July 11

Why We Crave New Projects: The Psychology Behind Business Decisions


I’ve been reading ‘The Science of Positivity’ by Loretta Graziano Breuning. Although I’m not necessarily endorsing the book, there are some intriguing insights that resonate deeply with my experiences in business. I want to share one such insight and how it relates to our entrepreneurial journeys.

The Dopamine-Cortisol Connection

In the book, Breuning explains how our brains release dopamine (the feel-good chemical) and cortisol (the stress hormone). In simple terms, dopamine gives us a rush of energy and excitement when we anticipate achieving a goal, while cortisol hits us when we don’t meet our expectations, signaling that it’s time to change course. This cycle explains much about our behavior as business owners.

The Highs of Planning and Execution

Dopamine is released when we set a goal and start planning how to achieve it. This might explain why we love the initial stages of a project—each step toward our goal gives us another hit of dopamine.

Consider this scenario:

  • Deciding to start an email list: Dopamine hit.
  • Taking the steps to set it up: Dopamine hit.
  • Seeing new subscribers sign up: Dopamine hit.

But what happens when growth stalls? Enter cortisol.

Facing the Lows

When our efforts don’t pay off quickly enough, cortisol steps in. This unpleasant feeling often pushes us to seek a new strategy for that dopamine rush.

Consider this:

  • Your email list isn’t growing fast enough: Cortisol hit.
  • You pivot to hosting weekly webinars: Dopamine hit.
  • Initial registrations spike: Dopamine hit.
  • But the growth slows down again: Cortisol hit.

The Temptation of Shiny Objects

This cycle of seeking new actions to regain that dopamine high can lead to constantly chasing shiny objects—new tools, new strategies, new goals.

Changing course might mean:

  • Switching to a new email autoresponder.
  • Creating a different course.
  • Redesigning your website.

Each new plan brings a brief dopamine rush, but it’s often followed by another cortisol crash when results aren’t immediate.

Embracing Discomfort for Long-Term Success

My coach often says, “Discomfort is the currency of our dreams.” This discomfort might be the cortisol hits we feel when things aren’t working out as quickly as we’d like. Instead of constantly switching tactics, the real challenge (and growth) comes from sticking with our plan, riding out the discomfort and pushing through to see results.

Does this cycle sound familiar to you? Understanding the science behind our urges to switch tactics can help us stay the course. Next time you’re tempted by a new “shiny object,” remember it might just be your brain looking for a dopamine hit.

For me, this insight explained a lot about why I often want to try something new in my business. Awareness is the first step. Now, when I’m distracted by a new idea, I remind myself it’s just my brain seeking that dopamine rush. By understanding and managing the dopamine-cortisol cycle, we can become more resilient entrepreneurs, focused on long-term success rather than short-term highs. Here’s to staying the course and achieving our dreams!

Action Acceleration

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this. How do you manage the highs and lows of entrepreneurial life? Share your experiences in the comments below.

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  • Love that quote from your coach about discomfort. I tend to stay in the comfort zone for some things but for many other aspects of life, I do try to try out new stuff and embrace some discomfort and found it rewarding

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