Do you feel like grabbing another drink after you had two? You feel an inner tingling asking you to enjoy the feeling of being drunk.
How about reaching halfway through a trek or a marathon? You fight fatigue and keep going until you finish. When you finish, you end up drained, depleted and dead-tired. Yet we have an amazing feeling of reaching the finish line which cannot be explained with words.
Do you know why you feel like chugging another drink or completing the marathon fighting fatigue?
Thanks to Dopamine. If you feel like doing what makes you happy, dopamine is the element in your body triggering it.
What is dopamine?
Dopamine is known with various names such as pleasure chemical or motivation molecule. As a brain chemical and a neurotransmitter, it promotes reward-motivation behavior. If doing any activity generates feelings of pleasure dopamine prompts you to do the same activity again.
If you now go back to the initial question of why you pick another drink or complete the unfinished trek/marathon, dopamine is the answer. Dopamine does not create the feeling of pleasure itself. It only promotes the behavior which leads to pleasure. Therefore, not everyone advocates calling dopamine as the pleasure chemical.
Unfortunately, dopamine does not understand the difference between good and bad habits. If doing something makes you happy, dopamine will cause you to either complete it or repeat it. Therefore, dopamine causes you to chase your ambition and pursue your dreams. The same dopamine also creates the urge to light another cigarette.
Dopamine rewards any behavior which activates your pleasure cells. Whether you use it for goal setting or addiction is your choice.
Dopamine and motivation
Do you notice the difference between working on a job you hate and one you love? Of course, we all do.
If you love playing the guitar, you want to keep going at it. If you love dancing, you do not mind dancing all night. If your dream is to be an entrepreneur, you are brimming with energy even after working for 80 hours a week.
Dopamine exists from the caveman times. Simon Sinek explains how dopamine works in his talk – Why Leaders Eat Last
Back in the caveman times, we had to hunt to eat and survive. Dopamine caused the caveman to go hunting to have the pleasure of eating. It was a reward system that encouraged good behavior. The psychology of achieving goals has a direct association with dopamine.
Similarly, if you have set a goal and work towards it, you feel better as you inch closer to achieving it. The better the progress you make, the more you want to go further. At every step of your progress, you get a shot of dopamine in your body which motivates you to do more.
Dopamine plays a role in all of the following activities:
- Chasing your dream
- Completing an item on your to-do list
- Fighting fatigue to complete the marathon
- Hitting the gym
- Trekking a difficult and tall mountain to reach the summit
Dopamine and bad habits
If Dopamine could only motivate us with the right things the world would be such a better place. Unfortunately, dopamine can also promote the behavior of bad habits which induce pleasure. For example, dopamine is also responsible for:
- Smoking more cigarettes
- Drinking a few more drinks
- The urge to gamble again
- Addiction to drugs like cocaine, heroin
- The craving for sex
What else does dopamine do?
Dopamine does more than just inducing reward enforced behavior. Dopamine plays its part in memory, behavior, cognition, sleep, learning and other areas. However, the chances that you hear about dopamine from these areas is slim. Topics such as motivation, addiction, sex, alcohol, gambling grab more eyes and ears.
Conclusion: How to use dopamine to your advantage
Dopamine is ingrained in our bodies and motivates a reward behavior system. Therefore, whenever you have a huge task to accomplish, break it down into several smaller tasks, where each feels like a micro goal. If you have trouble breaking down tasks refer to – How to use short term goals to achieve long term goals.
With a large number of smaller tasks, you will get a shot of dopamine every time you finish one. The good vibe due to the dopamine will motivate you to finish another task, then another, followed by some more. In no time, you will reach the halfway through the huge goal you set to achieve. Now since the final destination seems closer, you will feel more motivated to keep going and achieve your goals. Dopamine promotes any form of goal-directed behavior.
If you want to have just one takeaway from the article then break your large goals into smaller ones. Dopamine will act as the catalyst to complete them for you.
Leave a comment on a situation in the past where you had the urge to complete a tough task you were halfway through.
Maxim Dsouza has spent over a decade experimenting and finding various time management techniques to improve his productivity. He strongly understands the fact that time is a limited commodity and tries to make every second count. He has extensive experience in leadership in startups, small businesses, and large corporations.
He has helped people of different professions and age groups gain clarity on their goals, improve focus, revise their time management skills and develop an awareness of their psychological cognitive biases.