Don't Chase Dopamine... Create It
It's not the goal you want, it's the consistency of the feeling
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You think you want the goal.
And in many cases, we all do.
Dr. Andrew Huberman, well-acclaimed & well-researched neuroscientist, suggests that instead of constantly chasing goals and external rewards to boost dopamine levels, individuals can focus on creating dopamine internally.
Why is this a big deal?
First, because dopamine is a neurotransmitter in the brain that is associated with feelings of pleasure and motivation.
In essence, they can affect your feelings of satisfaction, inspiration, creativity, mental health and resiliency… to name a few.
Second, external rewards, such as money, food, or social approval, can trigger the release of dopamine in the brain, but the effects are often short-lived.
This is why you see people get addicted to materialism, consumerism and people pleasing… in what can become a never ending spiral of “not enough” and “needing more.”
Third, Dr. Huberman suggests that individuals can create dopamine internally by engaging in activities that they find enjoyable or by setting achievable goals and celebrating small successes along the way.
Regular exercise, spending time in nature, practicing mindfulness, and engaging in creative activities are all ways to increase dopamine production naturally.
Why do we want it naturally?
Because individuals can develop a greater sense of satisfaction and motivation in their daily lives, rather than constantly chasing external rewards.
In other words… freedom.
Over the past several years I’ve been experimenting with these concepts, both unknowingly and knowingly (some great people added resources to my journey), and what I found through practice has been the following:
Chasing the external to create an identity is the fastest way to lose one.
Repetition of daily intentional (←keyword) tasks is where life is lived… the goals are simply the byproducts of the compound effect.
Clarity and direction are more important than speed… until you realize clarity and direction are speed
Let’s dive in👇🏼
Chasing the External to Create an Identity is the Fastest Way to Lose One
When we chase a status or a title, we get a label.
When we chase a label, we get a category.
When we chase a category, we get a box.
Boxes have walls and limits… our soul doesn’t.
So, our soul isn’t looking to the external… the dopamine is short-lived, which makes sense when you consider there’s limits.
However, when we create from the inside out, trusting our soul’s guidance, the dopamine comes from surrender. What I mean is, simply aligning with your gut instincts (soul) and doing what naturally feels right on a daily basis becomes a natural “high.”
Think about it… we’re less stressed, more clear, more calm, less concerned with the external, more trusting of ourselves and our path, grateful in real time and enjoying who we really are than a projected version from the outside.
Your identity is an inside job… always has been.
Repetition of Daily, Intentional Tasks is Where Life is Lived… the Goals Are Simply the Byproducts of the Compound Effect
Repetition and consistency create dopamine by reinforcing behavior, building habits, and increasing mastery, which can lead to a sense of predictability, safety, and accomplishment.
In short, dopamine is released in the brain in response to familiar or predictable experiences.
Let me explain:
The brain likes predictability: The brain is wired to seek out patterns and predictability in the environment.
When we engage in familiar activities or routines, the brain recognizes the patterns and releases dopamine as a way of signaling that the activity is safe and predictable.
Dopamine reinforces behavior: Dopamine is released in response to positive experiences, which reinforces the behavior that led to the positive experience.
When we engage in activities that release dopamine, we are more likely to repeat those activities in the future.
Consistency builds habits: Engaging in a behavior consistently over time can build habits that are reinforced by dopamine release.
This can make it easier to maintain the behavior over the long term, even if it requires some effort or sacrifice.
Repetition increases skill and mastery: When we repeat an activity over and over, we become better at it, which can lead to a sense of mastery and accomplishment.
This can release dopamine and reinforce the behavior, making it more likely that we will continue to engage in the activity in the future.
As I mentioned in a recent Instagram post,
What do you know, the reward is in the work 😉
Clarity & Direction is More Important Than Speed… Until You Realize Clarity & Direction Are Speed
Clarity is highly underrated, or maybe it’s just highly underutilized from the massive amounts of external inputs we receive all day everyday.
I recently launched a FREE micro-workshop called Reverse Engineer Your Life: Work, Rest, Play, Money & Creativity (← it’s worth your time & sanity) and I had mentioned the following:
The fastest way to get what you want is through clarity.
Clarity brings direction.
Direction brings speed.
Clarity + direction build purpose & momentum.
And sometimes, the fastest way to get clarity is by reverse engineering starting with the end result in mind.
Clarity removes 90% of the things we waste time on, keeping us focused on the most important 10%.
That 10% is where we derive our dopamine from.
Because knowing why you’re doing anything will cause you to have a better relationship with the “work” you’re putting in, thereby creating a dopamine loop that releases daily.
With clarity, we not only have a deeper connected relationship with ourselves and our soul, but suddenly, the idea of living present is more appealing than the goals we’ll inevitably reach.
Simplify, Multiply, Diversify below…👇🏼
Instead of chasing goals to get the feeling you’re looking for (accomplishment, success, acceptance, validation), leverage your soul, habits and mastery to live in the feeling permanently. The goals will be reached automatically and you’ll prefer more time in creation.
Don’t chase dopamine… create it.
Trying to appeal to the external world has limits. Surrendering to our internal world has infinite possibilities.
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In the meantime, tell your friends!
Amazing breakdown of how and why we should be creating our own, natural dopamine.
Amazing letter as always!
I’ve been doing new things for my health, and it definitely create a natural high/“great job” type of feeling.
I look forward to being three and half years in like you!
Also, I love the explanation of how we’re basically robbing ourselves out our limitless potential when we choose external validation.
So much of this needs to be taught at a young age!
I’m nerding out over this letter Matt! 🤓👌🏽
We are so much more in control of how we feel than we have been led to believe!
This letter also made me realize that for the past 6 years I have been diligently cultivating a mindful way of life, I truly allow myself to be in awe of the world around me. Beginners mind, childlike wonder whatever you want to call it but when I see a tree it’s not just another tree or the 17th tree I’ve seen that day. It’s a magnificent tree, with deep roots standing here for maybe 100’s of years 🤯 I let myself get swept up in this wonderment for damn near all things. I pay such close attention to life and I have absolutely noticed the internal dopamine hits. 👌🏽