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Building a blueprint for a better brain by tinkering with the code.

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The Lucilius Parables, Volume I

REWARD SWAP

January 19th, 2021

 

Does a lazy person ever think about a workaholic and wonder how that happens with perhaps a touch of envy?  It stands to reason that if work really can become an addiction, then there’s a path to adopt that hot-tempered monster as one’s own.  Our bodies and minds toil for rewards, and despite how varied the task and how different the task might seem, none of it is all that different for the brain which is operating with a few different carrot cocktails that are all composed of more or less the same neurotransmitters.  A lazy person can wonder if the rewards of life can be swapped out to provoke a better, more fulfilling behavior that may eventually lead to a better life.

 

When the lure of the video game or the Netflix show is strong, palpable and seems overwhelming, how does the dreadful promise of frustration and effort required to do something stand up as a viable option?  The rewards of course are vastly displaced given the activity.  The reward of a video game or the Netflix show is nearly immediate, whereas the reward of work well done might not even exist if the work ends up as just a few wasted hours of frustration that seem to yield no progress.

 

The rewards of better behavior are almost always minuscule or nonexistent in the beginning.  Endurance and perseverance through that initial period requires a kind of imaginative faith - a constant reminder of the workaholic and the things they’ve managed to achieve.  Hope isn’t even appropriate because there is always proof all around us of what is possible.  It often just requires staying the course and remaining consistent.

 

Slowly the cocktail whipped up by the brain begins to shift, sprinkling in more serotonin and less dopamine.  And with even a small taste of the resulting reward, it’s not too hard to keep at it, if the memory of that reward can be cherished, hyped up with a frame in the mind and even obsessed over.

 

Before long, the same machinery that produces superficial days filled with quick-fix dopamine hits has transformed into an engine of productivity, steadily carving out a path towards better and distant goals.

 


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Podcast Ep. 1010: Reward Swap

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