Obstacles and the Motivational Triad

We have a goal in mind.

We have a result we are working towards.

We have a timeline we would like to achieve it in.

We are 3 weeks into those “resolutions” and that is typically when the majority of us have given up on those plans.

The excitement of reaching the result is wearing off, and the reality of continuously showing up regularly to accomplish it is hard on the day to day.

You have found your way to any number of the many obstacles that our brain offers up to us when we are trying to do something new or different.

We all have will power and that will serve us well…..for a time. But at some point, will power runs out because it is a finite commodity. And when it does, we usually pile on guilt and shame for not being “self-disciplined” or “motivated enough” to maintain that finite resource. So how do we fuel change beyond will power?

Douglas J. Lisle and Dr. Alan Goldhamer developed what is termed the “Motivational Triad”. Basically it is the operating system of our mid-brain or Limbic System. I usually refer to this area of the brain as the “caveman brain”. This is where the most powerful motivational and emotional systems reside. These are our survival instincts.

The three parts of the triad are:

  • Seek pleasure, desires and comfort (food, reproduction, shelter, acceptance, connection, recognition, alcohol, drugs, etc.)
  • Avoid pain (physical and mental/emotional- think fear, anxiety, scarcity, anger, etc.)
  • Be efficient and conserve energy (repetitive functions, “automation”, the path of least resistance for parts 1 and 2)

It is important to remember that the motivational triad is there to protect us. It was what kept us alive in caveman times. It has been the human operating system for hundreds of thousands of years. So it is not surprising that as we have “outgrown” the need for some of these systems, we forget that such growth has only been in our most recent history of the past hundred years, evolutionarily speaking.

While it is a protection overall, when we are trying to make changes for ourselves…..exercise, eat healthier, lose weight, learn a new skill…..this motivational triad can be an obstacle when it makes us risk averse, overly cautious, and hesitant.

Why is this knowledge important?

Now that we know what our brain is going to tell us, we can make a plan to overcome those obstacles. That plan comes from our higher brain, or pre-frontal cortex, where we find reasoning, logic, planning, research, etc.

When we make a decision using our higher brain, we can calm the influx of thoughts and emotions from our caveman brain and continue on our way. Just knowing they will come up helps us to allow them to be there without having to turn over the controls to them.

In the example of exercise…. it is usually in complete resistance to the motivational triad. It should come as no surprise that your brain will tell you that going to the gym and lifting weights is….

  • A) Not pleasurable
  • B) Will most likely cause pain – somewhat during and maybe after doing it
  • C) It will not conserve energy – in fact it will require extra energy to be expended

Your brain will remember the previous times that you went to the gym. The difficulty you faced, the soreness of your muscles during the workout and maybe even the next day. It will remind you of the show on Netflix that you wanted to watch 🙂

Oddly enough what our brain doesn’t focus on remembering is the release of “good chemicals” that come from exercise. The strength we feel afterwards. The feeling of accomplishment and self confidence. Remember our brain is predisposed towards negativity so focusing on the drawbacks of going to the gym should not surprise us.

Anytime we decide to make a change for ourselves, our brain is going to give us reasons why we shouldn’t…why it would be better to remain where we are…why new things are so dangerous to try.

That doesn’t mean that we should never try new things. It means that knowing that there are two parts of our brain which will always be in conflict, we can move forward anticipating the challenges that will come up.

The one part of our brain wants us to remain safe, to stay “in the cave” where we know what to expect, to accept things the way they are. The other part of our brain set on our growth and development; Learning new things, going on adventures, taking risks in the unknown.

Life is about finding the way we manage those two contradictory parts of ourselves and reconciling them together to make us whole. Finding who we are is finding the balance between the parts.

It is knowing that both of these parts are given to us to help us. The one side trying to keep us safe, keep us protected, keep up alive. The other side trying to keep us growing, keep us progressing, keep us improving.

We all have will power and that will serve us well…for a time. But at some point, will power runs out because it is a finite commodity. And when it does, we usually pile on guilt and shame for not being “self-disciplined” or “motivated enough” to maintain that finite resource. So how do we fuel change beyond will power?

Hello Friends!

I’m Michelle. I am learning how to minimize my overwhelm, perfectionism, and people-pleasing and I am ready to help you do the same. I’m a certified Life Coach and a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Come with me and learn how.

The three parts of the [motivational] triad are:

~Seek pleasure, desires and comfort (food, reproduction, shelter, acceptance, connection, recognition, alcohol, drugs, etc.)

~Avoid pain (physical and mental/emotional – think fear, anxiety, scarcity, anger, etc.)

~Be efficient and conserve energy (repetitive functions, “automation”, the path of least resistance of for parts 1 and 2)

When we learn to leverage those parts together that is where true power lies. When we feel the feelings of fear or anxiety because we are putting ourselves out there…in danger of failure…yet we still continue forward, we gain strength and power. When we consciously choose feelings of discomfort in the present for a greater outcome in the future, we create new pathways in our brain. We start to learn and develop a new “operating system” to live by. One that can see the risk, weigh the reward and move forward with a belief in ourselves that we can handle the emotions that will come in an effort to become something more.

Not because what we are isn’t enough, or because there is something to prove to others. But simply because we want to experience new things, stretch ourselves beyond our current limits and learn more of what we are truly capable of.

Obstacles will always come up for us as we evolve. It is the anticipation of those obstacles that help us to meet them when they appear, not as flaws or weakness, but just as a part of being human.

If I can help you create a plan for overcoming your own obstacles “Contact Me” and send me a quick email. If you prefer, you can “Schedule a Consult” for a free session to discuss what you want to work towards and how to get started.

And as always…..Remember…..It’s ALL good!!

Published by mrkeil

I help women face the overwhelm of parenting, family and multiple schedules, let go of the shame and people-pleasing perfectionism they place on themselves as women of faith, and create a life they love with intention and purpose. I can help you find your own answers for any problem, reach for any goal, and discover how to be more of yourself as you learn tools to use your own gifts to strengthen yourself emotionally, physically, intellectually and spiritually. In choosing to design your life and live into compassion and lessen the guilt and judgment, you can teach your family to do the same. Find the real you by showing up authentically for yourself and the ones you love. And remember... It's ALL good!!!

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