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How to Improve Your Life

By Remez Sasson

How many times have you told yourself that you are going to improve your life, but ended doing nothing?

How many times have been dissatisfied with some aspects of your life and vowed to change them, but did not follow through with your decision?

What is holding you back, preventing you from improving your life?

 

It is lack of enthusiasm, motivation, desire, determination, willpower and discipline.

Do you, like many others, promise yourself to make changes in your life, especially at the beginning of a New Year? This also happens after a reading a book or an article about a someone, who transformed his life or achieved great success. However, the desire to make improvements does not last long, and the enthusiasm quickly wanes away.

Is it possible to make positive changes? Yes, it is certainly possible, but you have to make a plan, follow certain strategies and techniques, and make some inner changes in your viewpoint and in the manner of your thinking.

Learn How to Improve Your Life in 12 Steps

1. Decide what it is you want to improve. Be specific.

Sit down where you can be alone and undisturbed, and write down a list of goals.

Next, analyze what you wrote, to find out whether you really want to achieve the items on your list. You will most probably discover that you don’t really want to achieve some of them. Strike off the one you don’t really want.

2.Copy, on another piece of paper, the items left in your list, which you really want to achieve. Write them down in the order of their importance.

3. Think about a plan, how you can make them come true. Be as practical as possible, using your common sense, intuition, imagination and creativity.

4. Come up with something, a first step, even if it is quite minor, which you can do right now, such as buying a book with information about your goal, attending a lecture, listening to motivating CDs, looking for courses or workshops that can help you improve your life, or any other step that will take you closer to achieving your goal.

5. Read inspiring books and articles about people who have attained success in the area of your choice. This will enhance your enthusiasm and motivation.

6. Visualize the improvements you want to bring about. See them as already real and true. Make the mental pictures vivid and alive.

7. Keep your desire, enthusiasm and motivation alive, by thinking often how you would like your life to look like. Also, think often about the benefits and advantages you will gain by improving your life, circumstances, your financial condition, health, or anything else.

8. Repeat affirmations. They will constantly remind you of your goals, and program your subconscious mind to assist you in achieving them.

9. Don’t let anything deter you from improving your life. Don’t give in if there are obstacles, delays or difficulties. Be determined to do what you have decided to do, no matter how much time or effort it takes. This is the way successful people act.

10. Developing strong willpower and self-discipline will endow you with the power to overcome any obstacle and difficulty and make you persistent in your efforts. These two skills, can be developed through special techniques and exercises.

11. Have faith in yourself and in your ability to improve your life, you financial condition, your habits and your behavior.

12. Be willing and open to accept change. Don’t be passive, waiting for improvement to enter your life without doing anything. Take action, grab opportunities, and be willing to change your habits and lifestyle.

Remember, making resolutions is not enough; you need to do something about them. If you made resolutions in the past, but did not follow them through, it was because you were not serious enough and your desire was not strong enough.

You can improve your life on all levels, but you need to follow a plan, keep up your enthusiasm, desire and motivation, and not give in, when facing difficulties and obstacles. It might take some time and effort to improve your life, but this is worthwhile and rewarding goal.

If you wish to live a better, happier and more successful life, I highly recommend reading the book Visualize and Achieve Your Dreams, mentioned below.

Visualize and Achieve Your Dreams

 

 


Good company in a journey makes the way seem shorter. — Izaak Walton

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Motivation

Motivation is the reason for people’s actions, desires, and needs. Motivation is also one’s direction to behavior, or what causes a person to want to repeat a behavior. An individual’s motivation may be inspired by others or events (extrinsic motivation)  or it may come from within the individual (intrinsic motivation)  

Motivation has been considered as one of the most important reasons that inspires a person to move forward. Mastering motivation to allow sustained and deliberate practice is central to high levels of achievement e.g. in the worlds of elite sport, medicine or music.

 

Neuroscience

Motivation as a desire to perform an action is usually defined as having two parts, directional such as directed towards a positive stimulus or away from a negative one, as well as the activated “seeking phase” and consummatory “liking phase”.

This type of motivation has neurobiological roots in the basal ganglia, and mesolimbic dopaminergic pathways. Activated “seeking” behavior, such as locomotor activity, is influenced by dopaminergic drugs,

and microdialysis experiments reveal that dopamine is released during the anticipation of a reward.

