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I want MORE, MORE, MORE...

A cartoon stopped me in my tracks one evening. Our twins, Jonah and Levi, were enjoying an episode of Nature Cat and the character, Ronald, was struggling with "wanting more, more, more!" We all laughed at their extreme depiction of the character, but it caused me to think about our patterns of pursuing pleasure and rewards.

When a particular project or task is assigned to us, we experience pressure which helps to motivate us to get it done. The pressure activates our brain to help us push towards a high dose of dopamine—the “feel-good” chemicals. Once the task is completed, we receive a dose of dopamine, and we feel pleasure and reward, which makes all the efforts worthwhile. This pattern allows us to continue completing projects because we know eventually there will be a break from the stress, and our brains can enjoy the anticipated reward. These are the "ahhhmazing" moments.

This is a normal reward pattern; however, issues begin to arise when that time when we should break from that stress and enjoy the reward is quickly robbed by the next project/task/assignment. The brain and body did not get to enjoy the "ahhh" reward that we crave because the stress chemicals return so quickly. This then leads to pushing hard and faster for the next dose of reward.

Think about this: when was the last time you said, “As soon as I get this done, I’ll feel better.” It’s not long before you find yourself deep into the next massive project. You feel discouraged, overwhelmed, and are likely getting a little resentful.

This pattern leaves us all vulnerable and at risk for burnout. Constantly trying to exceed expectations in hopes that completing this project will feel satisfying. Look at the last 6 months of your life. Have you allowed sufficient time to embrace the reward and enjoy your accomplishments?

Any perfectionists out there? Seeking perfectionism can prevent us from experiencing the positive effects of dopamine. When we are seeking the reward from completing this big task or project and we do not view the project or task as “perfect,” our bodies release the stress chemicals rather than the feel-good chemicals. All that stress and hard work was only to experience more stress, not pleasure!

How do we avoid becoming the character in the TV episode and wanting “more, more, more!”

·      Be proactive. Look at where you have tasks or projects and then schedule sufficient time for your brain and body to enjoy the “ahhhmazing” moment.

·      Be intentional about what we add to our lives. For many of us, during moments of stress, our tendency is to add “more, more, more” to our plates to experience something rewarding.

·      Resist the temptation for things to be “perfect.” I once heard, “do your best and forget the rest.” While it’s easier said than done, it is something that many of us need to start practicing!

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