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  • Writer's pictureColorado Coherence Collective

How to Mobilize Motivation with Executive Functioning Coaching

Read more about Executive Functioning Skills here.

Motivation is a complex, misunderstood, and often elusive state of physiological readiness to initiate task-based demands that we would rather avoid. Resistance, or the opposite of motivation, is a meaningful signal that something is not meeting your needs, either within the external social context or your internal neuroceptive and nervous systems. The ability to initiate tasks not only requires executive functioning skills, it also requires the ability to somatically attune to your body and mobilize your Autonomic Nervous System to a state of physiological readiness. At Colorado Coherence Collective, we refer to this practice of maximizing openness and minimizing resistance within the bodymind as "Mobilizing Motivation".

Research has proven the bidirectional relationship between the brain and the body, meaning your state of mind can impact your bodily readiness, and bodily movement can impact your mental readiness. For example, when we consciously remind ourselves “I am safe” and take deep regulating breaths, which innervate our diaphragm, we signal to our bodyminds that we are safe. This allows our bodyminds to exit a State of Protection and return to a State of Connection, or our Safety State, also called the “rest and digest” state. Many individuals with threat-sensitive or hypervigilant neuroceptive and nervous systems struggle to mobilize motivation within our bodyminds, instead finding ourselves engaging in resistance behaviors of avoidance, procrastination, and other defense mechanisms. However, if we learn how to regain flexible control over our neuroceptive and nervous systems, accommodate our decision-making and learning styles with adjustments to our social contexts, and set boundaries with ourselves and others regarding urgency and productivity, we can regain flexible control over our ability to initiate tasks. 

This same principle applies to motivating oneself to initiate a task-based demand; when we perceive a task as important or worthwhile, it is easier for us to mobilize our bodies to take action. For example, if someone bet that you couldn’t be ready to leave your house at 5:00am in exchange for a large sum of money, you could probably muster the motivation required, and utilize the executive functioning skills needed, to ensure you were ready by 5:00am. Alternatively, if someone bet you 1¢ for the same challenge, you might decline the invitation after determining that the exertion is not worth the potential reward, or you might accept the challenge but struggle to follow-through. 

William Dodson, MD, posits that many people are readily able to both motivate themselves and mobilize their bodies to take action following the framework of primary and secondary importance

  • Tasks of primary importance include activities or demands that are aligned with an individual’s values or personal beliefs. 

  • Examples could include: driving the speed limit because they value safety, arriving at work on time because they value timeliness, or sending thank-you cards after receiving a gift because they value overt expressions of gratitude. 

  • Tasks of secondary importance are related to the wants and needs of loved ones, family, friends, colleagues, neighbors, and other community members. 

  • Examples could include: driving the speed limit because you value the safety of your loved ones and children, arriving at work on time because you don’t want to impose extra work on your colleagues, or sending thank you cards after receiving a gift because you want to share a sense of connection with your loved one(s). 

Tasks of primary and secondary importance can also be motivated by a desire to avoid unwanted consequences or punishments. 

  • Examples could include: driving the speed limit to avoid getting a speeding ticket, arriving at work on time to avoid consequences, sending thank-you cards to avoid conflict, or paying your taxes on time to avoid financial and legal penalties.

For many individuals, the primary and secondary importance framework is sufficient; once they determine that a task is important, they are able to mobilize their Autonomic Nervous System to a state of physiological readiness that allows for task initiation and body movement. This ability describes the neuronorm of motivation. Read more about neuronorms on our blog post, The Neurodiversity Paradigm: A Series of Operational Definitions

William Dodson, MD, has suggested an alternative motivational framework that aligns more closely with the needs of many neurodivergent individuals: The ICNU Framework. ICNU stands for Interest, Challenge, Novelty, and Urgency, which describes 4 aspects of task-based demands that many neurodivergent individuals find motivating. Tasks that fall outside of the ICNU Framework are often perceived as unimportant, leaving many individuals unable to achieve a state of motivation, instead engaging in resistance behaviors including avoidance, procrastination, denial, and other defense mechanisms. 

Read more about the ICNU Framework below: 

Interest: many individuals are motivated by tasks that they find interesting.

  • They may struggle to initiate tasks that feel too boring or disinteresting. 

  • They may hyperfocus on tasks that feel fascinating or are a special interest or SpIn.

Challenge: many individuals are motivated by tasks that are appropriately challenging. 

  • They may struggle to initiate tasks that feel too easy or too difficult. 

  • They may immediately initiate dopamine-inducing tasks with enjoyable challenge. 

Novelty: many individuals are motivated by tasks that they find novel.

  • They may struggle to initiate tasks that feel repetitive or mundane.

  • They may readily initiate tasks that feel new or exciting in some way.

Urgency: many individuals are motivated by tasks that require manageable urgency.

  • They may struggle to initiate tasks without imminent deadlines or time constraints. 

  • They may readily initiate tasks with appropriate levels of urgency or time sensitivity. 

By infusing aspects of the ICNU Framework to our task–based demands, neurodivergent individuals and support teams can minimize demand avoidance and other resistance behaviors. Examples could include: inserting interest by pairing a nonpreferred task with a preferred task (ie: folding laundry while watching TV), inserting novelty by using new tangible materials or methods (ie: color-coded post-it notes and pens), or inserting urgency using a Pomodoro Method (ie: using a timer to alternate between time-on-task and break time). Read more about the ICNU framework here and here

Due to neuroplasticity, or the brain’s inherent ability to reorganize itself, it is possible to learn new skills and techniques to minimize demand avoidance, task paralysis, amotivation, and procrastination. This can be achieved through regular and repeated education, behavioral experimentation, and collaborative self-reflection with competent professionals. 

Mobilizing Motivation: Executive Functioning Coaching is designed to support adults, young adults, and teens with executive functioning challenges to gain a deeper understanding of their strengths and needs related to motivational style, neuroceptive and nervous system responses, and executive functioning skills. Learning about these topics independently can be helpful to increase awareness, but meaningful lifestyle change most often occurs when this knowledge is paired with nonjudgemental self-reflection, applied skills development, and a commitment to behavioral experimentation. When we engage in these efforts in community with competent professionals in a supportive, nonjudmental, and collaborative context, rather than independently or in isolation, the resulting lifestyle change can be transformational. 

Outcomes of Mobilizing Motivation: Executive Functioning Coaching:

  • Learn the newest neuroscientific theories that explain our patterns of thinking, feeling, behaving, and communicating.

  • Observe our bodily sensations, emotions, thoughts, behaviors, and social communication styles to identify patterns we would like to change. 

  • Explore the underlying meaning beneath our experiences of resistance, avoidance, openness, and initiation.  

  • Reflect on our personal values, beliefs, expectations, hopes, fears, decision-making processes, and perception of self. 

  • Set specific behavioral goals, objectives, and intervention methods that will lead to our desired lifestyle change. 

  • Provide accountability and support to one another as we develop new systems, structures, rituals, and routines and achieve our goals. 

Join us to learn how to harness your strengths and accommodate your needs to Mobilize Motivation within your bodymind. Please click to schedule a free Coaching Consultation or email us at



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