Dopamine is the ‘motivation chemical’. The release of dopamine into the bloodstream increases our ability to focus and motivates us to take action. Dopamine levels naturally rise as we move towards a goal and begin to anticipate a result. They tend to be at their highest when we are in active pursuit of getting what we want. Serotonin is the ‘feel-good chemical’ and is as calming and soothing as dopamine is energizing. When dopamine produces effort, serotonin provides the reward. We receive an increase in serotonin whenever we:In other words, we literally get high on our brain chemicals when we chase our goals, providing we achieve enough of them to get the dopamine surges and serotonin releases we crave. Psychologically, our desperate need to succeed can be understood through the idea of the ego or "self-image". Our problems do not arise because we want things - they come about because we link our self-image to our attempts to get them. After all, "score" enough goals and I'm a winner; no goals at all and I'm a loser. And most people will do anything to not have to think of themselves as losers, even if they have to create misery in their lives and the lives of those around them in order to win. So what's the solution? How do we overcome the addiction to more that has crashed the world's financial markets and sets brother against brother in every corner of the globe? Do we need to abandon goals altogether? Or harder still, should we continue to set them higher and higher but somehow not attach to them, like Buddhists walking on a tight-rope tied between the worlds of the formless and the form? Here are three things I've discovered so far that really seem to help us curb our addiction without turning our backs on the world: 1. Our ability to separate out our projects from our pipe dreams and to enjoy both in equal measure. On a purely practical level, I have come to see that there are only two kinds of goals worth thinking about:
Together, the interplay of dopamine and serotonin make the world go round. Higher levels of dopamine move us forward;higher levels of serotonin provide feelings of safety,satisfaction and curiosity. When looked at through this chemical filter, we can understand the innate appeal of goal-driven behaviour, whether it’s trying to do a Sudoku puzzle or change the world. We not only get the energized, focused sensations that come from the build-up of dopamine in trying to solve the puzzle or reach the goal; we also get the calm, contented feelings of satisfaction and well-being that follow the release of serotonin at the moment of triumph and success.
- Win anything, from a game of tic-tac-toe to the lottery.
- Get public recognition for a job well done.
- Take certain drugs or drink alcohol.
- Feel part of a crowd, group or team (for example at a football match or a book club).
"When we surrender to God, we surrender to something bigger than ourselves - to a universe that knows what it's doing. When we stop trying to control events they fall into a natural order, an order that works. We're at rest while a power much greater than our own takes over, and it does a much better job than we could have done. We learn to trust that the power that holds galaxies together can handle the circumstances of our relatively little lives."With love,
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