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How to Depict Someone’s Success

How can you tell if someone will be successful? When I was in high school, they still had a category for a graduating senior titled: Voted Most Likely to Succeed. How, at 18-years-old, could classmates look at someone and say, “Yeah, I think they will be the most successful person in our graduating class.”

It is not hard to separate those that will be successful from those that will not. There can be many factors, but one stands out. Donald Miller from StoryBrand says, “How do you depict someone’s success? Ask yourself, where are they getting their dopamine hit? Social media, walks, eating, cigarettes? Big spikes in dopamine make you want to repeat the action that is giving you the hit. If you get a little dopamine boost with a walk in the woods, but a big dopamine hit when you are on Instagram, where do you think you will spend your time?”

What is dopamine? It is the feel-good neurotransmitter in our brain. A chemical that sends information back and forth between neurons. Dopamine is released in our body when we eat food that we crave or participate in an activity that we love. Dopamine provides satisfaction and the feeling of pleasure. Our body uses it as a reward system.

When our dachshund, Louie (short for Lieutenant), was a puppy, he struggled with potty training. All other areas of obedience went great. He came to us immediately when we said “here.” He sat on command (actually, he lays flat on his long stomach, but he obeys). The last piece of the puzzle was getting #1 and #2 under control. So, we began excessively praising him. When Louie walked to the grass and did the doo you should have seen my husband and me. We would jump up and down, calling his name, praising Louie, giving him back rubs. Louie’s tail would wag a mile a minute. He was so excited! Do you think our four-legged furball received a dopamine hit from all our praise? Will this make him want to continue repeating the action that led to that good feeling? Yes! This is how dopamine works. The more you reward yourself with dopamine hits, the more you will go back to the activity that gave you that chemical rush, and eventually, that activity will become a habit. Or, in some cases, an addiction.

Dopamine can reinforce negative habits, too. If someone gets high on a drug, they receive a dopamine hit. It feels good, so their brain now says, “I want another.” They will be tempted to do it again. The problem is, they will eventually become numb to that level of dopamine, and their brain will say, “I need more.” This is what usually causes a drug addict to start with a less dangerous drug but end up as a crack addict. Their body says, “It’s not enough. I need more. I need stronger.” And soon, the drug has become an addiction.

This same thing happens with food. For many of us, when we eat chocolate, we get a dopamine hit. Our brain asks for more. “Unfortunately, the more you provoke dopamine with food or drugs, your body will become desensitized and need more.”-Food Coach. No longer will one piece of chocolate be enough. Now you need two. It is the same reason it is difficult to eat just one chip. Our body says we need the entire bag. “We need more stimuli for the same high. More chocolate, more ice cream, and more bread.” -Blog from Food Coach/New York/Los Angeles.

Addictions can happen in many areas of our life. When these activities that cause the addictions are ones that are acceptable to society, we find ourselves on a slippery slope. Thirty minutes on social media? No one faults you for that because everyone does it. It feels good to click on the app, and we get a dopamine rush when we see how many people “liked” our post. But soon, 30 minutes is not enough. The dopamine that ran through our body tells our brain, “I want more!” Thirty minutes becomes 45 and soon we have spent an hour doing nothing more than watch how other people live their lives.

How do we break these negative habits? Set boundaries around yourself. This is the reason I rely on my daily calendar. I set my schedule for the day each morning. Once I accomplish my tasks only then can I reward myself in whatever way I desire. As Donald Miller says, “Don’t reward yourself for doing no work.” Tell yourself you will only check social media twice a day. During your lunch break and for 30 minutes after work. We all need to set up healthy boundaries to live successful lives. Do we really think millionaires achieved their success by wasting 2-3 hours a day doing fruitless things? Or maybe we think of them as overachievers? What if most of them were normal people like us, but they learned the importance of boundaries. They learned the importance of a daily schedule. It is like the turtle and the hare. If we were betting on the race the odds would be with the fast-moving hare to beat the sluggishly slow turtle. But the hare did not set boundaries, have a schedule, or a plan. The hare ran all over the place and was constantly distracted. The hare stopped to check social media and take a long lunch break. But the turtle? He may not have been as smart or as fast, but he set boundaries, he had a plan, and he was disciplined. In the end, the turtle won. The millionaires among us are not always the smartest or fastest, but they have learned the power of boundaries, structure, and how to get the best use out of their time. They live each day in a way that gets them closer to their life goals.

Ask yourself, what are the negative things in my life that give me a dopamine rush but are keeping me from making successful progress in my life? What harmful activity am I engaging in that is getting in the way of living my life story?

When trying to eliminate food addictions the Food Coach states, “Abstain from your trigger foods for 21 days so you can rebalance your brain chemistry. If this sends fear running through your body, you’re using food as a drug.” This same philosophy applies to all areas of your life. Can you go without IG for 21 days? Can you go without it for one day?? If this makes you hyperventilate, then social media has become a drug. “You’re not a slave to your brain. You’re in control and you can direct it. You do this by breaking the habit and creating a new one.”-Food Coach. Personally, the only way I can break habits and stay focused on positive actions is through the daily boundaries I set around myself. That is why I am such a stickler for a daily schedule that places strong borders around my time.

Let us have Donald Miller answer our original question. How can you depict someone’s success? “Tell me where they get their dopamine hit, and I’ll tell you how successful they will be.”

Together with you,

Lisa Lou

1 Comment

Patti Hatton
Patti Hatton
Sep 15, 2021

Love this! I’ve started recording highlights from each day to develop greater gratitude. Also taking photographs of my favorite things, whether it be a scenic view or my grandson’s smile. I don’t do it everyday…..but the days I do, I get a dopamine hit!

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