How to use the dopamine reward system to succeed in life.
All human activity is caused by a biological process; I discuss here passion and focus, caused by hormone dopamine.
Dopamine and ADD
I have Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) caused by lack of dopamine. Two qualities of ADD is lack of motivation and focus. A contrasting quality of ADD is hyperfocus, where the individual is totally focused and motivated on an activity they are interested in to the exclusion of all else.
The biological process of dopamine
Dopamine is a hunting hormone, which encourages the brain to hunt and explore. Dopamine degrades into hormone noradrenalin, which causes alertness or focus. Noradrenaline further degrades into hormone adrenaline, which prepares the body for physical activity. Motivation and focus are hormonally closely related, no motivation, then no focus.
Manipulate hormones such as dopamine
Understand the biological process, the individual can manipulate hormones, and the qualities associated with those hormones.
Dopamine rewards the hunt never the goal
Dopamine as a hunting hormone, rewards the process towards the goal, rather than the achievement of the goal.
The brain has no concept of reality
The brain considers reality and fantasy as the same thing, imagine a terrifying situation, note the body goes into a state of anxiety as the adrenaline hormone is produced, because the brain thinks the fantasy is real and the individual is in danger.
Why people underachieve or fail in their goals
If the individual imagines achievement of the goal, regardless if it is sex, business, study or the dream job, the brain thinks this is real, will think the goal has been achieved. Because the brain thinks the goal is achieved, no dopamine is produced, because dopamine rewards the process of the hunt rather than the achievement of the goal, thus the individual has no motivation or focus, and underachieves or fails in the attainment of the goal. This conclusion is confirmed by numerous studies.
Dopamine is a hunter-gatherer hormone
Dopamine in the biological process encourages the animal to hunt for food, learn about its environment and hunt for a mate. Dopamine is a hunter-gatherer hormone, target seeking, and danger avoiding. Dopamine encourages the individual to avoid painful experiences, but seek pleasurable experiences. Motivation and focus rises and falls based upon amount of dopamine in play in any situation.
How to gamify the process towards a goal
Avoid the goal, focus on the process. Look at the steps towards the goal, break them down into a list of to-do’s. Map the road towards the goal with detailed achievable steps which are ticked off as each is achieved. Once the brain is aware of the map and steps, it will dump out dopamine as each step is achieved in the process, the brain will become motivated and focussed on the process rather than the goal, it might achieve a type of addiction to the process. The process can be gamified into a type of game. Addiction to a process game such as the mundane Farmville or the more complicated Warcraft plays on the dopamine biological process by encouraging production of dopamine by a process of steps and little rewards when steps are achieved
Write the road map down, reward achievement of steps
The brain is designed to react to patterns, when the road map is locked into memory by the brain, it will know when to dump out dopamine at each step. The brain is designed for sensory experience, so use those senses when mapping out the road map, avoid the computer which only uses eyes. Write down the road map on paper, this uses eyes and tactile senses, the more senses used, the better the brain locks in on the road map. Computer games encourages addiction to play with rewards as each step is achieved, such as winning a magical item or leveling up in Warcraft, so mark each step achieved with a reward that signifies progress that the brain easily associates with the step. Children love their badges, which are associated with progress in their activities, but it is harder to associate ice cream or holidays with progress because the brain is unable to relate this to the process. It is easy for the brain to associate achievement of a step in Warcraft to leveling up of a character to level 1 through to 50 because it can see the connection, and so a creative way of gamification might incorporate a theme of a progress bar and badges on a wall.
Focus on the process as a way of life with new goal-processes
Once a goal is achieved, especially a hard goal, there can become a corresponding crash in dopamine, followed by loss of motivation and focus, then depression. The game of life and mental wellbeing is about the process, never the goal, so always have a new goal-process in place before the existing goal-process ends.
How to enjoy paying money to the tax man
In closing, I owe the taxman perhaps £400.00, I gamified this into 400 points. So when I pay say £100 against this debt, it falls to 300 points, rather like fighting a 400 hit point monster, which is now down to 300 hit points. It has become fun and motivating to pay money to the taxman, I get dopamine every time I pay the tax man. I love paying money to the tax man. Crazy, but thats how the gamification of a biological process works.