 The “wanting behavior” associated with a rewarding stimulus can be increased by microinjections of dopamine and dopaminergic drugs in the dorsorostral nucleus accumbens and posterior ventral palladum. Opioid injections in this area produce pleasure, however outside of these hedonic hotspots they create an increased desire.

Furthermore, depletion or inhibition of dopamine in neurons of the nucleus accumbens decreases appetitive but not consummatory behavior. Dopamine is further implicated in motivation as administration of amphetamine increased the break point in a progressive ratio self-reinforcement schedule. That is, subjects were willing to go to greater lengths (e.g. press a lever more times) to obtain a reward.

Psychological theories

Motivation can be conceived of as a cycle in which thoughts influence behaviors, drive performance affects thoughts, and the cycle begins again. Each stage of the cycle is composed of many dimensions including attitudes, beliefs, intentions, effort, and withdrawal which can all affect the motivation that an individual experiences. Most psychological theories hold that motivation exists purely within the individual, but socio-cultural theories express motivation as an outcome of participation in actions and activities within the culturalcontext of social groups.

Natural theories

The natural system assumes that people have higher order needs, which contrasts with the rational theory that suggests people dislike work and only respond to rewards and punishment.[

According to McGregor’s Theory Y, human behavior is based on satisfying a hierarchy of needs: physiological, safety, social, ego, and self-fulfillment.

Physiological needs are the lowest and most important level. These fundamental requirements include food, rest, shelter, and exercise. After physiological needs are satisfied, employees can focus on safety needs, which include “protection against danger, threat, deprivation.”

 However, if management makes arbitrary or biased employment decisions, then an employee’s safety needs are unfulfilled.

The next set of needs is social, which refers to the desire for acceptance, affiliation, reciprocal friendships and love. As such, the natural system of management assumes that close-knit work teams are productive. Accordingly, if an employee’s social needs are unmet, then he will act disobediently.

There are two types of egoistic needs, the second-highest order of needs. The first type refers to one’s self-esteem, which encompasses self-confidence, independence, achievement, competence, and knowledge. The second type of needs deals with reputation, status, recognition, and respect from colleagues.[10] Egoistic needs are much more difficult to satisfy.

The highest order of needs is for self-fulfillment, including recognition of one’s full potential, areas for self-improvement, and the opportunity for creativity. This differs from the rational system, which assumes that people prefer routine and security to creativity.[9] Unlike the rational management system, which assumes that humans don’t care about these higher order needs, the natural system is based on these needs as a means for motivation.

Self-management through teamwork

To successfully manage and motivate employees, the natural system posits that being part of a group is necessary.

 Because of structural changes in social order, the workplace is more fluid and adaptive according to Mayo. As a result, individual employees have lost their sense of stability and security, which can be provided by a membership in a group. However, if teams continuously change within jobs, then employees feel anxious, empty, and irrational and become harder to work with.

 The innate desire for lasting human association and management “is not related to single workers, but always to working groups.”

In groups, employees will self-manage and form relevant customs, duties, and traditions.

 

Wage incentives

Humans are not motivated solely by wage incentives

 Unlike the rational theory of motivation, people are not driven toward economic interests under the natural system. For instance, the straight piecework system pays employees based on each unit of their output. Based on studies such as the Bank Wiring Observation Room, using a piece rate incentive system does not lead to higher production.

Employees actually set upper limits on each person’s daily output. These actions stand “in direct opposition to the ideas underlying their system of financial incentive, which countenanced no upper limit to performance other than physical capacity.”

 Therefore, as opposed to the rational system that depends on economic rewards and punishments, the natural system of management assumes that humans are also motivated by non-economic factors.

Autonomy

Employees seek autonomy and responsibility in their work, contrary to assumptions of the rational theory of management. Because supervisors have direct authority over employees, they must ensure that the employee’s actions are in line with the standards of efficient conduct.

 This creates a sense of restriction on the employee and these constraints are viewed as “annoying and seemingly functioned only as subordinating or differentiating mechanisms.”

 Accordingly, the natural management system assumes that employees prefer autonomy and responsibility on the job and dislike arbitrary rules and overwhelming supervision. An individual’s motivation to complete a task is increased when this task is autonomous. When the motivation to complete a task comes from an “external pressure” that pressure then “undermines” a person’s motivation, and as a result decreases a persons desire to complete the task. 

Rational motivations

The idea that human beings are rational and human behavior is guided by reason is an old one. However, recent research (on satisficing for example) has significantly undermined the idea of homo economicus or of perfect rationality in favour of a more bounded rationality. The field of behavioural economics is particularly concerned with the limits of rationality in economic agents.

