The motivational triad explaines how the brain keeps you cluttered, and I cover how to rewire your brain so you can achieve your goals.
Today I want to talk to you about the motivational triad, I want to talk about this because I want to show you why you are doing what you are doing, or more likely not doing what you want to be doing, so you have more compassion and understanding for yourself.
Because if you’re doing things that you don’t want to do or you’re wishing you could change your habits, or you’re frustrated by your lack of progress and as a result you are beating yourself up, I want you to stop. Stop beating yourself up and learn how your brain is wired and learn how to re-wire it.
And just that you know, I say this to you with all the love and compassion I have and I know how hard it is, because my coach had to just tell me last week to stop beating myself up, stop being hard on myself, and to start taking control of myself with compassion and self-love. So know that you are not alone if you struggle with this, I am right there with you.
First we need to understand we can not make progress with self-criticism and beating ourselves up. Understanding why we’re doing what we’re doing or often more like not doing what we said we're going to do will help us big time.
That's why I want to tell you what I learned how your primitive brain is wired so that you’ll stop beating yourself up for it and know that dealing with it differently is doable.
To do that we need to learn to flip the script on the outdated motivational triad, that's the way we are wired, how our brain is wired. So if we want to change, make progress, we have to do the opposite of what our survival instincts tell us to do.
What is the motivational triad?
Well thanks for asking, The motivational triad are three principles, seek pleasure, avoid pain, and be efficient. Animals and humans were all designed with these three principle motivations, they increased the odds of our survival over time.
These three motivations have made sure that we were fed, that we procreated, and they have helped us reduce and even avoid threats to our survival. The are very important and do a lot of good for us, but in our modern world they can and do also keep us stuck. The motivational triad explains why we have such a hard time changing our habits, or improving our life, stepping out of our comfort zone.
1) Our brain seeks pleasure
mainly short-term pleasure, that's why we eat that donut even though we want to lose weight, or we buy more stuff even though we have a house full of stuff already, or watching Netflix instead of tidying our home and office or working on another goal.
2) our brain wants to avoids pain at all cost
any pain, even healthy growing pain, or healthy pain of not giving in to sugar cravings or feeling our negative emotions instead of going shopping or binging Netflox.
3) and our brain wants to be efficient
this is a biggie, because change uses up a lot of energy and our brain wants to save energy, it tries to avoid any change in order to be efficient. It wants to stay efficient and save energy by being in the familiar and established habits, the automated habits. But this way we are staying stuck in auto-pilot, whether it serves us and our goals and intentions or not.
We don't really need to concentrate on most of what we do during a given day, those are all automated habits. We don’t have to think about how to brush our teeth, we just do it. we don’t have to think about how to drive our car, we just get in and drive because our brain is designed to be efficient.
Now, when we were learning those things, we had to think about them a lot. We had to use a different part of our brain, and it used up a lot of energy. But then the more we practiced, the less we had to think about it, the less energy our brain needed. Our brain is designed that once we’ve learned something, the higher part of our brain can delegate it to the lower part of our brain, and then it gets put on repeat, it gets put on autopilot.
This is efficiency in the brain. Of course decluttering, moving from chaos to peace, from a cluttered, messy, unsupportive environment to a clean, clutter-free and supportive environment needs a lot of thinking and effort at first, a lot of energy.
Your brain will fight you
That's why our brain will not understand what you are trying to do and will fight you every step of the way because decluttering will bring up
- new experiences: very inefficient and scary for the brain
- possible failures: we could throw out something and then regret it for example which is scary, our brain wants to protect us from failures
- confusion: you wonder if you want to keep an item or letting it go,
- fear and doubt: worrying that we will need the item in the future, worrying we might regret the decision or letting it go
Also, your primitive brain will always go to the past to find an answer, and chances are you've not been able to let go of clutter and to get organized before, so the primitive brain finds evidence of danger and inefficiency and therefore is freaking out telling you you can't do it.
It will tell you for example "I've never been organized, my mother already called me a clutter-bug", and this will hold you back every single time. This is mental clutter that needs to be release, decluttered, let go of.
Our brain wants to seek pleasure, avoid pain, be efficient. And if we don’t challenge that, guess what we’re recreating; exactly what we already have, and maybe worse.
You can take control of your brain
But we also have a part of our brain, the pre-frontal cortex, that we can train to manage our primitive brain, like a loving parent that helps their child through a temper tantrum and to do the right things.
How do we flip the script of the existing motivational triad? Remember, right now, the motivational triad is seek pleasure, i.e. go shopping for more stuff, avoid pain, no letting go of stuff, expend as little energy and effort as possible. So, the new triad has to be this.
1) instead of seeking pleasure,
we need to go for discomfort. What does this look like? Start choosing what you want in the long term over the pleasure you could experience in the short term. Give up immediate pleasure watching Netflix for 10-15 minutes of decluttering so that you can experience long-term pleasure. But expect your brain to complain, to wine, to prefer you don’t do it but get ready to choose discomfort on purpose and do it anyway.
