Just what motivates team Motee? A few months ago, the Motee Team talked to students on six campuses in the Triangle about their experiences in study groups and peer learning relationships.
What they told us inspired me. It was greater than motivation. It was a call to action. I heard students express that getting it right isn’t about a correct answer; it is about a meaningful exchange that creates the will to do. It is the pursuit and glorious self, wisdom or knowledge discovery. Those conversations generated a kind of energy. Each person expressed a desire to go beyond. To create. To be a part of something great.
Here’s some of what they told us. I see something remarkable. Do you see it too?
“Teaching is learning” Middlebury College – Computer Science major
“I figured out my first semester, first year, that having a study partner there to work with keeps me on task.” Meredith College – Economics major
“Right before Finals, I get in a study group and we split up the study guide sections and then come back together and compare notes. It makes me feel more driven and motivated.” UNC-Chapel Hill – Journalism and Public Relations senior
“I was never in a study group in high school, but I’ve been in some here. It makes studying more fun, and you learn more from others.” UNC-Chapel Hill – Biology/ English major
“I don’t really like to study in groups; it’s too distracting. But I LOVE helping others, especially in science labs.” Meredith College – International Business major
“Normally I like to study alone, but I like to collaborate in groups in my own field (Social Work/Psychology). I really like to be the group facilitator. It helps me make connections, feel included, and listen and think through things.” Durham Tech – Psychology sophomore
Writing this, I’m sitting in a wide open co-working space not unlike a library common room. Across the room I see people engaged in pursuit. Conversation. Sitting at tables. Quietly working out computer code, writing email, and drawing on whiteboards. Further across the room is a mural of a human in full space suit walking in space. Not far a large piece of the Berlin wall stands watch. People are engaged in their own higher endeavors.
When I glance at the astronaut walking in space or gaze at the Berlin wall monument. I know the distance it takes us to reach our goals. University students I see you. I see your ability. I see your willingness to reach beyond the ordinary and create something new. And I am motivated.
You might be reading this because you have work to do, and need a little help getting it done. You might be reading this to learn to help others get their work done. Dopamine is going to help us both get through this article. It’s nature’s motivator.
Dopamine fuels our resolve to complete tasks. It provides the vehicle for conscious motivation. Studies show that rats deprived of this chemical in their brains won’t feed on food that’s only a few inches away from them. Even when they reach starvation levels. They starve to death!
Scary I know.
What exactly is dopamine?
Most people know it as the “pleasure chemical” of the brain. It’s responsible for making us recognize pleasurable things. It’s the chemical that tells us to pursue pleasurable activities. Dopamine’s role doesn’t start and end with pleasure. It’s a vital part of our behavior, attention, mood, sleep, learning, memory, and motivation.
The story is larger than a simple “pleasure chemical.” Researchers discovered that dopamine is present when soldiers diagnosed with PTSD are exposed to the sound of gunfire. They concluded that it acts more as a motivation chemical. In this case, it motivated the soldiers to avoid the perceived threat situation.
Everybody can take advantage of dopamine. The key is creating rewarding experiences. For the rats, it’s food. For soldiers, it’s safety. For students, it’s good grades.
When you complete one goal, reward yourself in proportion to your effort! This can be something as small as a 5-minute break or a self-congratulation. Let yourself feel the positivism of succeeding. The bigger efforts and rewards give the biggest dopamine response.
Researchers at the University of Michigan suggest if you find yourself in a lull of motivation, “focus on imaging the joy of completing” your task.
Hacking dopamine levels is simple. See. I’ve been running a half-marathon while writing this blog post. Yay me! 13.1. Now it’s time for coffee. My favorite reward.
For more on motivation, check out Ali In Bloom’s article on Collaboration, Motivation, and Sticking Together!