How to Do Simple Priming to Keep Yourself Motivated

Your brain is wired to constantly make connections.. Use this to your advantage with the priming effect – controlling the associations you make.

Smiling Face | Priming cover

This past weekend, my roommate Jester was out of town. While leaving on Friday, he innocuously said, “Make good decisions.” Aware of how up and down my mood and performance has been over the last few months, he probably meant it as simple motivation.

It worked.

Over the weekend, I did the following:

  • Ate better – less carb, more protein, more timely meals
  • Cleaned the kitchen, including nasty bins
    • Rearranged kitchen to suit my convenience (pending for months)
    • Restocked kitchen (with good things)
  • Finished reading a book
  • Put a couple of pending tasks in motion for Toastmasters
  • Conducted five Talkback Tuesday interviews
  • Cleaned my room

That’s quite a bit to do, for someone as moody and prone to prolonged periods of rest. It might have been because I was caught up on sleep. It might have been because I’m taking antidepressants again*. Or it may have been because of Jester‘s priming.

*I’d had some breathing trouble the first half of the week, symptoms similar to panic attacks but less intense. Gonna talk to the doc soon, thanks for asking.

What is priming?

Priming is a phenomenon wherein your brain makes associations based on what it knows. For example, consider the words tiny, big, petite, mouse, and pocket. Now fill in the blanks for S _ _ _ L.

Chances are high you thought of the word small, even though options included skull, stall, still, skill, snarl, and stool, among others. This is because upon reading those base words, your brain automatically started making associations.

This priming effect works on everything, consciously and unconsciously. Your brain is wired to constantly make connections – hence why you are able to remember so many different things, and why learning can be made easier through song, rhyme, acronyms, or other common learning techniques.

This is probably the reason why the stupid “dirty-mind” jokes on social media work. Popular media constantly bombards us with sexual imagery and sexually colored content. We are constantly primed to think about sex (and form whatever association the marketer has tried to make). For example, deodorant commercials work solely on the principle that deodorant makes you sexually attractive.

How fast can you guess these words? | Priming
This is an example of the ‘dirty-mind’ jokes.

You can read a detailed article on the priming effect by Anthony Dejolde here: How to Prepare Your Brain to Acquire a Permanent Performance Gain.

How Do You Prime Yourself?

So how can you use this priming effect to your advantage? Anthony goes into detail in his article, with both expensive and cheap options – better mug, better watch, new clothes, paid-for software, and all.

However his article focuses on materialism, explicitly stating that daily affirmations don’t work effectively for him. While there is truth to the materialism, I disagree on the vocal affirmations.

Affirmations are messages you give yourself for mental stability, focus, and all the other good, juicy tidbits of personality. You can say them to yourself, or you can write them down. You can put up labels or notes around your room where you’ll see them. Doing so repeatedly and everyday ingrains the message in your head. One of the most common affirmations is “I love myself just the way I am.”

I can personally attest that affirmations work – they are an important part of the recovery process for depression. However, I have an addendum. I believe affirmations work best when they come from a source you respect.

If you’re trying to build self-respect because you don’t have any, self-affirmations alone aren’t going to do much – it’ll require a herculean effort to re-train your brain. The priming effect is very little here. However, if you have a figure in your life that you respect, their words will mean a lot more. For example, Jester‘s words for me became important simply because I have respect for him.

Social outreach is considered an important factor of mental recovery and strengthening. Respect is the reason. More than love, try to surround yourself with people who give you different levels of respect. The priming effect will be strengthened and you will be able to help yourself better and more efficiently.

Use this technique to keep yourself motivated to do the things you want to do. Combine this technique with healthy relationships and good exercise, and you’ll see quick improvements in your endeavours. Here’s a parting prime for you:

You are great. You are wanted. Yes, you matter. You have the power to do what you want to do.

Thank you for reading.

  • Nice insight

    • Vaibhav

      Thanks Piyush. What did you like about the article?

      • Priming and how we tend to respect the opinion of that one friend

  • Mel

    Does Jester know how he changed the course of your whole weekend with a few simple words? Great post 🙂

    • Vaibhav

      Well, he reads EVERYTHING that I publish on this blog. So if he didn’t before, he sure does now!