You guess what number two is, right?
2) Instead of avoiding pain
we need to open up to it. Our primitive brain associates fear with danger. It genuinely is just trying to keep us safe. But there is no danger from decluttering and letting go of things other than not processing our challenging feelings or trying to avoid them. Sometimes we are afraid of the sentimental feelings that come up when decluttering, we are trying to avoid them, and stuff them down, but what I am asking you is to go ahead anyways, be willing to feel those emotions and free yourself from the clutter that holds you back. And then
3) instead of trying to be so efficient
we need to recognize the value that comes from making an effort to live with intention. Our brains are capable of change; new thoughts, new feelings, new action patterns. We don’t have to just keep recreating the things and experiences from our past.
To do that we have to stop defining ourselves by who we were in the past, by those outdated thoughts and beliefs - hello mental clutter - that aren’t serving us anymore, and we need to practice at that. This means work, this is not efficient in the beginning and needs lots of energy, but we can do it.
To do that we can shift our perspective and instead of finding evidence in the past, we need to look to the future. You need to create and focus on a strong vision of how you want your environment to be, what a supportive environment means to you, what organized means to you and most importantly, how good it would feel, how much calmer and at peace you would be and how much more productive and efficient you could do your work in your life and business
Step 1: you need to figure out your why,
since Simon Sinek published his bestseller Why we all know how important the why is. Why do you want to declutter and get organized? What is your no matter what reason, your why? It needs to be a compelling reason
I could think of a few great reasons:
- you want to reduce stress, many studies confirm the correlation between clutter and stress
- you want to reduce overwhelm --> less stuff leads to more clarity
- you want to be healthier --> dust that collects around clutter has an effect on your health
- you want to be healthier --> there is a correlation between clutter and body weight, you eat healthier in a clean and clutter free kitchen, but also because you are not so stressed out and overwhelmed you have mental bandwith to choose and prepare healthy foods
- you want to have more time --> less stuff more time
- you want to have more money --> you can sell some of your stuff, by not having to buy stuff you save money, you might find money in places you declutter
- you want to be more successful in your business --> a clutter-free supportive environment helps you feel in control and confident, you show up different for your clients and as a leader
I could probably go on longer but you get the point, right?
Step 2: Commit to your why
A lot of people are not really committed, they just really like the idea of being organized and living a clutter-free life but don't want to do anything for it.
Without a strong why and being committed you might give up the minute it becomes a bit hard, the minute you are confused, the minute you worry that you could make a wrong decision. That's why the second step is to make a commitment to your why.
That's where Intention Rituals come in. I personally set my intentions every New Moon, but it doesn't matter what day or date you choose, it just has to be more than just a New Years resolution. Your New Years resolution or intention for the year needs to be supported by monthly intention reminder sessions and most likely daily reminders
A ritual can be elaborate or pragmatic, put your own spin to it, but make it meaningful for you, what ever that means. Commit to your why, then recommit to your why and intention on a monthly and/or weekly basis and keep your why and intentions at the forefront daily.
You can either have post-it notes where you can see them, or reading your intentions out loud in the morning and maybe again at night, remind your brain where you want to go and then take it by the hand because
Step 3: make it happen
and here of course I suggest, as always, that you embrace my "a few minutes a day keep the chaos away" approach. It has several advantages, here to name just a few
- a few minutes are not overwhelming and scary
- we all can find 10-15 minutes a day in our calendar
- you don't need a lot of energy or willpower, you can just do it
- it's easier to convince the brain to do something uncomfortable for only 10-15 minutes than what most of you try to do , which is blocking off hours or days some day in the future
- Instead of hoping for better times in the distant future you move forward every day a little bit and eventually gain momentum
- it's self-love, you are taking care of yourself and your health because decluttering reduces stress and overwhelm
- It's a win-win process as you are creating a new habit that will help you maintain a decluttered environment from now on
- You will gain the 10 or 15 minutes back very quickly, and actually a lot more time, by not having to search for misplaced stuff and a brain that is more focused now that it doesn't have to filter out all the chaos around you
- Less opportunities to beat yourself up, because even if you haven't done your 'few minutes' yesterday for what ever reason, nothing is lost, you can always continue today
- You will see magic unfolding in front of you, others will be inspired by you and what you are doing
So, here’s my challenge to you; flip the script of this motivational triad by seeking discomfort on purpose because the life you want is on the other side of all that clutter.
I promise you, this is the way to create what you want out of life, to create a clutter-free supportive environment in your life and business, in your files and finances and in your mental and emotional world.
And, of course, this is what I help my clients with as a clutter clearing coach. So if you too want help with this, if you want to figure out how do I flip the script on this motivational triad and finally create a sanctuary in your home and a supportive environment in your office, files, and finances then I want you
schedule a complimentary 20-minute call here
and let’s talk on how I can help you move from chaos to peace in all areas of your life.
- If you want to know more about my background check out my about page
- Check out the eBook that I co-authored with Vicki McLeodFrom Chaos to Peace - a simple program to clear your clutter and change your life
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