We all have different motivations for why we do the things we do. Is it a need to feel loved and accepted? The need to be creative and express yourself? Or is it something else entirely? Some experts suggest that dopamine could be the driving force. Understanding how dopamine works can help us better understand why we do the things we do, and that knowledge can help us make better choices for ourselves and our loved ones.
Friends, welcome back to The School of Greatness. Today, we got Daniel Z. Lieberman in the house. Daniel is a teacher, researcher, practitioner, and co-author of the book called The Molecule of More: How a Single Chemical in Your Brain Drives Love, Sex, and Creativity — and Will Determine the Fate of the Human Race. In this episode, we talked about how to use dopamine in a healthy and productive way, a common mistake people make about love, and so much more. It’s an exciting conversation, so buckle up and let the class begin.
Dr. Daniel Lieberman is an award-winning educator, researcher, and professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at George Washington University in Washington, DC. He received his medical degree at New York University, where he also completed his psychiatric training.
As a researcher, he provided insights on mental health topics for the US Department of Commerce, the Office of Drug and Alcohol Policy, and the US Department of Health and Human Services. Daniel has published more than 50 scientific papers and book chapters, and he shares his expertise on the neurobiological basis of human behavior as a frequent guest on podcasts, television, and radio.
Daniel Lieberman co-authored the international bestseller The Molecule of More, which has been translated into 16 languages. His second book, Spellbound: Modern Science, Ancient Magic, and the Hidden Potential of the Unconscious Mind, reveals how to join forces with your unconscious mind to find more meaning in everyday life, make better decisions, and develop a richer and more balanced way of living. But in this episode, we dive deeper into dopamine, and how to use it in a healthy and productive way.
We all know that dopamine has plenty of benefits. But how do we use it in a healthy way? Dopamine is one of the most important neurotransmitters in your brain. It is responsible for many critical functions including motivation, productivity, and focus. While dopamine is essential for a healthy and productive life, it’s also easy to overuse it. So how can we use this powerful neurotransmitter to its full potential?
“[For] most people, when they think about dopamine, they think about pleasure. But that’s just a small piece of what dopamine does. The bigger picture is that it’s used to maximize future resources. … Dopamine is all about making the future better than the present. And so it can do wonderful things. It can give us energy, motivation, desire, excitement, [and] confidence. But it can also do terrible things. It can make us dissatisfied, unhappy, miserable, [and] constantly chasing something we can never capture. It’s a powerful tool. We have to learn how to use it properly.” – Daniel Z. Lieberman
Dopamine can provide us with energy, motivation, desire, excitement, and confidence. When our dopamine levels are low, we can feel sluggish, unmotivated, and unenthusiastic. By increasing our dopamine levels through healthy practices like exercise and meditation, we can feel more energetic and motivated to achieve our goals.
“I tend to think of entrepreneurs, in terms of healthy dopamine — they want to build something that never existed before. … You know what it’s like to be an entrepreneur — I tried once and I couldn’t do it. … It’s hard. … You’ve got to be driven by passion. You have to work 10 times as much as if you’re working a regular job. But dopamine makes it fun. One of the beautiful things about dopamine is it can just make us feel so alive as we work to make the future better than the present.” – Daniel Z. Lieberman
Dopamine is about seeing something and having an idea in your mind that is not here in the real world. According to Daniel Lieberman during his TED talk, there are two different spaces in the world: the peripersonal space and the extra personal space.
“So when we think about how dopamine evolved, we’ve got the peripersonal space, and that’s basically the space in arm’s reach. … Peri means ‘around you’ … — [it’s] anything of the peripersonal space stuff that you own, you’ve got control over, and you interact with it in the present. … When you are interacting with things in the peripersonal space, dopamine shuts off. … The atoms and molecules may be in the peripersonal space, but your head is far away when you’re interacting … [because] it’s in a different space.” – Daniel Z. Lieberman
Have you ever been walking down the street and felt like someone was following you? Or maybe you were in a crowded place and had the uneasy feeling that someone was watching you? If so, then you have experienced your peripersonal space. This is the area that surrounds your body, and it’s constantly being monitored by your brain. But according to Daniel, dopamine just shuts off when you’re interacting with your peripersonal space.