 

Incentive theories: intrinsic and extrinsic motivation

Motivation can be divided into two different theories known as intrinsic (internal or inherent) motivation and extrinsic (external) motivation.

Intrinsic motivation

Intrinsic motivation has been studied since the early 1970s. Intrinsic motivation is the self-desire to seek out new things and new challenges, to analyze one’s capacity, to observe and to gain knowledge.

 It is driven by an interest or enjoyment in the task itself, and exists within the individual rather than relying on external pressures or a desire for consideration. The phenomenon of intrinsic motivation was first acknowledged within experimental studies of animal behavior. In these studies, it was evident that the organisms would engage in playful and curiosity-driven behaviors in the absence of reward. Intrinsic motivation is a natural motivational tendency and is a critical element in cognitive, social, and physical development.[15] The two necessary elements for intrinsic motivation are self-determination and an increase in perceived competence.

In short, the cause of the behavior must be internal, known as internal local of causality, and the individual who engages in the behavior must perceive that the task increases their competence.

Students who are intrinsically motivated are more likely to engage in the task willingly as well as work to improve their skills, which will increase their capabilities.

Students are likely to be intrinsically motivated if they:

  • attribute their educational results to factors under their own control, also known as autonomy or locus of control
  • believe they have the skills to be effective agents in reaching their desired goals, also known as self-efficacy beliefs
  • are interested in mastering a topic, not just in achieving good grades

An example of intrinsic motivation is when an employee becomes an IT professional because he or she wants to learn about how computer users interact with computer networks. The employee has the intrinsic motivation to gain more knowledge.

Art for art’s sake is an example of intrinsic motivation in the domain of art.

Traditionally, researchers thought of motivations to use computer systems to be primarily driven by extrinsic purposes; however, many modern systems have their use driven primarily by intrinsic motivations.

 Examples of such systems used primarily to fulfil users’ intrinsic motivations, include on-line gaming, virtual worlds, online shopping[20], learning/education, online dating, digital music repositories, social networking, online pornography, gamified systems, and general gamification. Even traditional management information systems (e.g., ERP, CRM) are being ‘gamified’ such that both extrinsic and intrinsic motivations must increasingly be considered.

Not only can intrinsic motivation be used in a personal setting, but it can also be implemented and utilized in a social environment. Instead of attaining mature desires, such as those presented above via internet which can be attained on one’s own, intrinsic motivation can be used to assist extrinsic motivation to attain a goal. For example, Eli, a 4-year-old with autism, wants to achieve the goal of playing with a toy train.

To get the toy, he must first communicate to his therapist that he wants it. His desire to play is strong enough to be considered intrinsic motivation because it is a natural feeling, and his desire to communicate with his therapist to get the train can be considered extrinsic motivation because the outside object is a reward (see incentive theory). Communicating with the therapist is the first, slightly more challenging goal that stands in the way of achieving his larger goal of playing with the train. Achieving these goals in attainable pieces is also known as the goal-setting theory.

Advantages: Intrinsic motivation can be long-lasting and self-sustaining. Efforts to build this kind of motivation are also typically efforts at promoting student learning. Such efforts often focus on the subject rather than rewards or punishments.

Disadvantages: Efforts at fostering intrinsic motivation can be slow to affect behavior and can require special and lengthy preparation. Students are individuals, so a variety of approaches may be needed to motivate different students. It is often helpful to know what interests one’s students in order to connect these interests with the subject matter. This requires getting to know one’s students. Also, it helps if the instructor is interested in the subject.

 

Extrinsic motivation

Extrinsic motivation comes from influences outside of the individual. In extrinsic motivation, the harder question to answer is where do people get the motivation to carry out and continue to push with persistence. Usually extrinsic motivation is used to attain outcomes that a person wouldn’t get from intrinsic motivation.[23] Common extrinsic motivations are rewards (for example money or grades) for showing the desired behavior, and the threat of punishment following misbehavior. Competition is an extrinsic motivator because it encourages the performer to win and to beat others, not simply to enjoy the intrinsic rewards of the activity. A cheering crowd and the desire to win a trophy are also extrinsic incentives.

The most simple distinction between extrinsic and intrinsic motivation is the type of reasons or goals that lead to an action. While intrinsic motivation refers to doing something because it is inherently interesting or enjoyable, extrinsic motivation, refers to doing something because it leads to a separable outcome. Extrinsic motivation thus contrasts with intrinsic motivation, which is doing an activity simply for the enjoyment of the activity itself, instead of for its instrumental value. 

