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Is the shiny object in the way of you reaching your goal?

This Inc. article shows how our addiction to dopamine may not be serving us.



A friend hates keeping his books. (He hates filing corporate taxes even more, but that’s another story.) Over the past three years, he’s adopted and abandoned five different small-business accounting packages–not because the software didn’t work, but because he kept finding newer, shinier, more robust tools that he felt sure would solve all his problems.

Except they didn’t. Accounting is still accounting, and he’s still him. But that’s also because he–and we–are made that way.

study published in Neuron found that dopaminergic novelty processing (a fancy way of saying your brain lights up when you encounter something new) makes a new product or service–or new diet, new workout plan, new longevity enhancement breakthrough, etc.– hard to resist.

As a corollary, the more complicated something sounds–like a comprehensive, multi-step morning routine–the more likely we are to believe it will work, even though science shows simple is always better.

Add it all up, and we’re built to shrug off the commonplace. Same stuff, different day might work, but it’s also neurologically boring. Our hippocampi love the dopamine rush that comes from finding a new approach.

They especially love the dopamine rush that comes from finding a new, and extreme, approach–even though the more extreme and complicated the approach, the less likely you’ll embrace it over the long term.

My friend cares about cash flow, but running discounted cash flow models? Not so much. He cares about profitability, but he has no interest in reviewing sensitivity models, much less in creating them. He’s successful because he’s the king of sales, cash flow, and profitability — not esoteric (to him) financial reports.

In short, he doesn’t need “new,” even though his hippocampus tells him he does. He needs simple, reliable, and easy-to-use.

And so do you. New can be better, but new without purpose is not. Productive people don’t just know what to do–they know why. They have long-term goals. They have short-term goals that support their long-term goals. In short, they have purpose–and that purpose informs everything they do.

That’s why productive people appear so dedicated, organized, and consistently on-task. They’re not slaves to a routine, nor are they slaves to the occasional dopamine rush that comes from considering something new.

They’re just driven to reach their goals, and quick to eliminate roadblocks and put aside distractions that stand in their way.

If you’re an entrepreneur, your goal is to build a successful business. Your system–and your tools–are your processes for sales, marketing, fulfillment, operations, etc. Already have something that works? Great. Embrace it. Enhance it. Optimize it.

And seek your dopamine rushes elsewhere. In simple terms, dopamine is a reward your brain releases when you’ve achieved–or are close to achieving–a goal, helping you feel more motivated and satisfied.

Not because you found something new.

But because you’ve accomplished something new.

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