If you are reading this post, you probably want to do your best work. You might desire more focus, recognition, confidence, money or even more customers. Many of us will go out of our way to try a new hack but some of the simplest tools have been right in our backyard for decades. One of these tools is understanding neuroscience. Understanding and applying neuroscience can be a success game changer. In this post, I will touch on three of the neurochemicals that you should understand so you can do your best work.
The first chemical to understand is dopamine, also known as the motivation/reward molecule. Dopamine released when we complete something. It is our sense of accomplishment. When we spend months training for a marathon and reach the finish line ten minutes under schedule, dopamine is released. It’s also released when we obtain a new customer, contract, job or raise. We all love dopamine, but an evil side is revealed when we become dependent on it. In fact, dependency on elevated dopamine levels is linked to addictive behaviors.
Serotonin, or the confidence molecule, is the second chemical that’s instrumental to doing your best work. It’s released when we feel important, valued or proud. Serotonin can also be released when we are proud of others. For example, when you are proud of your teammate for winning an award, serotonin is released. Serotonin is instrumental to believing in yourself so purposefully giving your gifts to the world will contribute to higher serotonin levels. Simply doing the smallest, yet purposeful things, like focusing on your gifts, releases serotonin. Without serotonin, we risk depression.
Oxytocin is the last chemical I will mention. Oxytocin is also referred to as “the love hormone.” When you believe you have a trusted circle, oxytocin has been activated. This hormone is also activated through acts of kindness and selfless behavior. Oxytocin is accessible, has a huge impact on our psychological well-being and can be activated by something as simple as physical touch. Bonding, trust and loyalty are all key to activating oxytocin. Team activities also contribute to oxytocin activation.
So how does understanding these chemicals help you do your best work? A few insights:
- Don’t depend on extrinsic factors to give you a sense of accomplishment. If you are constantly depending on external rewards (shiny outcomes) to keep you motivated, then find some intrinsic sources of reward and motivation. For example, setting and achieving realistic goals will also help maintain dopamine levels. There is such a thing as being too ambitious.
- Help others, especially when you are not feeling that great about yourself. The oxytocin research is powerful; the effects are long-term and vital to psychological stability. When things are not going your way, think about how you can help others succeed. This might sound counterintuitive but neuroscience has proven that it works.
- Find things that fulfill and give you a sense of purpose (serotonin). Fulfillment builds self-confidence. If you do not know your life purpose just yet, focus on the smaller things that give you meaning in life, or on your strengths. Spending just a few minutes a day on something that you love will soon turn into full-fledged fulfillment.
I can’t explain the entire field of neuroscience in 500 words but this is a quick guide to get you started. I only scraped the surface here but basic familiarity with these three chemicals is enough to get you on the path to living your best life.
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