“The other space is the extra personal space outside the personal space. This is the stuff that’s not within arms reach, and it could be an apple across the room on a table, or it could be the moon — whatever it is, you don’t have it. And if you want it, you’re gonna have to work for it. And your interaction with it is going to take place in the future. … But even that apple is gonna require some effort, maybe even some planning, and it’s happening in the future. It’s not happening right now.” – Daniel Z. Lieberman
We are always looking to the future, trying to find new and innovative ways to improve our lives. The personal space is one of those innovations — a concept that has the potential to change the way we interact with the world. While it may be something that’s going to happen in the future, it is triggered by a yearning at present or a desire to achieve something someday. This motivation can be triggered by dopamine. So, dopamine drives creativity and motivation, and it can also drive love.
How many times have you heard that dopamine is the “feel-good” neurotransmitter? It turns out that this little chemical is responsible for more than just feeling good. Dopamine is also involved in love and sexual activity. When people are in love, their dopamine levels rise. This may be why passionate love can be so addictive. But there’s a mistake people make about love.
“I wanna talk about a mistake people make with love because there are two kinds of love. There’s dopaminergic love, and there’s ‘here and now’ love. And they’re very, very different things that people get too confused [about,] and it can cause serious problems. So, I wanted to make a distinction between the two. Dopaminergic love is the kind of love we experience when we talk about falling in love. It’s a sort of insanity. It’s a rush. Some people … call it the most intense, most pleasurable experience we can have in life. … But there’s always a decline.” – Daniel Z. Lieberman
Are you in a relationship that is fueled by dopamine? If so, it’s important to be aware that this type of relationship is only temporary. Dopamine-driven relationships are exciting and passionate at first, but eventually, the dopamine wears off, and the relationship becomes mundane. It’s important to realize this and move on before you’re too invested.
“So dopaminergic love — we might call it passionate love — only lasts for about a year or two, and then it goes away. When you’re in love, all you want is to be with the other person — they make your life perfect. And all you want is them. When that comes to an end, they lose their divinity, and they revert back to normal human status. And what a lot of people say is, ‘I thought this was the one — they’re not. I need to go find someone else because I’m no longer in love with that person.’ And that’s a mistake because what happens is that passionate love never ever lasts, but it can evolve into something called companionate love.” – Daniel Z. Lieberman
When you’re in the throes of passionate love, it feels as though nothing and no one can come between you and your object of desire. You believe that this love is meant to be and that it will last forever. Unfortunately, passionate love eventually fades away, often replaced by feelings of indifference. However, it’s possible for passionate love to evolve into companionate love, a more mature and lasting form of love. By understanding the stages of romantic love, you can work towards creating a relationship that is based on companionship and mutual respect.
“When you’re in a companionate love relationship, you have this sense of trust. There is someone that you know will always have your back no matter what. Your life is deeply entwined with theirs. And that is a wonderful, beautiful thing that I think our society doesn’t appreciate enough.” – Daniel Z. Lieberman
When you’re in a companionate love relationship, there’s an implicit trust that comes with the relationship. You don’t have to worry about being judged or questioned because you know your partner will be there for you, no matter what. This type of relationship is incredibly rare, but it’s definitely worth striving for.
Guys, this is such an amazing interview with Daniel Lieberman, and I’m sure you’ll get some bits of wisdom from his insights on love, creativity, and addiction. Listen to the full episode for more, and don’t forget to share this wonderful episode with your friends, especially those who need to hear it: You could make a significant difference in someone’s life today.
I want to acknowledge Daniel for being such an incredible human being, spreading love and creativity to anyone. His definition of greatness is short but on point:
“[Greatness] is how much happiness you create in other people.” – Daniel Z. Lieberman
Many people believe that greatness is defined by what you achieve. That’s not wrong, but it’s not complete either. True greatness is how much happiness you create in other people. It doesn’t matter if you have a lot of money or power, or if you’ve accomplished a lot — if you don’t make others happy, then your greatness is incomplete. So, do something wonderful for someone else today — it will make both of your days better. Remember, greatness is created by making others happy.
If no one’s told you lately, let me remind you that you are loved, you are worthy, and you matter. So go out there and do something great!