yourself rather than prove yourself. And this is exactly the attitude you want to have. Try to become a master of your craft. Don’t assume that you already are and try to learn. If your passion is mastery success will follow.

Upside of Stress

The Upside of Stress, a book by psychologist Kelly McGonigal, also focuses on the impact attitude can have. McGonigal’s work focuses on the idea that stress can be beneficial, with the core of her work focusing on the idea that stress is only harmful if you believe it is.

Girl with a pens

The study that McGonigal bases her theory on found that individuals who believed that stress was harming their health were shown to have a higher risk of death. Individuals who did not view stress as harmful did not have the same mortality risk and even showed less risk than participants that reported very little stress in their lives. 

So, by altering your attitude towards stressful situations in your life, McGonigal argues that you may be able to significantly improve your quality of life. 

Aside from just improving mortality risk, she also argues the way you approach stress can have a drastic impact on your motivation and performance levels. By changing your attitude to stress through “Transform Stress” exercises, she argues that you can improve the effects of stress and improve motivation.

Attitude on Willpower Matters

What the 2013 German study and The Upside of Stress tell us is that attitude can have a huge effect on the outcomes in our lives, be it health or performance-related. It is, therefore, not hard to imagine how attitude can affect willpower. 

The American Psychological Association states that willpower can have drastic effects on our lives and that improved self-control can help to reduce unhealthy habits like smoking, drinking, and over-eating. 

A 2017 review of willpower studies found that believing willpower to be a limited resource resulted in reduced self-control, goal-striving, and overall well-being. This tells us that the attitude we bring to our willpower can be extremely indicative of our outcomes. 

If you believe you will run out of willpower, you are more likely to do exactly that. That also means the opposite is true, and there is power in believing in your willpower.

Become a Savage

Self-improvement guides can be found everywhere, but one theory that is starting to gain traction is the idea of becoming a “savage”.

Idea in the hand

Pulling on many of the scientific ideas of the role that attitude plays in motivation and performance levels, motivational speakers such as David Goggins and Tom Bilyeu and Todd Herman, all promote self-improvement strategies that center around making the most of your potential by changing your attitude towards your ability to overcome stressful situations. 

Both Goggins and Herman both use strategies such as alter-egos who are “savage” to help them to increase their confidence and approach challenges with a more self-assured attitude. They claim this concept improves their performance outcomes. And it certainly did for them and the people they train.

Balance is Key

While attitude and mindset play a tremendous role in helping you achieve your goals, your biology and daily habits are also critical. 

Therefore balance is Key!

Without a healthy environment and body, motivating yourself will only be more of a struggle.

Set Up Your Environment

To provide yourself with the best conditions for motivation and performance, factors such as sleep and diet can drastically affect your motivation and performance levels.

Sleep deprivation has been found to impair attention, memory, and decision-making.

Sleeping cat

Even partial sleep deprivation has been found to negatively affect vigilance. It’s also not hard to understand how a poor diet might affect your cognitive functioning, attention and motivation levels.

Optimize Your Biology

When trying to achieve balance, optimizing your biology is crucial, and one of the easiest ways to do it is through a healthy diet. A poor diet (e.g. a high-fat diet) is a potential risk factor for cognitive impairment whereas nutrients such as vitamins C and B6 play an important role in protecting the brain.

Don’t Neglect Rest

While motivational speakers like David Goggins often tout the benefits of pushing through pain and stress to reach unthinkable goals, it’s important to remember that rest is just as important as action.

When motivation levels are high, it can be tempting to push, push, push, but rest and sleep are some of the best tools you have to ensure your body and brain are functioning at its highest levels. Resting your body restores its chemical balance, increases the production of certain proteins, and creates new neurological connections.

A lack of sleep can result in weight gain and reduce immune function, and it impairs attention and memory. So, don’t skip on sleep!

Sleeping girl


When it comes to self-improvement techniques, there is a range of speakers who provide motivational techniques backed up by research that may help you to reach your goals. But it is important to realize that even with all the motivational tools in the world if your body isn’t given healthy levels of rest and nutrition, you will never unlock your full potential. As with everything Ultiself, balance and a holistic approach is always KEY!

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 Happiness  Confidence  Stress  Energy  Productivity  Focus  Motivation
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