Are you someone who always wants more and is never satisfied?
“I laugh when I hear the fish in the sea are thirsty.” Kabir
Do you remember when news about a hard-earned and desired promotion brought you joy for a week and then transferred to the hunger for more power? Or how moving to a new apartment felt amazing for a couple of months, and then you started to long for a bigger space?. Remember how excited you were about planning a dream vacation, but you never got to enjoy it once you arrived at the destination? And finally, remember how you reached the top of the mountain, looked around, and thought that perhaps you should have picked a different track to enjoy a view from a different viewpoint?
Robert Sapolsky, a well-known neuroscientist, wrote:
“What was an unexpected pleasure yesterday is what we feel entitled to today and what won’t be enough tomorrow.”
It sounds bizarre, but we are neurobiologically wired never to feel satisfied.
Eastern and western philosophers have talked about it for centuries. The Buddhists named the unsatisfactory nature of the mind as the main cause of human suffering. Lack of satisfaction is closely connected to our wants and desires.
Millions of years ago, the desire for better life forced the human species to migrate to new territories and develop new skills. Their hunger for more and better led to some mind-blowing results — today, we can enjoy central heating, electricity, technology, extended life span, and much more.
Indeed, desire has a shadow side — our unsatisfactory nature comes with a cost of frustration, despair, addiction, and lack of happiness. At least today, thanks to neuroscience, we can understand the mechanism behind all of this. Understanding the causes of the problem may help us gain new insights into addressing it.
So let’s look at some mechanisms and principles behind satisfaction.
1.A molecule of more.
A neurotransmitter called Dopamine can be held accountable for our unsatisfactory nature. It is responsible for our desire to move forwards, reach for better and achieve more.
2. “The path is the goal’ — wrote Thin Than Han.
Even though Dopamine is often considered to be a molecule of reward, it will be more fair to call it a molecule of motivation and anticipation. In other words — it is released in larger quantities when we are working towards something, planning, or anticipating something we are excited about.
It explains why you have more dopamine release while anticipating a party rather than when the party has started.
3. “If you align expectations with reality, you will never be disappointed,” — wrote Terrell Owens
Thanks to scientific data, we now know that when our expectations are not met, we experience frustration and disappointment (=suffering). It is caused by a significant drop in dopamine release when we do not get what we expect.
At the same time — being surprised (or having an unexpected reward) is the best condition for a dopamine release.
What can we do about it?
1.Appreciate and understand your desires.
William Blake wrote: “Those who enter the gates of heaven are not beings who have no passions or curbed all the passions, but those who have cultivated an understanding of them.”
2.Savour the path.
Remember that anticipation and working towards something is meant to bring you more joy (dopamine release) than the achievement itself.
Celebrate milestones, but create unpredictability in what you celebrate and what you don’t. As humans, we get quickly accustomed to wins and rewards — so next time, the milestone won’t feel as exciting anymore; it will feel ordinary.
4.Under-promise & over-deliver.
If you want to be loved by your customers, friends, and kids — promise little, and exceed their expectations. It will do magic. You’ll see.
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