“I just got published in a print magazine, I exclaimed to my wife. Wow, this is surreal!” My mind was on overdrive with excitement that I was a good enough writer for a publishing company to take me on.
Around that same time, I was also awarded the esteemed Microsoft MVP award for my work in the Microsoft Windows PowerShell space, built and published my first Pluralsight online training course and was well on my way to writing for some major tech publications.
That was five years ago and I was flying high. Time sure had flown. I wish I could say the same thing for my dopamine levels.
The brain is an amazing organ. One minute it can hit you with a mad dopamine rush or make you extremely irritable for a seemingly innocuous event. The next, that same event barely even registers. Meh.
Our brains are so adaptable that we can get used to just about anything. Have you ever been in a noisy room full of background noise and barely notice it a half-hour in? What about jumping into a cold pool for the first time? At first, it’s brutal but after a while, your brain tells you it’s no big deal.
This adaptability can be a skill for good.
Then: “I’m going to take this shitty job because I have to pay the bills right now. This job is awful.”
Now: “You know, this job isn’t terrible, I guess. I’m in a routine now so that’s good.”
Then: “I have no money. I want so much stuff though!”
Now: “I guess I realized I don’t need all of that stuff anyway.”
Then: “This baby won’t let me sleep! She’s driving me crazy! I have to get 10 hours of sleep at night or I’ll die!”
Now: “Apparently, I was wrong. I actually feel pretty good on five hours of sleep with a nap here and there.”
But, at the same time, it can rob you from truly enjoying your accomplishments.
Then: “I just landed a six-figure job! This is going to help the family out so much!”
Now: “You want to pay me what? Pfft.”
Then: “I just finished my first marathon!”
Now: “My medals are taking up too much space.”
Then: “I just published my first book! I need to tell everyone!”
Now: “There are thousands of other authors anyway.”
Our brains are so good at establishing norms and bringing us back to a neutral state, it can be a challenge to consistently feel that level of excitement, fulfillment, and success we all need. The more we succeed, the bigger challenges we need. The bigger challenges we overcome, the less impact they have. It’s a no-win game some of us play.
Is it the burden of an over-achiever? Could it be the addictive brain of an unfortunate few that no matter what level of success is had, they can’t truly enjoy it always looking for the next fix?
What next? Where is that next hit of dopamine going to come from? Will it end?
All of us are on some level we consider ‘successful’. We’re all on different levels of life and success is that loaded term no one wants to define. To me, success is that feeling of accomplishment. Success is working hard and seeing a new, harder goal achieved.
Success is not cranking out the same widget day in and day out regardless of how much money it makes you.
Do you sometimes feel like you should get more excited over your own accomplishments? Is your typical M.O, meh? How are you overcoming it?