The Power of Dopamine in the Pursuit of Your Dream

Is the effort we exert towards reaching our goal more enjoyable than the accomplishment of the goal itself? According to Andrew Huberman, a neuroscientist and research professor at the Stanford University of Medicine, the answer is yes. 

Why? Because of the way dopamine works in our brain. 

how dopamine works in the brain

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Huberman explained to Ed Mylet on his eponynymous show that, contrary to popular belief, the function of dopamine is not about getting the reward, it’s about sending you towards the reward. Huberman makes the parallel between dopamine and a jet propulsion system—where dopamine acts as a cognitive boost released along your journey to help you reach your destination. 

Mylett clarified Huberman’s point that:

“You’re getting more dopamine on average in the pursuit of your dream and goal, then you get with the attainment of that goal.” 

Ed Mylett on The Ed Mylett Show

The key takeaway?

That you don’t have to actually achieve your goal to be happy —you can derive happiness merely from the pursuit of the goal itself.

This phenomena is what is more commonly referred to as the growth mindset

The Pursuit of Happiness

So now that we now that it’s really the pursuit of happiness that makes us, well, happy (cue Kid Cudi anthem), how does one get to working on their dream?

As is the case with most things, the answer to this question depends on a variety of factors.

How To Get Started On Your Dream

Here, we’ve broken down a few solid steps anyone can make toward the pursuit of their goal. All you need to get started is confidence, focus, and an unrelenting willingness to devote consistent time and energy into making it happen.

1. Make A Plan

The act of writing out a specific game plan serves two important functions:

  • It serves as a road map you can refer back to when your brain is tired and weary from the journey so that you can stay on track and;
  • The process of creating a plan helps you flesh out details you may have otherwise have overlooked.

What should the plan include?

  • A specific timeline
  • Big picture goals
  • Small, daily tasks to help you get there
  • Larger, celebratory milestones
  • Time for “active aloneness” a.k.a. self care

2. Find A Mentor

A mentor is an invaluable resource along your journey. They should be someone you can talk to about bumps in road and someone that is willing to say the things you need to hear (even if you don’t like the answer).

The ideal mentor is someone who has already been where you’re looking to go or who leads the life you’re dreaming of.

After all, if someone has never been where you’re going, how would they know how to get there?

3. Start

In Eric Ries best selling book The Lean Startup, he talk’s about a concept called the ‘minimum viable product‘ which he defines as “any version of a product that can begin the process of learning”.

So even if you don’t think you’re ‘ready’, even if you don’t think you have the time, start taking the steps you need to move toward your goals.

There will most likely never be a perfect time to begin your dream, and the longer you wait, the less time you have to build it.

As the great stoic philosopher, Marcus Aurelius, said:

“You could leave life right now, let that determine what you do and say and think”.

Marcus Aurelius
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