Article and comment – Why can I never be bothered?


If getting motivated to get things done hard for you, is it your fault or is it genetics? Is it just the way you were born?  The answer is about 40% genetic and 60% based on the choices you make.  Why?


  • About 40% of your “motivation to learn and change” comes from genetics. This is based on twin studies. However, it is not due to any particular “motivation” gene. It is instead, a cluster of genes that effect your self motivation.
  • Motivation is effected by the release of a neurotransmitter, dopamine. This is released from the brain region, called the nucleus accumbens. It is stimulated by the ventral tegmental area.  When the release of dopamine is lower, motivation is lower and vice versa.


  • Ways to improve your dopamine release and improve your motivation:
    • Thinking positively about the future. But, only with realistic thoughts about realistic obstacles you need to overcome. By thinking positively alone, it reduces motivation in the long term.
    • Reward yourself. Linking an activity you need to do with a reward improves motivation and your release of dopamine.
    • Connecting with your future self. Connecting what you do now with the what/who you would like to be in the future helps to motivate you. It helps towards both the positive and negative effects of your actions today.


  • Food and adding protein based food. Protein contains all the amino acids such as meat, fish and eggs. These work together to create core neurotransmitters such as noradrenaline that help with motivation. In addition, these foods contain the B group of vitamins. These are responsible for the release of energy from food.


  • Regular exercise improves cognitive function and enhances your brain’s ability to synthesise dopamine. Funnily enough, motivation is required to do regular exercise. However, the reward is not only to improve health and cognitive health, but improved motivation, a virtuous cycle.


Tait, A (2021) Why can I never be bothered?  New Scientist, 29th May 2021, No. 3336.  P41-45.




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