Why is it that you can set goals that completely juice you, only to find that your enthusiasm wanes within days of starting a project?
I experience this with a lot of the dear people who start my course. The first few days are great guns and then something happens. The grey every day gets in the way and commitment begins to wane.
Peruse the internet and there is a plethora of ra-ra noise, telling you to be the best version of yourself, to Namaste up, to become the Alpha-dog to… and the list goes on. Look, we may be living in a crazy time where humans are transcending physicality, but even Elon Musk will have a bad day when he can’t take a turn at the bathroom.
Animals and humans are goal setters. When you set a goal and attain it, then you receive a boost of Dopamine and that’s a good thing. Contrary to popular belief though, Dopamine is not responsible for creating pleasure in the brain. It is in fact the regulator of motivation. When you have healthy Dopamine levels, your inner drive is functioning. Take away the Dopamine, and you’re downright listless. You may be able to experience pleasure, but a rat in a cage, when bereft of dopamine, would not move 3 inches to get to its prized piece of cheese.
Now here’s the kicker… In humans, the amount of Dopamine that we excrete is directly proportionate to the meaning we assign to a particular event
If you placed a rat in a running wheel and allowed it to run (they love those things), the rat would become healthier in time. It would get fabulously fit and strong. (like a cartoon rat in a Disney movie) – If you placed another rat in the cage and forced it to run every time the other rat ran, the second rat would get sick. It’s stress levels would rise, cortisol would be rampant and eventually the poor thing would die. Why is this? – Perception. I have seen many people approach a task, fitness program in a begrudging manner and actually do more damage than good. Essentially, this is because they were subjectively in charge of their Dopamine and they and they squandered an opportunity to attach an inspiring meaning to what they were doing. People who are super busy and “hop on the bike because the coach says they must” are in danger of this.
This is why it is so important to set goals that have little milestones.
When you pass these milestones en route to your end goal, your mental pat on the back releases dopamine, which in turn bolsters your motivation to continue on your journey. When you set achievable, markers it’s as if there’s an internal combustion engine that swells with your life force and you wont’ know why, but you’ll be riding high on your most recent achievement.
So, my friends, if you’re standing in front of this mountain that you know you have to climb, I would urge you to become aware of dopamine. When you put a smile on your dial and do that thing anyway, your body will come to your basal physiological aide and squirt some magic motivation juice into your brain. (I’m being serious, like Asterix and Obelix) and before you know it, the milestones will become a blur as you pass goal after goal en route to the life you’ve always wanted.
Motivation is real and Dopamine is where you’ll find it. So be your own best friend and look for reasons to find joy. When you do this, you become Asterix.