If we look to all of the successful people in the world i.e. the Gordon Ramsays, the Bill Gates etc, the difference between them and any other individual is that they are to perform consistently at a high level. In order to do this, one needs to have the right mindset on an ongoing basis, otherwise such efforts are derailed.
I have always thought from watching ted talks and from reading books that the way to be a high performer is to be able to have traits such as “grit”, “persistence” and “drive” and to never give up and to never back down. However, why is that some people seem to naturally have these traits whilst others don’t. I attribute this to the neurochemistry of an individual and to no fault on the individual themselves. If we were to search inside and understand our biology better, we should understand that our neurochemistry has a direct effect on our everyday behaviour and thoughts.
“Hacking” into our neurochemistry, we are able to on a day to day basis be our best selves. It is only when we have addressed our neurochemistry issue, that we can then exhibit such traits as “grit”, “persistence” and “drive”. It’s the same sort of thinking popularised by Simon Sinek “ask why first” instead of what and how, which requires a little bit of backward thinking.
Now to delve into the detail of the science, the ability to be a consistent outperformer I believe depends on whether we are able to have optimal neurochemistry. An important neurotransmitter is dopamine, which regulates happiness and also helps with memory and learning. Seeking out dopamine is normal, but excessive amounts of dopamine is harmful. Our body is not in balance when we have excessive amounts of dopamine. Our body reacts to this by trying to bring the levels of dopamine back into balance, otherwise known as homeostasis. Overtime though, if we continue to indulge in activities that produce excess amounts of dopamine, our dopamine receptors become tolerant and it will become more difficult to be happy. We know still that when we do something, it will bring about a dopamine kick but it takes a lot more now to get that same level of dopamine. If we don’t fix the dopamine down-regulation occurring, then we will have lower levels of dopamine and this will affect our general day to day mood, our drive and our memory (the list is endless).
This is why we have to be careful to not engage or limit our engagement in activities that produce excessive amounts of dopamine. The type of activities that produce too much dopamine include drug-taking, online porn, using social media too much and binge watching television. Binge watching television and using social media too much is probably the one that most people do without realising the harmful effects of doing so. Knowing this, we need to place limitations on how much television we watch and social media we use. We need to learn to have “dopamine fasts” for short periods of time in order to reset our system, to enable our minds to be at our best and to feel the best and be at our very best on a day to day level.
Another way that my friend mentioned to me over the phone is to do hard things. Doing hard things are a natural way to increase dopamine in a sustainable way. It is why people say that when we work on our habits whether that be via a cold shower, one meal a day or running/walking every day they feel better. It’s not the outcome of the activity, but it is the mindset change that comes with that. The mindset change that I am referring to is the regulated and sustainable levels of dopamine brought about by these activities that fuel our well-being. In simpler terms, when we do hard things, we also get dopamine kicks, but only when we finish achieving that hard thing. The outcome here is that the dopamine release is more sustainable than if an activity was taken that consistently produced dopamine non-stop. The analogy here is that if we fill up a sink with water, we need to empty it a little before we fill it up again.
We are all seeking out our happiness and well-being. I believe the first step in achieving this is knowing what activities are good and bad for you and what they can do to your brain. Once, we understand that, we should start to see tangible benefits in our day to day when we act accordingly.
With this knowledge, what are you waiting for? Go out for a walk? Read a book? Do your house chores? Nourish your mind, body and soul.