You might be reading this because you have work to do, and need a little help getting it done. You might be reading this to learn to help others get their work done. Dopamine is going to help us both get through this article. It’s nature’s motivator.
Dopamine fuels our resolve to complete tasks. It provides the vehicle for conscious motivation. Studies show that rats deprived of this chemical in their brains won’t feed on food that’s only a few inches away from them. Even when they reach starvation levels. They starve to death!
Scary I know.
What exactly is dopamine?
Most people know it as the “pleasure chemical” of the brain. It’s responsible for making us recognize pleasurable things. It’s the chemical that tells us to pursue pleasurable activities. Dopamine’s role doesn’t start and end with pleasure. It’s a vital part of our behavior, attention, mood, sleep, learning, memory, and motivation.
The story is larger than a simple “pleasure chemical.” Researchers discovered that dopamine is present when soldiers diagnosed with PTSD are exposed to the sound of gunfire. They concluded that it acts more as a motivation chemical. In this case, it motivated the soldiers to avoid the perceived threat situation.
Everybody can take advantage of dopamine. The key is creating rewarding experiences. For the rats, it’s food. For soldiers, it’s safety. For students, it’s good grades.
When you complete one goal, reward yourself in proportion to your effort! This can be something as small as a 5-minute break or a self-congratulation. Let yourself feel the positivism of succeeding. The bigger efforts and rewards give the biggest dopamine response.
Researchers at the University of Michigan suggest if you find yourself in a lull of motivation, “focus on imaging the joy of completing” your task.
Hacking dopamine levels is simple. See. I’ve been running a half-marathon while writing this blog post. Yay me! 13.1. Now it’s time for coffee. My favorite reward.
For more on motivation, check out Ali In Bloom’s article on Collaboration, Motivation, and Sticking Together!