Dopamine - the Double Edged Blade

Discussion created by Thomas3.20.2010 on Mar 14, 2017
Latest reply on Nov 25, 2018 by virgomama

What makes some people able to keep pushing and complete a task while others habitually fizzle and don't follow through? Dopamine is the fuel that keeps people motivated to persevere and achieve a goal.

On the one hand we know that Nicotine Addiction robs your natural dopamine system and replaces it with Nicotinic Receptors. On the other hand we know that dopamine leads to perseverance, i.e. SUCCESS!  Scientists have identified higher levels of dopamine -- also known as the "reward molecule" -- as being linked to forming lifelong habits, such as perseverance.

You have the power to increase your production of dopamine by changing your attitude and behavior. You can use your large prefrontal cortex and  the 'executive function' to trigger the release of dopamine using the seven methods below so that you can create a habit of perseverance.

  1. Picture yourself in control of your Dopamine level.

 You have the power to tap your own dopamine reserves simply by visualizing yourself as having your finger on the pleasure button.  The motivation at a biological level is just to get the hit of dopamine--but in the real world this drive translates into you following through and achieving goals. Every time you resist a challenge visualize that you have just self-administered a hit of 'feel good' dopamine and that habit will be reinforced.

  1. ‘ The Pleasure Principle’ beats ‘Willpower’ every time!

Perseverance is synonymous with pain and suffering to many people. Because all animals instinctively seek pleasure and avoid pain, you have to flip your perspective on perseverance 180-degrees and view struggle and perseverance as a doorway to pleasure. Stop viewing perseverance as drudgery but as an opportunity to neurochemically boost your confidence and make you feel good. When framed correctly, the process of perseverance feels good!  Lack of follow through is seductive because it's easy and requires no effort. But, over time the habit of complacency leaves your dopamine depleted and you become dissatisfied and depressed.

  1. Giving up dries up your Dopamine Reserves even more!

Low levels of dopamine make you apathetic. If you do not accomplish something everyday your dopamine reserves will diminish. Take away the stimulus of Nicotine and being uninspired and lacking self-motivation is a downward spiral that can snowball out of control.  But you have the power to turn this around by consciously looking at everything you achieve--from flossing your teeth, to taking out the trash--as a way to tap your dopamine reserves. Look at every thing you do in the day as a chance to create a sense of reward and deliver a rush of dopamine. Hit the Happiness Button!

Puzzles and brain-teaser games are a great way to tap your dopamine reserves. Anytime you win at a computer game or solve a riddle you get the 'ding, ding, ding' dopamine feeling. In your down time you can use games and puzzles to make your dopamine levels swell. Playing word games and solving puzzles not only flexes your mental muscle, it keeps the dopamine pumping.

  1. Expectation and Belief Can Produce Dopamine.

Creating a system of belief and an expectation of success can cause changes in your brain chemistry. Through conditioning techniques your brain can "learn" to trigger biological changes that reduce pain and suffering. If you believe that persevering to achieve a goal will produce more dopamine, odds are it will. Likewise, if you believe that your Quit Journey will be “easy” then it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy!


  1. Be Methodical: Celebrate Milestones

To produce more dopamine, get in the habit of anticipating and completing goals. Count your Days of Freedom! Use timers, calendars and peer pressure to keep you on track and condition yourself. Make the Daily Pledge.

The release of dopamine is amped up when there are time windows involved.  The use of time constraints in sports and game shows increases the production of dopamine and amplifies the thrill of having finished a goal on time. Similarly, celebrating your time measured milestones will keep the flow of dopamine constant. Ride the Freedom Train:

  1. Turn a Mountain into "Mole-Hills" of Dopamine Release

The key to overcoming large obstacles or 'mountains' is to break them into doable doses and tackle them one 'mole-hill' at a time.  An effective way to get the jackpot feeling of dopamine while you are in the process of tackling a major goal is to break the bigger challenge, which is a "Macro-Goal" into very tangible "Micro-Goals", each of which gives you a small hit of dopamine. 

Over and over again you’ll read us saying “One day at a time! Keep stacking those Days!” You can’t eat an elephant in one bite!

One of the most important reasons to define an action as a 'goal' is that it needs to be viewed as something with a beginning, middle and end. When you accomplish the goal you will get the dopamine-based sense of contentment and satisfaction that always accompanies the act of persevering and getting the job done.

  1. Be Your Own Cheering Squad: Learn to SAY "YES! I DID IT!"

Don't base your feelings of self-worth on the praise and kudos of others. Doing this puts the release of dopamine and sense of accomplishment outside of your locus of control. This can leave you feeling dejected. Run your own race in everything you do. Having the eye of the tiger requires that you decide exactly what you are going for and then GOING FOR IT. And when you succeed get in the habit of saying, "Yes! I did it!" silently or under your breath.


Being self-congratulatory isn't about ego or hubris, it is about harnessing your reward circuitry and tapping your dopamine pipeline. It's so easy to become hopeless, cynical and bitter when you feel like what you do doesn't matter. This lack of self-belief creates a biological reality and downward spiral. If you neglect to consciously acknowledge that you have achieved a goal, dopamine will not be released and you will not reinforce the habit of perseverance.  

Some of us need extra help with this part. That’s why we have the Group @Positive Affirmations and Success and the daily Discussion @ Love Yourself. Check it out!



Creating a steady flow of dopamine is fundamental to creating a habit of perseverance. This incredible neurochemical is accessible to everyone. YOU have the power to tap into your internal dopamine reserves on demand.  Learning and conditioning yourself to self-administer this 'reward molecule' everyday can turn anyone into an EXer. With a slight attitude adjustment and shift in perspective everybody has the power to become more perseverant by tapping the universal power of dopamine.  The ability to create a habit of perseverance isn't something reserved for a few--it is available to you!