I want to tell you something I discovered these past couple of days that I already know is going to create a huge positive shift in my life. I can’t believe I didn’t see this sooner and I’m grateful I finally did stumble upon this information. I was talking to my friend Hillary and I was having conflicting thoughts in my mind. I was wondering why I told myself I would do something productive after the phone call with her when another part of me wanted to hop on YouTube and watch videos.
I was frustrated because my mind always seems to sabotage my success and progress. I’m about to turn 38 and I still can’t seem to find the real career success I know I’m capable of. I was especially frustrated last Saturday when I spent about 10 hours watching the entire fourth season of the Last Kingdom on Netflix.
I could predict what was going to happen in the show and it was starting to bore me. The Danes who are Pagans are either going to attack and pillage the Saxons or one of their fortresses. The Saxons are Christians and English, and they are doing the same thing, they are either protecting or attacking the Danes and the only difference is the location they do it. The question I had for myself was why the heck I would spend 10 hours watching this show that gave me very little to no fulfillment.
Until Hillary gave me the answer I’d been looking for, maybe even for my entire life. The answer that is going to break the door wide open towards my success. Hillary said to me, “It’s because of the dopamine kick you get from watching this stuff.” She was right, I would get a kick of dopamine every time the hero’s won in battle, slaying their villains on the battlefield.
After the phone call my eyes went wide open, as I went silent for a couple of minutes. This was such a simple concept yet I’ve never been aware of it. My entire life I’ve been fighting dopamine addiction in one form or another. I’ve dealt with addiction to so many things and it goes back as far as I can remember. As a child, I didn’t have anything to do on the weekends and would often spend 8-10 hours both Saturday and Sunday in front of the television. I didn’t like it, I just felt like I didn’t have anything better to do.
There would be moments after hours of gazing at the TV screen where I would stand up in an attempt to do something active, only to realize how lethargic I felt, causing me to plop right back down onto the couch cushion. In college I was addicted to video games and my only option was to quit them altogether because I couldn’t find a balance. In my later twenties it was porn.
When Hillary opened my eyes to this dopamine phenomenon that was happening to me I started to replay my entire life and I could see a clear connection to all my suffering being connected to addiction. Do you know how many things I’ve had to quit and cut out of my life because they were controlling me to the point of having a detrimental effect? I used to smoke 5 cigarettes on my hour long drive to work to the Berkshires from Springfield Massachusetts.
I could never have just one or two drinks of alcohol, often leading to a night of blacking out when I would drink. My coffee habit exceeded 5 cups a day which disrupted my digestive system from all the acidity and ruined my sleeping patterns. This naturally forced me to switch to tea which ended up leading to about 5 cups a day of the strongest caffeinated tea I could find.
All the crappy foods I’ve had to cut out my life like fast food, soda, fried foods, white grains, gluten, and most dairy. I’ve even given up meat because I had to have meat at every meal which doesn't contain many nutrients. My spiritual and environmental beliefs ultimately were the biggest deciding factors to giving up meat but even meat became something I ate in excess. I spent a month in Colombia in the spring of 2019 writing a book and I got addicted to a ceremonial tobacco they call rapé (pronounced Wrap-A).
Rapé is something you normally do before an ayahuasca ceremony, where someone blows it up your nose and it quiets the mind. I wanted to buy a small batch of it and the person who sold it to me hooked me up and gave me a big container of this tobacco which was more than I needed or wanted. In no time I end up addicted to this rapé and I was doing it 5-6 times a days. I was finally relieved when I ran out a couple weeks after arriving in the states. I was even doing it in the bathroom stall of the airport while traveling back to the U.S.
How did I not see this dopamine connection sooner? Even though I cut out alcohol, cigarettes, coffee, caffeinated tea, soda, fast food, fruit juices, white grains, gluten, meat, most dairy, porn and now rapé – there were still things triggering my dopamine centers like a fireworks show. I was addicted to my phone and my laptop.
Here are the next items I had to cut out of my life; apps on my phone like my sports apps, my social media apps like Facebook and Instagram. I had to get rid of my Netflix and most importantly I had to cut out YouTube, because I could spend hours on there watching new videos that would constantly pop up on my home page that would spark interest or better yet dopamine in my head.
The question is --what is dopamine? -- and how come as soon as I got off the phone with Hillary a video on my Youtube home page was titled Dopamine Detox. You see once you get to the level of understanding about this universe you don’t see those things as coincidences anymore. This is what is called Synchronicity. The universe is bringing you the information that you are seeking. I have been seeking for some time why I can’t be productive or motivated throughout the day and this dopamine detox is the answer. So I want to explain to you how much this dopamine impacts your life and what you can do about it.
I want to get into what dopamine is and how it works in the brain. It’s a neurotransmitter that gets released into pathways that is responsible for reward motivated behavior. Did you know that dopamine is the ultimate contributor to your motivation? I was wondering for the longest time why I couldn’t remain motivated on my work related tasks and now I know why. It’s all because of dopamine and how there are certain things that cause an immediate dopamine trigger in your brain. Social media is one of the biggest culprits as well as these videos you can easily access on YouTube.
Dopamine has been around for nearly 300 million years and it’s a function of our reptilian brain. Dopamine has been used for basic survival instincts which motivate us towards pleasure, like eating and sex. We as human beings have evolved to use dopamine for pleasure for many other purposes and we have become addicted to unhealthy forms of instant and intense pleasures. These are often distractions that kills productivity, focus, concentration, and motivation. If you are an entrepreneur and lack motivation, this could be the thing getting in your way.
I want to jump into how some people are more sensitive to this dopamine addiction than others. The point of view I’m going to come from is based on the six levels of reality creation. I believe I have an archetypical character that lives within me. You may know of archetypes from Carl Jung or better yet you may know about them from the Enneagram. These are characters that show up in the human psyche and they have their own driven behaviors.
