There is a moment in every boy’ and girl’s life when they achieve something. It may be something as small as little Susan winning the local art show where her sculpture of an elephant looked less like a grotesque mass of goop than her other competitors and she won by default.
It could be something as grande as tiny Tim performing his violin piece live on national television in front of a talent search committee.
It could be something as common as riding your bike without training wheels.
Whatever it is, in Susan’s, in Tim’s, in your universe, it meant something.
The Feeling Of A Job Well Done
There are many reasons you feel compelled to excel in your personal improvement:
- Improving the quality of life for your family.
- Improving your own quality of life.
- Recognizing that you are successful.
While these are admirable reasons, there is an underlying reason, one that has helped drive you since you were a child; you are drawn by that feeling.
That feeling is the neurotransmitter dopamine being released, giving you a feeling of enjoyment. Dopamine is commonly described as helping to regulate your reward-seeking behaviors.
While accomplishing certain things can release dopamine, even the anticipation of a reward can feel good. This is usually seen as a way of helping to direct your behavior towards greater things. It not only feels good to have your new Christmas present, the entire road leading to it puts your brain in a dopamine coma!
Much Accomplishment Ruins The Term
While dopamine has its role in your reward seeking behavior, there is a caveat. The same thing accomplished again and again will diminish the dopamine response.
Sure, riding your bike for the first time was big news. All the other kids on the block were jealous. But now at twenty-something, riding your bike is automatic. You get on, go to your destination, and get off. It has become a habit, one you have to expend hardly any mental energy to overcome. It ceases to be a meaningful problem.
“Achievements” that are done over and over and over again with no increase in reward or difficulty cease to be news-worthy. They cease to give us that feeling that we love so.
This isn’t a bad thing.
If we got the same feeling every single time, we would be constantly bombarded by cheering and dancing while folks ages 2 to 100 frollicked around after successfully tying their shoes.
While accomplishing something great is cool, we can’t be like Uncle Rico from Napoleon Dynamite, constantly talking about our glory days and how far we used to be able to throw a football.
Keep On Moving Forward
One of the greatest challenges of life is balancing contentedness with ambition.
You have to be able to be content with what you have while still looking for more. Why? Because if you aren’t content with what you already have accomplished, there will be a day when you realize that ambition is an unending road, and you will always be regretting what you have.
But you must also keep your ambitiousness, although it doesn’t have to require advances in money or material possessions. Sometimes it’s about wanting to be the best kind of parent, or grandma, or brother.
All of us inevitably reach a “peak” of our existence pertaining to the certain thing. Athletes reach this peak quite early in the scheme of things and have to see themselves physically deteriorate. As all of us age and our mental capacity begins to wane (although not as much as previously thought).
The point is that we strive and strive, desperately trying to attain higher and higher goals.
This feeling, this ambition, has to exist at some level. Like a raging fire, we have to harness it for fuel for growth. But the fire can never go out, it has to stick around, even if it’s just a single ember.
In order to keep our personal development from stalling, we need to remain addicted to achieving tough goals. It is not enough to continue to think that being successful at tying our shoes or riding our bikes is going to cut it.
Doing the same thing will get the same results. You have to push yourself harder and harder and in more and more creative ways in order to keep your passion alive.
So, find your reason for addiction.
Is it for personal gain? Wealth? Virtuous Character? Physical Excellence? Or is want of that feeling that only meaningful accomplishment is able to provide?
Whatever the reason, hold on to it, because the greatest achievements have a final wall, and getting over that wall takes every ounce of motivation you can muster.