Strategy two. Know want versus like.
Have you ever experienced wanting to eat a luscious piece of pie, then after getting to eat it, you feel disappointed with yourself?
When it comes to pleasure, there are actually two hormones at work: dopamine that makes you crave for the pie and opioids that make you actually enjoy it.
But one can be independent of the other. Therefore, the hack is to tell yourself, “I want it but I don’t like it. So why do it in the first place?”
In the 1980s, American scientist Kent Berridge tested the then-popular belief that dopamine was the pleasure hormone. He took a bunch of rodents and fired sugar water into their mouths. The rats would lick their paws or stick their tongues out. It was their way of saying “yummy!”
Next, Berridge treated the rats with drugs that reduced their dopamine levels, then fired sugar water into their mouths. He expected those dopamine-impaired rats to hate the sugar water. But to his surprise, the rats still gave the “yummy!” feedback.
He went to the extreme of destroying the area of their brains that trigger dopamine. While the rats were listless as a result, they still gave the “yummy!” when he fed them with sugar water. That confused Berridge even more.
Then he went the other extreme. He pumped them with an overload of dopamine. This time the rats were gorging on the sugar water, but their facial expressions were reversed. It as though they were gagging and crying out “I hate this stuff but I can’t stop myself!”
Application? Realize that just because you want it, you don’t have to like it. If you don’t really like it, you don’t have to go through with it.
One of my bad habits is worrying. Left unchecked, I tend towards catastrophic thinking. “The factory is going to explode!” “My car will break down in the middle of the highway!” “I’m gonna retire on stale bread and rainwater!”
Then I realized: why worry when I’m sick and tired of worrying? Nowadays, as long as I took the proper precautions, when I am tempted to worry, I don’t even bother.
What are the habits you are compelled to do but don’t really enjoy? Perhaps this, along with Strategy 1, is your hack to freedom.
To be concluded.