Guest blog spot by Outside-In® Team Member Caitlin Olszewski
Dopamine (3,4-dihydroxyphenethylamine for my nerds) is the human chemical responsible for releasing good feelings of satisfaction, achievement, and completion. If you’re anything like me, every item you cross out on your to-do list summons the invisible arms of progress as they comfort you in their warm embrace. Ahhh. Instant gratification. A hug so fulfilling you find yourself craving, no, needing more. You can quit anytime you want, right? Don’t quit. Goonies never say die!
Two weeks ago, I attended a Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce networking event where TED celebrity, leadership expert, and completely awesome dude extraordinaire, Simon Sinek spoke about the four social chemicals humans need in order to feel fulfilled. This goes all the way back to our monkey roots in the Paleolithic era when human survival was dependent on hunting and gathering so these built in survival chemicals encouraged us to succeed. Although we’re well past knuckle-walking and spearing wild boar, dinosaurs, or whatever, all of these chemicals are still present in our daily work lives. And these drugs are biologically what motivate us to set goals, complete tasks, and to keep going under all circumstances.
How about that feeling you get when you run a few miles, lift weights, or complete a P90X® workout without passing out? Hel-lo sweet, sweet endorphins—the personal opiate. Often referred to as the “runner’s high”, endorphins sole purpose are to mask physical pain with pleasure. During a rough patch at work, endorphins are what kick in to give you that “all hands on deck” instinct to overcome and obtain that feel-good high. Laughing is one of the quickest ways to release endorphins, explaining why it is highly encouraged to participate in some lighthearted humor during tense times.
So what happens when you shatter those goals? Complete those tasks and exceed expectations? Serotonin rolls out a red carpet and hands you a trophy. Serotonin gives us pride, the feeling of being respected, and an invincible attitude. In work life, serotonin is what emboldens us to put out the best work we can in order to feel acknowledged and valuable. It’s what pushes us to constantly impress and please those around us so we can feel a sense of achievement and comradery. Think about how you would feel running on your own time versus running a marathon in front of people cheering you on. Serotonin pushes us to go further, be stronger, and work harder.
What about the warm fuzzies? The most popular of these chemicals, oxytocin, is correlated with feelings of friendship, love, and trust. Oxytocin provides us with the need for human connection, social interaction, and vigilante actions. Unlike the other three chemicals, oxytocin is a long-lasting feeling. This chemical is all about relationship building and creating a deep trust for those around us in order to feel safe and protected. At work, oxytocin is the feeling we achieve when our colleagues are there to watch our backs, encourage our growth, and give us the tools we need to succeed.
Simon Sinek’s Leaders Eat Last: Why Some Teams Pull Together and Others Don’t is currently on the New York Times Best Seller List. You should buy it not only because it’s a thought-provoking look into the way we work as humans, in teams, and as leaders, but also because I said so.