The Dopamine Trap

Don't let your mind trap you.

2m Read

7/13/2022

A blog for developers, designers, product builders, musicians, and content creators.

There are few ways to succeed. You need proper timing, an accurate model of your domain, and great execution.

There are a million ways to fail but to be clear, you only truly fail when you give up.

I want to talk about one route to true failure that has become a massive threat to many of us.

You might ask: What makes one route to failure worse than another?

A route is worse than another when it introduces branching routes that also lead to failure.

I've seen (see) great minds walk into this trap and have myself. It's likely you have too.

The dopamine trap.

Dopamine is most known for its role in motivating us.

It's what drives you toward an action.

It's feeling like something is worth working for.

It's a dose of the sense of accomplishment before it happens.

Dopamine in itself is not the problem. We need it. It encourages us to do literally everything.

The problem is how we choose to release dopamine and how often.

Because our mind wants to take the shortest path to dopamine, it will, by default, prioritize the simplest actions that lead to it.

This creates not just one, but nearly infinite dopamine traps.

Here's a simple experiment.

Wake up and engage in high pleasure, instant gratification activities, then stop at noon. The rest of the day is going to feel low, difficult, and boring.

The next day. Wake up and engage in challenging, low pleasure, delayed satisfaction based activities then, stop at noon. The rest of your day is going to feel smooth, easy, rewarding.

The only difference is that you scaled up your dopamine reward systems instead of scaling down.

Many people get caught in the trap of waking up and diving into their phone, social media, games, alcohol, porn, and high calorie junk food.

This is the dopamine trap, and as the habit builds it can become incredibly difficult to escape.

There are varying degrees of the dopamine trap depending on the level of dopamine you release over a given period of time.

There are heavy hitters like drugs, porn and alcohol that dump large amounts of dope which elongates your reduced levels of dopamine afterward.

As a rule of thumb, when you're partaking in high pleasure, easy access, low effort activities, be careful. You're releasing a ton of dopamine, and you'll likely be running low in the near future.

Dopamine is a powerful tool that literally helps you wield your own mind.

To protect your mind on a daily basis: Begin with difficulty, end with pleasure.

To protect your mind on a weekly basis: Stop doing fun things for a while. Your mind has found the fastest path to dopamine and it's squeezing every ounce out of you.

Remember, you are not your mind and you are not your body. You are your actions.

Avoid the dopamine trap.

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