Goal Setting: Don't Get Caught in a Dopamine Loop
Dec 05, 2019
Hope you had a great Thanksgiving.
If you’re like me, you were bombarded with Black Friday/Cyber Monday must have, limited time, one day only promotions that will end tonight, but we’re going to keep extending it, so you must get it now! deals.
With all that over, let’s get back to business.
Since the year - and yikes decade - is coming to a close, I’d like to send out a set of emails to help you set better goals and to actually achieve them in the new year.
I want to start by talking about the "Dopamine Loop"
You may already know, dopamine is a chemical released by the brain.
However, different people understand it differently.
Pop culture has led us believe it is the chemical of pleasure or reward.
I was at an event few weeks ago, and a behavior psychologist was saying that dopamine is not released when we get a reward, but in anticipation of a reward.
The anticipation of a reward!
This is a very important concept for achieving resolutions in the new year.
The reason is, you’re going to get a rush of dopamine simply by setting a resolution.
Not by acting on, realizing, or achieving the goal, but simply by setting a new year’s goal or resolution.
The anticipation of the goal is going to make you feel so great, for some it’ll put them in a state of ecstasy.
You know that feeling, where you start thinking “yes things are going to change, I’m going to get organized, take action, and life will be great and dandy.” “Unlike before, this time I'm going to do it!”
Instead, two things happen:
1. You don’t take action.
Why should you?
You’ve already experienced the emotional reward.
Without lifting a finger, you’ve got the hit of gratification and accomplishment.
So, there’s no need to take action.
2. You set more goals.
Once the dopamine rush fades, you set another goal, either the same one or something different.
The anticipation of realizing the new goal gives you another dopamine rush.
We get high off our own brain chemicals.
This is why we are such a target focused, goal driven society, even when we rarely achieve those targets or goals - it’s so emotionally arousing.
You can get locked into this cycle!
If you’ve followed my work on habits, you know anything can become a habit, including this cycle.
Set a goal, get high on dopamine, after failing to achieve the goal, set another goal, get high on dopamine again, and so on.
Once this cycle becomes habit, that’s it, you’re stuck in it forever! You can't achieve anything because the habit has locked you into merely setting goals and nothing else.
I can’t tell you how many humans are caught in this sequence.
Be wary of the “emotional high” as you plan out, get motivated, and set goals in the coming weeks.
More on this in the coming weeks,
In the meantime, if you want deeper insight into goal setting, you might enjoy:
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