Do you constantly feel like you are your own worst enemy? You know what you should do to make your life better, but you never follow through with it. Even worse, the actions you should not take because they are harmful are the very ones you find yourself unconsciously drifting towards. When you tell yourself that you are going to work for three hours but end up spending two of those hours scrolling on social media. Or when you have a new year’s resolution to get in better shape, but then give up after the first two months.
If I asked you to list the pros and cons of spending time working versus on social media, the outcome would be predictable. There will be more pros in working. I know that and you know that, but why is it difficult to act on that logic?
Dopamine Is One Hell Of A Drug
We humans are not logical creatures, this is a fact. We are emotional creatures. We make decisions emotionally, then use logic to justify that decision. Weird right? Think about it, what would be more fun- working or scrolling through dank memes? A major chemical in our bodies that decides what’s fun and what's not is Dopamine.
Dopamine tells your brain the things that are worth doing, and the things that aren’t. These activities are structured in a hierarchy with the actions that generate the most dopamine on top and the ones that generate little or no dopamine at the bottom. This means our decision-making is first filtered through our dopamine hierarchy before it reaches our logical brains.
There was a fascinating article on the effects of dopamine on rats, you can read it here. This experiment showed that rats would rather get shots of dopamine when little effort was required than actually eat food. Humans are no different, people get addicted to certain drugs because of the large amount of dopamine they release.
Now, what do you think makes something addictive? Dopamine of course, but there is also another important factor; EFFORT. How much effort you put into receiving your dopamine hook up plays a part in the likelihood of repeating that activity. Actions that tend to become addictive require little effort and release a large amount of dopamine.
Scrolling on your phone releases more dopamine and requires much less effort than rigorously working. Watching TV is a lot easier than going to the gym. It's normal, even natural to want to do these activities even though they do come at a price. So, what can we do about our biology? We make it work for us!
I’ll let you in on a little secret about me; when I was in school, I hated writing papers. I hated writing period. There were always page requirements, dull topics, and deadlines. When any of my professors announced a writing assignment, I started praying for only a two-pager. Of course, it never was, especially in college where professors assigned 20-page requirements papers like we had nothing else to do (pro tip: using images goes a long way).
Later when I started blogging, writing about the things I really cared about, I started having fun! I used to dread writing and would do anything to get out of it, but after having a frame-shift, I started to find it calming.
A reason people would rather not achieve their goals is that they see it as something they have to or need to do rather than as something they want to do. This is obvious because you would rather do something else than do that. It is no different from getting an assignment from school. The only difference would be that you are now acting as the authority figure over yourself and that’s just no fun.
You need a frame-shift. You know you have to work, what can you do to make working release enough dopamine in you to make the effort worth it? When I write, I listen to epic orchestral music to pump me up. When work on programming, I need a cold drink nearby because it feels really refreshing. It is also very important to regulate activities that could disrupt your dopamine hierarchy such as alcohol, drugs, and porn. What can you do to make achieving your dreams emotionally worth it?
With Great “Knowledge” Comes Great Responsibility
“Ignorance is bliss”. You may be familiar with this saying, but what does it actually mean? There are many instances in life where not knowing is far better than knowing. For example, let us say you took a test and the results would be available a week from the day you took the test. When you got your results, you discovered you failed- what would be your next steps? You would probably plan to study more and spend less time goofing off.
Remember you had a week before you discovered you failed and could have decided right then to study more, but it was the failure that spurred you to take an action you would have otherwise avoided.
There are parts of ourselves and the world that we would be better off not knowing, but once we do, we are required to take action. This is how people mature, but it is also why people stay Peter Pan. It is easy to do nothing when you believe you lack the power. It is much more difficult to sit back and do nothing knowing you could have done something.
“With great power comes great responsibility"- Ben Parker.
Discovering what you are truly capable of is the key to unlocking your potential and your power, but you cannot divorce that power from responsibility.
You could argue that if you had enough power you could bear any responsibility. But are you sure about that? People carry heavy burdens. Insanely heavy. Unbearably heavy...
Responsibility is a heavy burden to bear. Our bodies and minds understand this. Subconsciously, we may even wish to absolve ourselves of any and all responsibility, though you surrender your potential in the process. Each man chooses his own path, who can say which is better, but I believe it is better for a man to have his sword and not need it, than for him to need his sword and not have it.
Playing The Blame Game
Babies are interesting creatures. They are so defenseless, yet so exploratory. Their curiosity about the world pushes them past their boundaries again and again despite the danger that lies within the unknown. I guess to a baby, the entire world is part of the unknown.
When a baby hits a wall, metaphorically speaking, who is to blame? You could say their parents, and that would be correct in some ways because it is the duty of a parent to help a child navigate their early years. When an adult hits a wall, who is to blame? Their parents? Society? Or maybe their very own existence?
One of my really close friends said this, “Sometimes 'adulting' is hard. It's like you need the power of two full-grown adults to be one adult”. I am paraphrasing a bit, but this made me laugh. I admit it is a thought that has crossed my mind before, especially when life gets difficult. Unlike babies who have the power of two full-grown adults, we have to manage with just ourselves.
When life gets hard, do you have a reason to blame anyone? You do. You could blame your parents for not raising you right. You could blame your teachers for not teaching you actual life skills. You can blame nature for not giving you the right genes. You could blame the previous generation for setting the bar too high. You can blame yourself for being as useless as you are. There are so many things at fault that it is actually surprising that anyone moves forward.
Babies are as fragile as they come, yet their curiosity moves them forward. They want to see it with their own eyes, feel it with their own hands, taste it with their own tongues because those become their experiences. As an adult, there are many things to blame, but there is only one person that can accomplish and experience your vision.
Rather than think of what you can blame, think of what you are grateful for. grateful for having parents. Thankful to nature that you exist. Proud of yourself that you keep growing wiser and stronger.
“Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow.” – Melody Beattie
There are many reasons not to move forward. It is normal to feel as though you are not where you should be in life. Many people feel that way. I think of success as a road. The distance is finite. There is a single factor that affect how quickly you succeed, and that is how fast you move along this road. Some started their journey younger such as pro athletes and celebrities, others found their calling later in life like scientists and successful entrepreneurs. It does not matter when you start, what matters is that you never give up and keep moving forward. With all the legitimate reasons you have to quit, take immense pride in yourself for every single step forward you take.
Post your progress and hurdles in our Forum so we can learn from you on how to approach the challenges we each confront. Stay safe and stay awesome, guys!
The Confident Man