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April 22nd, 2022


Achievement is underwhelming. The success and euphoria that comes with a big goal finally materializing is fleeting at best. It can be enhanced, a bit, and we try all the time to pump up the celebration. Usually with alcohol, and food and friends. (But sleep deprivation of several days also adds - though it’s highly discouraged that you do this - sometimes it just happens when there’s a big crunch) But no matter how glorious that peak of feeling is, it remains just a peak, and it passes as quickly as anything else in life.


There’s two important things to realize about this all-too-human phenomenon. One is that it’s not a great idea to celebrate every win. This is an aspect of how the dopamine system works. To keep it healthy and revved up for solid motivation, it’s best to keep the dopamine system a little confused, and this means being a little erratic with when the “treat” actually arrives. Because celebration depletes our dopamine system by overtaxing it. And then, much like the actual hangover that often accompanies such celebration, there’s second hangover where dopamine his slowly returning to it’s normal operating levels. But celebrating for only some instances of success helps keep this system well oiled and tuned.


The second thing to realize about this momentary window of glorious achievement is that it’s the wrong thing to seek satisfaction from. Because the arrival of the end result is so fleeting, it doesn’t make up much of our experience. It’s just a thin slice of time. But the process required to get to that moment - that’s nearly the entire time we spend, and if that’s not a source of satisfaction, then it’s likely time for a hard and brutal examination of one’s own life.


What happens when work is satisfying but difficult is that our days become peppered with these tiny moments of achievement. Especially if the work requires figuring something out - something new - something that requires learning, confusion and moments when we are stricken without an idea of where to go next. See the reason why we go see adventure movies and dramas is for the same reason that we should embrace difficult work - it’s simply more interesting, and that feeling of paralysis when you don’t know what to do next only makes victory more sweet when you figure out a way forward.


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