The characters are also referred to as parts or as ego identities. We have about 5 to 15 dominate ones and could be living with hundreds of parts. What I discovered through this conversation with Hillary is that one of my most dominate archetypes is the Addict. This part has been there my entire life always looking for the next dopamine kick and has been very successful in stunting my growth. I have a hypersensitivity and a strong desire for dopamine and my behavior has been directly impacted by this.
I’m going to tell you that the only thing getting in the way of your dreams is mindset. Your behavior is dictated by your emotions, your emotions are run by your thoughts, thoughts are influenced by belief systems, belief systems are dictated by values and of course our ego identities influence all of those things as it sits on the top of the ladder. It’s a hierarchal ladder and each level above has more power and influence than the rest. The Addict archetype is the ego identity that has had the biggest influence on my behavior and I just discovered this now, only 20 days from my 38th birthday.
Here is why dopamine for these unhealthy habits are so dangerous. You start to get withdrawals, which turns on the distracting thought processes. The amount of times I’d be sitting at my computer typing away when all of a sudden a thought to check my phone pops up. Sometimes I don’t even realize I’m grabbing it to check my Facebook account. The hardest problem for me with Facebook is when you post stuff, especially if it is political or controversial. This was a problem during COVID-19 quarantine for me.
I found myself checking Facebook over and over again to see what kind of response I was getting to my posts. I was hoping people would like my posts and then a feeling of defensiveness against those who disagreed with them would show up as well. It was this battle of back and forth pain to pleasure response, all correlated to my dopamine centers. I’m glad I went through this phase of posting on Facebook because it showed me how much it kills my productivity and motivation.
If you want your productivity and motivation to increase towards your goals here are the steps to do so. You need to do a dopamine detox, because once you purge these unhealthy dopamine influencers, your dopamine starts firing towards the things that bring you genuine happiness and fulfillment like running a business or hosting a podcast. If you can cut out the dopamine triggers you will be freed up to focus on the things that will bring you success. Dopamine can be released in a much healthier way and the best way to do that is to cut the things out of your life that sabotage you against achieving your goals.
These are the list of things you want to cut out or minimize in your life. If you have the willpower to only do them on the weekends, I think that would be a beneficial plan as well. Doing a 3 day dopamine detox is a great place to start. It won’t be easy but you will immediately start seeing the benefits in a few days because the hobbies or work related things you found yourself avoiding start to become enjoyable once again.
I would recommend cutting out social media first and foremost. You can uninstall apps on your phone. I did this with Instagram, Facebook and my ESPN app. On my laptop I logged out of Facebook and disengaged the password reminder so that if I go to the page I have to type in my username and password, which I find as a great deterrent. It reminds me I don’t actually want to go on Facebook and my dopamine centers have brought me there unconsciously.
I still use Facebook because I have groups I’m connected to, so I will go on it for a brief period of time on Sunday to access it. I still use Messenger as a form of communication through my Facebook friends. I guess Tik Tok and Snapchat fall into the social media realm, so cut those out too. There is a reason Bill Gates and Steve Jobs limited phone and technology use for their kids even though these were the tech giants.
I recommend fasting from all the foods that stimulate dopamine response, pretty much anything that is processed or contains sugar. I would cut out alcohol, cigarettes and marijuana. Heck why not cut out all drugs for that matter. I would next cut out anything video related like TV, Youtube, the news, Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, Disney Plus and whatever else you watch on a normal basis. Ladies I’d give up all that excessive porn watching, that goes for you too men. There are also people who have dopamine addictions to sex, exercise, gaming, watching sports, gambling and even those extroverts out there who get a dopamine rush talking to people. Take a break from those things as well.
Here is an important thing to remember, if you start going back to these things they are going to start messing with your dopamine response. I remember when I went to rehab at 22 to quit drinking. I was sober for about a year and then I thought I could manage my drinking intake. I was able to handle two to three beers at a time for about 6 months and then it became four beers, then 6 beers, and in no time I was back to about a dozen beers in one night.
If it’s been a problem for you in the past then it’s likely going to be a problem if you let it back into your life. Life is so much more enjoyable when you do things that you are in control of, as opposed to doing things that are in control of you. That’s the major upside to a permanent dopamine detox. Once you do this detox it will give you a picture of how much of these habits influence your behaviors.
If you want to create more success, freedom and power in your own life then cut out these faulty dopamine triggers. They are such a huge distraction and they are killing off your productivity and motivation. If you are like me and have the Addict archetype as a major ego identity then unfortunately I haven’t been able to do any of these things in moderation. They have controlled my life and the only thing that has worked for me is to cut them out of my life completely. It’s been a process and over a 9 year period of time I’ve been able to cut nearly all the unhealthy dopamine triggers out of my life. This has left a wide open path for success.
I know what you might be thinking, “but it sounds like you are cutting out all the fun in your life” -- believe me it’s worth it. To have self-discipline, self-control, focus, concentration, responsibility -- to be able to follow a purpose and a mission in life without being thwarted by these external distractions. These are the things where true happiness and fulfillment stem from, not addictions. If you focus on your mindset, your habits, your behaviors, and start to know who you are as a person and what mark you want to leave on this planet, then you can step into some real power.
You can become a person who sets a goal and is able to actually achieve that goal. I think out of all the things people seek and as much as happiness is the most common answer to what people want in life. I think freedom is the real thing people seek. Freedom is the access to happiness and that begins with freeing the mind from limitations. Eliminating the unhealthy dopamine triggers will give you more freedom than you could ever imagine. That’s all I have for this episode. Take care and until next time.