“I’m on the right path, effort is the path and you start to tap into these systems. You develop what my colleague at Stanford, Carol Dweck, coined “growth mindset.” Which is not just the belief that you can be better. Growth mindset at its core is about driving dopamine release from the effort and strain process. It’s about enjoying friction.” This from Stanford neuroscientist Dr. Andrew Huberman in his interview with Ed Mylett on the “Ed Mylett Show.” Tune in for more on how to use dopamine to achieve your goals, what prevents you from moving forward in life and the best way to reward your small successes.
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I had Dr. Huberman on the podcast a few weeks ago in Episode #3, “Optimize Your Biology with Free Light Therapy Hacks to Improve Sleep and Minimize Seasonal Depression.” Just in case you missed it, there’s a link to that episode in the show notes below. The reason for his quick come back is to share what drew me to his work in the first place. It’s his research on how dopamine can be used to overcome the obstacles that stop us from moving toward our goals. As well as our ability to retrain our brain to enjoy the struggle of pursuing our dreams. Being that it’s the end of another year when 93% of us who set New Year’s resolutions, including myself...several times, end up failing to get past even the first few weeks of month one, I thought it a good time to bring attention to how we can change that.
I can’t tell you how often I quit something because it was hard and I obviously hadn’t hit the genetic lottery so why try? I usually failed in my mind before I even began because I was sure that I wasn’t talented enough. What I realized, and yes, I’m a friggin genius, is that learning something new is supposed to be hard and I’m supposed to be challenged because If it was easy, we'd all do it. Knowing that now, there’s still times when I just plain hate it. Like pull my hair out, rather get a root canal type of hate. I’ll come home from a particularly shitty night in say, acting class for instance, and think what the hell am I doing? Why do I keep punishing myself over and over again, week after week, feeling like a complete idiot in front of people who have nothing but judgy looks and critical thoughts. They aren’t, by the way, they’re actually very sweet and extremely supportive but that’s the shit that runs through my brain. Really I’m the one judging myself ...Thing is, I don’t even want to be an actor. So what possesses me to go all in? To keep showing up? Well, I know what it is. It’s the skills I’m gaining as I go. What better way to learn things like thinking on my feet, being completely present, gaining confidence, facing my fears, expressing myself, actively listening...the list goes on. It’s basically therapy and self development all packaged up in a nice little box.. And, it’s also about the person I’m becoming along the way. Which is a better version of who I was from going through this process. So the question is, even with all the irrational fears in my head, who wouldn’t want the rest that comes with it?
Since we’re being honest, I find it difficult to understand people who don’t want to be their best. Well, I don’t know, I shouldn’t say that. Maybe they do, but they can’t quite see the forest through the trees. For me I think, I just want to do better, be better, feel better. Showing up as the best possible version of myself, constantly upleveling, leaving average in the dust and bringing that into the world to make it a better place. I mean, don’t you just want to be fucking amazing? Surviving was fine for our ancestors but now we have every opportunity to thrive. There’s books, YouTube, podcasts, online courses... experiment, do shit that scares you. Skies the limit!
I read this book a while back called “Can’t Hurt Me”, by retired Navy Seal, David Goggins, and his greatest fear, can you guess? Getting to heaven and hearing a list of his life accomplishments, compared to a list of potential accomplishments, or what could've been, and feeling regret for not living up to them. A quote that sticks with me, and I’ve forgotten where I heard it is, a moment of fear or a lifetime of regret.
For anyone, like myself many times, who didn't know or isn’t sure of what they want, or even where to start, David has a great answer for you. Work on your insecurities. The skills, habits, beliefs you're not strong in that you'd like to get better at. Maybe it’s public speaking, photography, connecting with people, sales, confidence, workout routine...just pick something, anything, learn about it. Go all in, both feet first, then rabbit hole into something, and another thing and so on. Explore a few things, try a few things and whatever resonates, do something more with it and pursue it with more focus. That’s been helpful advice on my own journey and while I know It's not the "end all be all. '' it's a place to start.
As challenged as I’ve been in finding my purpose and setting goals, in some ways, that’s the easy part. What gets me stuck is taking the action needed to attain those goals. One thing that’s helped, and I think will be a surprise to you is, drumroll please...anxiety. Dr. Huberman’s perspective on anxiety has made me realize what a gift it can be.
My daughter, who’s always had a, shall we say, love/hate relationship with school, loved the social life, hated the academics, but made it to college and found it mmm...challenging. I would get frantic phone calls home with her in tears, and thinking what moms typically think...who died or are you pregnant or... I don’t know, what else is there? She has a definite flair for the dramatic. Thankfully it was none of those things and usually had to do with grades or boys. Both of which filled her with extreme anxiety. The boys always needed to go, or as Danielle Laporte would say, dump the chump. She has a way with words don’t you think? But the work had to get completed. And it did because those anxious thoughts kept her up at night, studying hours on end for 4 straight years. They were the rocket fuel that propelled her into taking action on what needed to get done.
Maybe it sounds counterintuitive because we’ve been so conditioned to medicate or treat our negative emotions but what if this “negative emotion” is just nature's way of getting us to move? And rather than suppressing the symptom of anxiety, we get to the root of why it’s presenting. After my divorce I’d wake up countless times in the middle of the night, freaking out about my finances. Because, I never had to worry about them before. Actually, I wasn’t allowed to worry about them before because, well, I couldn’t be trusted with money. Or so I was told. But I’ll tell you what, I never had a better handle on them than at that time. It forced me to learn about savings and retirement and I even joined a money mindset course which has added other benefits to my life. None of which I would have ever done, if not for those anxious feelings moving me forward. BTW, if you’re someone that has that 3am alarm in your head, I’ve found that stream of consciousness writing is great for getting out of your mind onto paper. Otherwise, I’m up!
So what about you? Got any goals? You writing them down? Making any progress? Humans are a goal driven species. And we will experience anxiety if we aren’t working toward something, because otherwise we aren’t growing and if we aren’t growing, we’re not living and if we aren’t living...then, what are we even doing? Just look at nature. What are trees doing? They’re expanding, flourishing and changing. And what happens if they stop? They become dead wood. And I don’t want to be dead wood. Do you?
Want to hear more? Visit Dr. Huberman and Ed Mylett on the “Ed Mylett Show”, Listen to the full interview, “Elite Brain Training with Dr. Andrew Huberman.” Links to the episode, their social media and the book, “Can’t Hurt Me” by David Goggins are in the show notes below.
If you enjoyed today’s podcast please share with someone you think might benefit and until next time, Thanks for listening.