Social psychological research has indicated that extrinsic rewards can lead to over justification and a subsequent reduction in intrinsic motivation. In one study demonstrating this effect, children who expected to be (and were) rewarded with a ribbon and a gold star for drawing pictures spent less time playing with the drawing materials in subsequent observations than children who were assigned to an unexpected reward condition.

 However, another study showed that third graders who were rewarded with a book showed more reading behavior in the future, implying that some rewards do not undermine intrinsic motivation.[26] While the provision of extrinsic rewards might reduce the desirability of an activity, the use of extrinsic constraints, such as the threat of punishment, against performing an activity has actually been found to increase one’s intrinsic interest in that activity. In one study, when children were given mild threats against playing with an attractive toy, it was found that the threat actually served to increase the child’s interest in the toy, which was previously undesirable to the child in the absence of threat.

Behaviorist theories

While many theories on motivation have a mentalistic perspective, behaviorists focus only on observable behavior and theories founded on experimental evidence. In the view of behaviorism, motivation is understood as a question about what factors cause, prevent, or withhold various behaviors, while the question of, for instance, conscious motives would be ignored. Where others would speculate about such things as values, drives, or needs, that may not be observed directly, behaviorists are interested in the observable variables that affect the type, intensity, frequency and duration of observable behavior. Through the basic research of such scientists as Pavlov, Watson and Skinner, several basic mechanisms that govern behavior have been identified. The most important of these are classical conditioning and operant conditioning.

Classical and operant conditioning

In classical (or respondent) conditioning, behavior is understood as responses triggered by certain environmental or physical stimuli. They can be unconditioned, such as in-born reflexes, or learned through the pairing of an unconditioned stimulus with a different stimulus, which then becomes a conditioned stimulus. In relation to motivation, classical conditioning might be seen as one explanation as to why an individual performs certain responses and behaviors in certain situations.

For instance, a dentist might wonder why a patient does not seem motivated to show up for an appointment, with the explanation being that the patient has associated the dentist (conditioned stimulus) with the pain (unconditioned stimulus) that elicits a fear response (conditioned response), leading to the patient being reluctant to visit the dentist.

In operant conditioning, the type and frequency of behavior is determined mainly by its consequences. If a certain behavior, in the presence of a certain stimulus, is followed by a desirable consequence (a reinforcer), the emitted behavior will increase in frequency in the future, in the presence of the stimulus that preceded the behavior (or a similar one). Conversely, if the behavior is followed by something undesirable (a punisher), the behavior is less likely to occur in the presence of the stimulus. In a similar manner, removal of a stimulus directly following the behavior might either increase or decrease the frequency of that behavior in the future (negative reinforcement or punishment).

 For instance, a student that gained praise and a good grade after turning in a paper, might seem more motivated in writing papers in the future (positive reinforcement); if the same student put in a lot of work on a task without getting any praise for it, he or she might seem less motivated to do school work in the future (negative punishment). If a student starts to cause trouble in class gets punished with something he or she dislikes, such as detention (positive punishment), that behavior would decrease in the future. The student might seem more motivated to behave in class, presumably in order to avoid further detention (negative reinforcement).

The strength of reinforcement or punishment is dependent on schedule and timing. A reinforcer or punisher affects the future frequency of a behavior most strongly if it occurs within seconds of the behavior. A behavior that is reinforced intermittently, at unpredictable intervals, will be more robust and persistent, compared to one that is reinforced every time the behavior is performed.[28][29] For example, if the misbehaving student in the above example was punished a week after the troublesome behavior, that might not affect future behavior.

In addition to these basic principles, environmental stimuli also affect behavior. Behavior is punished or reinforced in the context of whatever stimuli were present just before the behavior was performed, which means that a particular behavior might not be affected in every environmental context, or situation, after it is punished or reinforced in one specific context.

 A lack of praise for school-related behavior might, for instance, not decrease after-school sports-related behavior that is usually reinforced by praise.

The various mechanisms of operant conditioning may be used to understand the motivation for various behaviors by examining what happens just after the behavior (the consequence), in what context the behavior is performed or not performed (the antecedent), and under what circumstances (motivating operators).

Incentive motivation

Incentive theory is a specific theory of motivation, derived partly from behaviorist principles of reinforcement, which concerns an incentive or motive to do something.

