Did you know that within you there are two primary communication systems at work all day every day to keep you alive and functioning? One of those systems, your nervous system, consists of billions of neurons running throughout your entire body. These neurons send messages back and forth all day long to keep your heart pumping, your lungs breathing, and your digestion working. Even further, this messaging system is involved when you feel things like infatuation, anxiety, sadness, and joy.
Think of these neurons like cell-phones. These neurons send chemicals (called neurotransmitters) that act as messages to each other to cause your body to move and feel. Almost all your feelings, reactions, body movements, and body functions are dictated by these messages being rapidly sent throughout your body, neuron to neuron, all day long [Side note, this is a simplified version so today we are not getting into how your Endocrine System is involved in influencing much of this as well]. Anyway, in the cell-phone example the messages (neurotransmitters) are like texts being sent from phone to phone (the neurons).
I bring you all of this to tell you that there is a neurotransmitter called Dopamine that is involved in pleasure and reward and can be tweaked intentionally by engaging in certain activities. In the live video I posted on Facebook this week with tips to help you reach your goals I mentioned that checking a box releases a “happy chemical”. Dopamine is that chemical I was referring to.
Why is this important? Well, there are things that you can do to release this chemical (send a text to your brain and body essentially) on purpose. For example, writing down your goals and literally physically checking off your achievement of them day by day leads to a release of Dopamine which makes you feel good and makes you want to complete the task again. The second is that you can make a promise to yourself and keep it. Making and keeping commitments to ourselves no only gives us a release of this chemical it gives us a feeling of integrity and this leads to an experience of developed character and that leads to confidence which makes us more likely to follow through on tasks we commit ourselves to.
One of the main reasons we don’t achieve our goals is that we lose “motivation”. Motivation is, in large part, influenced by this chemical dopamine. When we believe we have succeeded (i.e. when we check the box confirming that we did something or make a promise or commitment to ourselves and keep it) we feel the effects of a small release of Dopamine which feels good and then we want to do that behavior again. Essentially, we are motivated. Everything psychological is biological so do not be fooled into believing that this elusive “motivation” thing is either something you have, or you don’t. Create it yourself!
Get out there and get those goals!