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2020, Human Zombies, Dopamine and You

Whether you are in business, an entrepreneur, investor, self-employed, employed or a smattering of each, one thing we all have in common is the consensus that 2020 to date has been quite the year. I honestly cannot remember the last time there was such a globally shared sense of dread, uncertainty, fear, hope, connectiveness and then back again to dread, in such synchronicity.

Perhaps these shared feelings and how we respond to global threats, perceived or real – are further exacerbated by real time communication, largely driven by the massive strides in technology over the last 10 years? Strides that have disrupted our very cultural construct and how we socialize, interpret and disseminate information irrespective of what lies within our deepest consciousness.

Nothing one knows, nothing one has learned (through cultural indoctrination, education or religion) can match up to a universal emotion being felt at the exact same time by billions of people. That ‘relation map’ that defines the need to fit into the group, to conform, to be human and to act in a predictable manner, is so ingrained in our evolutionary being that acting separate from it is not an obvious task.

A bit disturbing is it? To feel or realize that we could be, all of us – acting out a script or living out a program that was deeply buried in our minds without our consent or knowledge each time we turned that radio dial, flicked on that television switch or nimbly swiped across a luminous lit hand-held device. A virtual hypnosis turning everyone in its path into a zombie, acting out in rhythmic fashion. Nothing unique, special or genius. No one outstanding. Just average. All of us.

And yet a cursory browse across social media will show millions upon millions of results of people writing books, selling stuff, putting out health videos, renovating homes, going green – evolving at a rapid pace in response to a dark pandemic, as they defy gloom and negativity with innovation and reactionary enterprise. Is it real? Is the growth we are seeing real, or just a show we have learned to put out to placate ourselves as we share a less-than-ideal World to a hungry public, willing to reward us with likes, clicks and follows if we are worthy of their attention? It seems we as the human race, have become one big reality show.

We have come full circle. Where once we bought products, humans have now become THE product. Our attention is being traded on the Wall street of the internet by artificial intelligence to the highest bidders (companies that advertise their products on our favorite pages).

‘Colonialism by technology’ is upon us but the machines are not the massive, dinosaur like metallic behemoths from the Terminator movie franchise or the squid-like, space swimming, multi-eyed machines from the Matrix. No way.

Instead, our ‘machines’ are programs, written down commands. Algorithms. Prompts that read us and evolve and cater to our ego. What’s now called a feed.

Every single micro second, our attention, my attention, YOUR attention is being fought for – dissected and fractured and broken down into multiple divisible units in a day. You may have felt the anxiety of this as you swipe your phone, seemingly unable to stop: the rush of endorphins when someone sends you a message or the anxiety when no one likes the filtered picture of your new born baby.

That something is happening to our minds is in no doubt. Brain plasticity dictates that the brain not only changes how it functions, but also changes its actual physical form when in a state of repetitive action. How many times in a day do you swipe right/left/ up/ down, (un)like, (un) subscribe, log in/out?

I bet you see that as part of life, an inescapable way of being.

But what are these finger-movements teaching your mind, what are they doing to the neural patterns in your brain and how is that in turn disrupting the way you learn, grow, evolve, create and well, ultimately fulfill your purpose (if you are still interested in this, anyhow)?

There are tons of studies and findings on this, a click away. Mine is not to take you down that rabbit hole but instead to give you a solution to get your mind to breathe, to regain some sanity, to have a semblance of normalcy and in the process, perhaps create something worthwhile in your relationship, business, finances or spiritual journey.

You see, sometimes in order to move forward we have to slow down and take stock. To sober up.

So how do you slow down a social media ‘addiction’? Well, you..


1. Go on a Dopamine Fast.

In short, you have times you do not look at your mobile phone or any device. Trust me, the World will not end if you do not see that WhatsApp status, Tik-Tok clip or Facebook meme. Try it. Say, from 6pm to 6am. Put off all your devices. Daily. Or thrice a week. Feel the difference – in your schedule, emotions, priorities, health and productivity.

Basically, dopamine is a chemical released as a reward system to your brain neurons that gives you a sense of pleasure and relief. It is a great, temporary panacea to anxiety and the feeling is very similar to what you experience when you swipe on your phone and engage others across social media. Unfortunately, it is addictive and can be quite controlling. We need to regain some control of our schedules and daily lives to some degree, if we want to achieve those purpose-based goals, we had set for ourselves ages ago.

2. Allow yourself to get bored.

Yeah, it will happen. A World without Netflix. Do not panic. This is the best time to do that stuff you see on You Tube but never do: take a walk, work out, engage in a DIY activity, paint, meditate, Yoga. Trick is, make it consistent. Make this productive pursuit your new replacement for your old dopamine fix. Engage in constructive stuff, not destructive stuff. You know your poison.

3. Journal and take stock.

Get a notebook and start writing down stuff. Random stuff. Thoughts. Start feeling alive and reconnected again with your mind. Format does not matter – just get writing.

4. Line up priority stuff you must do.

Write them down. In that journal thingy. Long term, medium term and shirt term. This is the stuff you always want to do but instead, somehow found yourself on our phone watching for the 10th time that guy in Indonesia making a swimming pool in his backyard using his hands, a stick and a flat stone.

5. Attach actual dates to that stuff.

Do it. Put timelines against those items in number 4. Realize how much effort and planning and focus these items will require. Commit. Do not make this an academic exercise. Number 6. will ensure you do this right.

6. Act.

You may not hit all the targets but you will hit some, and that is progress. When do you act? You act during your dopamine fast. Also, you will notice that taking a dopamine fast actually makes you more productive during the moments you are engaging with your device(s). How? Your focus and time spent on certain sites will be more targeted and less random.

Bonus Tips:

a. Curate your social media feed today. Unsubscribe from sites and unfollow people that are not directly aligned to your personal and business vision. No need of having that extra clutter and noise in your life.

b. On Facebook unfollow (but feel free to remain friends) people who post stuff that disrupt your train of thought or peace of mind. You will be spared their stories, posts and life updates.

Reclaim your brain. Reclaim your mind.

What a year.

The author, Jan Okonji is an entrepreneur, speaker, coach, and Founder of the Pan-African accelerator BGS – Business Growth Solutions.

Jan is passionate about helping employees transition safely into entrepreneurship whilst turning their great ideas into profitable businesses and has helped entrepreneurs collectively grow their revenue to over $ 10 Million in the course of running BGS.

Get in touch with him and book a personal session HERE



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