When I think of all the things that are responsible for lack of achievement and abject failure, I can point the finger at a lot of things. Inability to manage time. Inability to plan. Not having the right set of skills. A ton of things. But there’s something a lot of people don’t consider. And that is the sheer amount of enjoyment and novelty available at our fingertips. I don’t even mean from a distraction sense (though it very well could be), I mean from a perspective of absolute satiation.
As human beings, our physical hardware, our physical body is a product of millions of years of evolution. In particular, the human brain by far is the most complex organ on the planet bar none. Our physiology and psychology was designed for and evolved from an environment of extreme scarcity and shortage of opportunities and resources. A prime outcome of this lineage is a well-known molecule/neurotransmitter called dopamine. Many people think dopamine is responsible for pleasure, but is responsible for motivation. It is the chemical that is mainly responsible for reward-based learning.
Kill an animal? Dopamine response. Share food with the tribe? Dopamine response. Eat the food? Dopamine response. Procreate with an attractive woman that will spread your DNA? Dopamine response. All of these things are responsible for one thing: survival. That’s not all. Dopamine responds to novelty. That means new lands to conquer. New inventions to create. New things to discover. New, new, new means, of course, one thing…dopamine. Our expansion as a species is due to this reward reinforcing neurochemical.
So what’s changed in modern society? Mainly the fact that civilization has created a world where, for a large percentage of first world citizens, hunger no longer exists. And I don’t mean physical hunger (though it very well can be). I mean mental hunger. Hunger for expansion. Hunger for sexual contact/bonding. Hunger for knowledge. Hunger for asserting competence and mastery. Hunger for just achieving a great life full of happiness and wholesome abundance.
Why bother competing for status in the real world when you can immerse yourself in many of the lush video game worlds with multiple achievements? Why bother developing skills in the real world when you can go home and immerse yourself in whatever world you’ve created. Why bother developing a relationship with a woman and risk getting rejected when the vast world of pornography awaits with women doing anything you can imagine at the click of a button? Why bother talking to people when the phone is in your pocket? Why both doing anything when delivery is guaranteed within an hour?
You have no reason to do any of those things. You have no reason to go out and get rejected by a real woman. You have no reason to develop a hard to learn skill. You have no reason to start a business. You’re comfortable. You’re alright. Just stay where you are. Just stay right where you are in your well-ventilated home eating Doordash delivery with your imaginary girlfriend and Netflix subscription. You’re alright. Everything’s fine. Just fine.
You name it, you can have a quick version of it. Easy, easy, easy. What does this do to the brain over time? Over time, the brain rewires to acclimate to these quick fixes and when you don’t get them…you get pissed off, you get irritable, you become anxious and depressed. It’s no wonder that mental health is at an all-time low in the most abundant society that has ever existed.
We need that fire, that willingness, that motivation that our ancestors had to create our world, our utopia we live in today. We need to experience more life. We need to stand up to the comforts that modern society offers freely and instead experience a bit of harshness. You look at people who came before the 21st century. Some of those people were as hard as nails. Very stoic people.
What’s the solution? Purposeful limitation. You spend less time on social media. You ride in your car without listening to music sometimes. You stop eating junk food. You stop randomly browsing on the Internet. You choose to wait for your food and observe your surroundings instead of escaping into your phone. You start a constructive hobby. You learn how to focus. You start to do hard things that require time, effort, and skill to complete.
You reclaim your brain – the birthright that was passed down to you from your ancestors. You say “no” to 90% of what the modern world has to offer, so you can focus on the 10% that does matter. Over time, you start to gain an appreciation for the real world and mastery. Over time, you start to become disciplined and hone in on what needs to be done.
You start to focus on what is meaningful, not expedient. And that is a beautiful thing.