There are some things you do, like eating lemon meringue pie, or having sex, or drinking a beer, where your brain just ‘knows’ that those things are right.
It rewards you with a shot of dopamine so you’ll be motivated to do that stuff again, as soon as possible.
What Is Dopamine?
Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that has a huge influence on your behavior. Whenever you do something ‘right’, you get a shot of it. It causes your brain to remember the event in a way that motivates you to do more of that thing in the future.
However, for more abstract actions, your brain doesn’t really know what’s right unless you explicitly tell it.
How To Make Dopamine Work For You
Let’s say you’ve been having six drinks per day since Covid. But last week, using techniques you’ve learned from my blog posts, you cut back to four drinks on Tuesday and Wednesday.
If you will explicitly acknowledge to yourself that YOU DID THAT, that you made that behavior change, and celebrate that achievement, you’ll get a shot of dopamine that will set you up to be motivated in the future to again have four drinks instead of six.
But what you’re likely to do is feel bummed out that you’re still drinking four, because you feel like you should be having only one.
You’ll probably manage to make yourself feel even worse than you did when you were having six drinks because you’re trying – and actually having success – but telling yourself that you’re failing.
So you ain’t getting any dopamine. It’s no wonder that after a week or two of this, you give up.
I start every coaching session by asking what the wins we can celebrate are. I tell you, it’s like pulling teeth to get anything out of people. It’s just sad how fucking hard it is for us to accept and celebrate ourselves.
But it matters. When over the course of the coaching session we identify 3 or 4 additional successes, the client’s attitude changes. They see progress, and they’re motivated to keep going. Their identity starts to change and they see themselves as a success in this endeavor.
The crazy thing is that these ‘little’ successes we celebrate are part of BIG changes; like my client this week who has been a pretty heavy drinker for decades and is consistently drinking 50% less than he was before he started coaching. Even with such drastic changes, it’s hard for him to see and celebrate how far he’s come.
If you want to change your relationship with alcohol, to get back control now, before you crash and burn and have to quit, I think you should hire me as your coach.