Tag Archives: goals

How to Hack Your Brain Chemistry

You feel happy when your brain releases dopamine. This happens when you experience a success, reinforcing the behavior that led to the success. Unfortunately, dopamine is also released in other situations, and your brain can’t tell the difference between useful success dopamine and bad addition dopamine.

When you get angry, your brain also releases dopamine. This is being used in the outrage industry that churns out slanted reporting designed to make you angry. No matter if you are for or against Trump, your chosen media is likely to supply a never-ending diet of outrage.

To channel your energy into more productive pursuits than internet-fuelled rage, reduce your consumption of social media, and make sure your body produces a healthy amount of dopamine itself. There are all the usual things like exercising, sleeping well, etc.

In addition to all the usual good things (exercising, sleeping well, meditating), there is another thing you can do: Achieve goals. You get a dopamine boost when you achieve your goal, and the size of the goal doesn’t affect the dopamine release. Working in IT, you have many good ways of getting your dopamine kick – for example by writing tests before you write code. You also want to release software as often as possible, so look for work in an agile team that releases every few weeks.

You don’t want to be at the mercy of the outrage, entertainment, and junk food industries. Free yourself by making sure you get your dopamine from healthy activities like programming.


This is an excerpt from the monthly Spiritual Programmer newsletter. Don’t miss the next one, sign up here.

Life lesson from the Boston Marathon bombings

I’ve just read The Exclusive Inside Story of the Boston Bomb Squad’s Defining Day on Wired.

Bomb squad members are trained to use a careful, methodical approach and lots of high-tech gear to disarm explosive devices. But at the Boston Marathon, there were two blasts and they had to contend with the risk that more bombs had been placed to target first responders. And they had hundreds of left-behind bags to search.

Because they knew their objective, they were able to improvise their methods. Without their body armor, they bravely slit open the sides of bags with pocket knives to examine as many bags as possible as fast as possible.

If your employees know their objective (the “why”), they will be able to adapt to changing circumstances. If all they know is is the “what”, they will be stuck with a single response even if the situation changes dramatically.