The most common incentive would be a compensation. Compensation can be tangible or intangible, It helps in motivating the employees in their corporate life, students in academics and inspire to do more and more to achieve profitability in every field. Studies show that if the person receives the reward immediately, the effect is greater, and decreases as delay lengthens.[

Repetitive action-reward combination can cause the action to become a habit.

“Reinforcers and reinforcement principles of behavior differ from the hypothetical construct of reward.” A reinforcer is anything that follows an action, with the intentions that the action will now occur more frequently. From this perspective, the concept of distinguishing between intrinsic and extrinsic forces is irrelevant.

Incentive theory in psychology treats motivation and behavior of the individual as they are influenced by beliefs, such as engaging in activities that are expected to be profitable. Incentive theory is promoted by behavioral psychologists, such as B.F. Skinner. Incentive theory is especially supported by Skinner in his philosophy of Radical behaviorism, meaning that a person’s actions always have social ramifications: and if actions are positively received people are more likely to act in this manner, or if negatively received people are less likely to act in this manner.

Incentive theory distinguishes itself from other motivation theories, such as drive theory, in the direction of the motivation. In incentive theory, stimuli “attract” a person towards them, and push them towards the stimulus. In terms of behaviorism, incentive theory involves positive reinforcement: the reinforcing stimulus has been conditioned to make the person happier. As opposed to in drive theory, which involves negative reinforcement: a stimulus has been associated with the removal of the punishment—the lack of homeostasis in the body. For example, a person has come to know that if they eat when hungry, it will eliminate that negative feeling of hunger, or if they drink when thirsty, it will eliminate that negative feeling of thirst.

Motivating operations

Motivating operations, MOs, relate to the field of motivation in that they help improve understanding aspects of behavior that are not covered by operant conditioning. In operant conditioning, the function of the reinforcer is to influence future behavior. The presence of a stimulus believed to function as a reinforcer does not according to this terminology explain the current behavior of an organism – only previous instances of reinforcement of that behavior (in the same or similar situations) do. Through the behavior-altering effect of MOs, it is possible to affect current behavior of an individual, giving another piece of the puzzle of motivation.

Motivating operations are factors that affect learned behavior in a certain context. MOs have two effects: a value-altering effect, which increases or decreases the efficiency of a reinforcer, and a behavior-altering effect, which modifies learned behavior that has previously been punished or reinforced by a particular stimulus.

When a motivating operation causes an increase in the effectiveness of a reinforcer, or amplifies a learned behavior in some way (such as increasing frequency, intensity, duration or speed of the behavior), it functions as an establishing operation, EO. A common example of this would be food deprivation, which functions as an EO in relation to food: the food-deprived organism will perform behaviors previously related to the acquisition of food more intensely, frequently, longer, or faster in the presence of food, and those behaviors would be especially strongly reinforced.[28] For instance, a fast-food worker earning minimal wage, forced to work more than one job to make ends meet, would be highly motivated by a pay raise, because of the current deprivation of money (a conditioned establishing operation). The worker would work hard to try to achieve the raise, and getting the raise would function as an especially strong reinforcer of work behavior.

Conversely, a motivating operation that causes a decrease in the effectiveness of a reinforcer, or diminishes a learned behavior related to the reinforcer, functions as an abolishing operation, AO. Again using the example of food, satiation of food prior to the presentation of a food stimulus would produce a decrease on food-related behaviors, and diminish or completely abolish the reinforcing effect of acquiring and ingesting the food.[28] Consider the board of a large investment bank, concerned with a too small profit margin, deciding to give the CEO a new incentive package in order to motivate him to increase firm profits.

If the CEO already has a lot of money, the incentive package might not be a very good way to motivate him, because he would be satiated on money. Getting even more money wouldn’t be a strong reinforcer for profit-increasing behavior, and wouldn’t elicit increased intensity, frequency or duration of profit-increasing behavior.

Motivation and psychotherapy

Motivation lies at the core of many behaviorist approaches to psychological treatment. A person with autism-spectrum disorder is seen as lacking motivation to perform socially relevant behaviors – social stimuli are not as reinforcing for people with autism compared to other people. Depression is understood as a lack of reinforcement (especially positive reinforcement) leading to extinction of behavior in the depressed individual. A patient with specific phobia is not motivated to seek out the phobic stimulus because it acts as a punisher, and is over-motivated to avoid it (negative reinforcement). In accordance, therapies have been designed to address these problems, such as EIBI and CBT for major depression and specific phobia.

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia