Every year, I gain more and more insight on how my brain operates. And lately, I’ve been increasingly curious about the motivational part of my brain. How do I get motivated? What is the best way for me to motivate myself? How can I put systems in place that will help me achieve my goals? All of these are important questions to ask ourselves. And recently, I’ve become better at utilizing my motivation button. Here’s what I mean.
I know how my brain works. You may be the same or you may be different. However, for me to become really motivated to do something, learn something, get better at something, or work hard towards something, I need social pressure. Social pressure is a powerful thing. Having a performance to work towards has helped me achieve so many of my goals. When it comes to sports, the pressure of performing in front of my peers and family pushes me to work extremely hard. If I had to give a presentation at work, this force me to know my material thoroughly and deliver so I can perform in front of my coworkers and boss. If I have a beach vacation coming up, the social pressure of looking good in a swimsuit helps me go extra hard at the gym. I’m sure I’m not alone with these social pressure examples. In fact, it’s quite common for social pressure to be a highly influential motivating tactic. That’s why peer pressure as a teenager is so effective. The social pressure causes us to do things that we wouldn’t necessarily do on our own. Now, peer pressure as a teenager is often affiliated with the toxic things. However, you can apply the same concepts to something worthwhile and meaningful like exercise, work, sports, and so on.
My most recent example of this is dance. In about a month, I’m heading to San Diego with of my good friends to visit two other good friends of mine. As it turns out, there is almost a 100% chance that we go salsa dancing. Now, I don’t know how to salsa dance. In fact, last time I visited my San Diego friends was about 2 years ago and when we went to a salsa club, I felt like a loner since I didn’t know the steps. I was sidelined at the bar and missed out on all the fun. This feeling sucked and I didn’t want it to happen again. Furthermore, all three friends that I’ll be with are familiar and know how to salsa dance. This adds social pressure on me to learn how to salsa. Since we will most likely be going out salsa dancing while there, I want to be prepared for when we do so. As a result, I have already signed up for salsa lessons so I can put on the performance of a lifetime while in San Diego. But more importantly, I want to join in on the fun and there’s a little part of me that wants to impress my friends and any single girls that I happen to dance with. This is social pressure and has helped push me to sign up and attend salsa lessons. Would I have signed up for salsa lessons if I did not have the social pressure of my San Diego trip coming up? I have no way of knowing for sure, but chances are ‘no’. I have honestly always wanted to learn how to salsa dance so maybe I would’ve gotten around to it eventually. But who knows for sure if that’s true? I needed this social pressure to put on a performance, to impress my friends, and more importantly, not to be sidelined for not knowing how to salsa dance.
I know how to swing dance quite well and have taken numerous lessons in the past on this type of dancing. Especially when I recently moved to the city, I was looking to be social and make friends. Since swing dance was something I already knew and was good at, I tried more lessons out and brought a couple of my new friends that I was trying to get closer with. Looking back, this was also social pressure. I wanted to impress my new friends and perhaps make more friends. Would I have done swing dancing if I already had my friend group and was satisfied with it? Perhaps no. I needed an external motivation to help me to sign up and attend. And it worked.
Social pressure can be a powerful tool if used correctly. Right now, I’m applying this concept to my salsa dancing. I would like to be fluent enough to hold my own at a salsa club in San Diego with my friends who I’m visiting. And for an even more powerful reason, I don’t want to be left out and not partake in the dancing. As a result, I’ve taken up salsa dancing. It’s a skill I’ve always wanted to learn, but just needed a little push to get me going. And that’s where the social pressure comes in. If used correctly, you can learn almost anything. Putting yourself in certain situations where there is a performance at some point or having a fear of being left out will help you get motivated like never before. It’s the external pressure that has this large impact on our brains. Do I wish that I had this motivation on my own and didn’t need this social pressure to get motivated? Of course I do. In fact, for some things this already holds true. However, it doesn’t hurt to add social pressure to really put your motivation into top gear. It may even be the kick in the butt you need to achieve something you’ve always wanted to do. So, if you have something in mind that you know is good for you but you just can’t bring yourself around to do it, set a date. And on that date, schedule a performance of that skill so you can showcase your ability in front of family, friends, or even strangers. The fear of embarrassment is a powerful tool. It’s about time we start taking advantage of it.