Our body is specifically built to increase our survival. Including the chemicals it creates. There are 4 primary chemicals that we are dependent upon to feel good:
Endorphins work to get us where we need to go as individuals. They make us work and find food. They are what drives us to invent things. Endorphins fuel the drive forward to get things done.
These are the Selfish Chemicals.
Endorphins also mask physical pain. They make the runners high. The personal opiate released in response to stress or fear. It’s why people crave the gym – it makes us feel good. Our bodies did the same thing to get cavemen to hunt. Also why we sometimes laugh during tough times – to release endorphins.
Dopamine works with Endorphins to get us where we need to go as individuals. It is the other Selfish Chemical.
However, Dopamine gives our incentive for progress. Releases when we find what we are looking for or get something done. Satisfaction. When we hit a goal or cross something off our to-do list. As long as we can see it or imagine it, can release dopamine. Releases when we reach mile markers toward our goal.
To trigger Dopamine, our goals must be tangible. We need to see it to believe it. We have to write down our goals because it’s more likely to trigger Dopamine. This is why clear goals and incentives work better. This is why it’s important to set goals that your people believe they can hit. If they don’t believe the goal is possible, they don’t get hooked on the dopamine.
This is also why we need to be able to see our corporate vision statement. Not just on a wall. It must be something that we can see in our minds eye. “Being the most respected company in our category” is dumb – respected by who? Investors, your parents?
Highly addictive!! Gambling, Alcohol, Cocaine, Social Media, Text dings all release dopamine. The dings say “there is something special for us.” If the first thing someone does when they wake up is have a drink, they are probably an alcoholic. If the first thing they do is email or social media…….
Serotonin is here to get us to work together. Trust. This the first of the Selfless Chemicals. The feeling of belonging. Keep circle of safety strong. Serotonin is the feeling that we can accomplish more by working together. It’s the good feelings of trust and Friendship.
Serotonin is the leadership chemical. When you graduate, you get a hit of serotonin – so do your parents.
Serotonin is released when you feel proud of helping someone or living up to their expectations. It’s why you feel way better to be held accountable to PEOPLE not numbers. It’s also why it’s more fun to finish a marathon with friends there. You can run 26 miles any time. It’s different on race day.
Serotonin is the chemical that makes us want to make others proud. It’s the chemical response that makes it feel good to be the alpha.
Oxytocin is here to get us to work together. Also building trust, Oxytocin is the 2nd Selfless Chemical.
Oxytocin is Chemical Love. Friendship, Love, or Deep Trust. The warm fuzzies. Generosity and empathy. We wouldn’t have anyone to watch our back. This is why we feel human connections and are social.
Oxytocin is necessary because, when in a group, we have help to watch our back. We don’t have to be continuously vigilant. The one on the edge is in danger.
Dopamine is a quick hit. Oxytocin is longer lasting and builds as we spend time with the stimulus.
We get hits from physical contact with each other. Hugs. Kisses. Shaking hands. High 5’s. Fist bumps. Chest bumps. Releases the oxytocin and makes us feel more connected. Shaking hands is physical contact and sign that we can work together.
Dopamine even boosts our immune system. Helps with problem solving. More resistant to the addictive properties of dopamine. We don’t need the dopamine hit of technology because we already always feel loved.
What we have to Learn:
Endorphins and Dopamine- without Serotonin and Oxytocin- will lead to peaks and valleys. Highs and crashes. No stability. No empathy.
Serotonin and Oxytocin -without Endorphins and Dopamine- won’t lead to any growth or progress. So it won’t last long.
What to do with it:
This explains the physical and feeling parts of leadership. By optimizing all 4, you can create a work environment that feels good all of the time. You can give your people a consistent drip of Endorphins by being supportive and complimentary. Build their self-confidence and self-esteem. Make them feel like they can do anything.
Then add some dopamine by helping them set a big quarterly goal. Build it WITH them, not giving it to them. When they are involved in setting they will be personally tied to it. Which is what drives the Dopamine. Break the quarterly goals down into smaller pieces. That way dopamine is triggered when you check off the smaller goals. This also ramps up the Dopamine production by seeing the finish line.
Next comes the Serotonin. Tell them you are proud of them. Proud for setting goal. Proud of them hitting the small goals along the way. Make them feel safe and supported for trying to do big things. Let them know that you are with them and the organization is behind their efforts. Bring them into the Circle of Safety.
And finish it out with Oxytocin. High 5’s and fist bumps. A pat on the back or a hug. Make them feel the excitement and appreciation. Help them feel like it’s all “worth it. Help them see the future of accomplishment.
Once you are hitting on all 4 – your people will be addicted to coming to work!