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Dopamine and You, Leader!

Dopamine is like gasoline for your soul. Dopamine is a gift of God. If you want to be a better leader and live a better Spirit-driven life, then you need dopamine. Here’s how it works:

Dopamine and You

Dopamine is a neurotransmitter, which means it carries signals from one nerve cell to another. It's like gasoline that fuels motivation, drive, anticipation and desire. It works closely with two other neurotransmitters—serotonin and oxytocin—to help you focus on the behavior you want to repeat or increase.

Dopamine generally increases our focus on target behaviors. The more dopamine available in your system at the time of performing a behavior (like listening), the more likely you are to perform it (listen).

Dopamine is a neurotransmitter.

Neurotransmitters are chemicals that carry signals between neurons. They send the signals from one neuron to another, telling it “fire” or “do not fire.” There are many different types of neurotransmitters, and they work in different ways. Dopamine plays an important role in your brain’s reward system—the part of your brain that encourages you to do things like eat, drink water, have sex, and get as much sleep as possible (all tools for survival).

Dopamine is like gasoline for motivation, drive, anticipation, and desire.

As a neurotransmitter, dopamine also works to communicate information. It’s a key part of the reward system in your brain, and it helps you feel motivated and excited about things.

When you have an experience that makes you feel good or happy—when your favorite song comes on the radio or when someone gives you an unexpected gift—your brain releases dopamine. This happens because our brains want us to repeat experiences that make us feel good (like listening to our favorite song or getting unexpected gifts). The release of dopamine after positive experiences helps us learn what gets us excited and makes us happy!

Dopamine works closely with two other neurotransmitters—serotonin and oxytocin.

Dopamine works closely with serotonin and oxytocin. Serotonin is responsible for feelings of happiness, tranquility, and calmness. Oxytocin causes feelings of love, trust, and connection to others.

When you experience that thrill or exhilaration from doing something you are good at (preaching an amazing sermon), dopamine increases your focus on that behavior. This can become addictive if it’s not balanced by serotonin and oxytocin levels in your brain chemistry. Dopamine also has an influence on our ability to feel pleasure from certain things in life, like sex or eating tasty food, which makes us want more of it!

Dopamine generally increases our focus on target behaviors.

Dopamine is released when we anticipate a reward, and it also increases the drive to achieve a goal or complete a task. So, dopamine is an important part of motivation and achievement!

We need dopamine. Without it, we would not care about anything in life.

Dopamine is known for playing an important role in motivation. It supplies energy to achieve

goals, take risks and stay focused on tasks. Dopamine does this by triggering the release of other neurotransmitters like adrenaline, serotonin (the “happy chemical”) and oxytocin (the “love molecule”).

If you want to get creative or productive at work—or even just want to do something fun—we need dopamine! The good news is we can trigger dopamine production with certain behaviors: exercising regularly; taking social breaks during work hours, like going out for coffee with friends or having lunch together as a team; engaging in challenging activities; trying new foods; learning new skills and setting goals beyond what we already know how to do well.

Like the Bible says, “The human spirit can endure a sick body, but who can bear a crushed spirit?” (Prov 18:14)

Dopamine is released when you anticipate something good happening—like getting a promotion at work or winning an award at school. The right amount of dopamine helps us get out of bed every morning to go to work or school with purpose and pride! In other words, dopamine gets you moving! And when it comes to being effective as a pastor…well, you need to be moving all the time, especially if you want to make an impact in your community or church.

Christian leaders should be the most dopamine-filled humans on the planet.

In our earthly lives, dopamine acts as a reward for things we do. It helps us remember what we did well so we can keep doing it again and again.

Christian leaders should be rewarded with dopamine because their work is about much more than themselves! They are about making God known in Jesus Christ; they are about proclaiming the good news of salvation through faith in Jesus Christ; they are about building up the church according to the Great Commission given by Jesus Himself (Matthew 28:19-20).

Christian leaders should be fueled by meaning and purpose that come from knowing they have been baptized into an eternal family relationship with God Himself (Colossians 3:15). Leaders who are filled with this kind of love eradicate fear because they know no matter how bad things get here on earth, there will be no separation between them and their Savior (Romans 8:38-39).

Take-away questions: Could some of our LCMS struggles in generating creative solutions for our church worker shortage be due to a dopamine deficiency? Do we need a dopamine boost?

You are fearfully and wonderfully made in God’s image. You have a spirit that wants to know God deeply, just as you’re deeply known by God, and you have a brain that needs dopamine to help it get there. Now, go out on the adventure, take appropriate risk, start a new ministry and let Spirit-inspired dopamine fuel the journey!

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1 Comment

Padre Dave Poedel
Padre Dave Poedel
Nov 01, 2022

Excellent closing point…are dopamine-awareness or lack thereof part of our problem in identifying those whom God is calling to serve in the Church. We seem to attract those who are “motivation-inhibited” types.

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