Harness Fear

In this episode, I make a quick summary of a Dr. Andrew Huberman, podcast with Dru P’rohit.

Thre’s a lot content in this Podcast, so today we just focus on the part where Andrew and Dru discuss the relationship between fear, motivation, and laziness.

Taking first, fear and motivation, Huberman explains they’re not only closely related but that they are also a part of the same chemical pathway in the brain. This pathway involves dopamine, the neurotransmitter known for its role in pleasurel and motivation, and epinephrine – which is more commonly referred to as adrenaline.

The fact there is a relationship between fear and motivation, is of course clear when we consider the rush we obtain when engaging in extreme sports or any extreme physical experience. Now I’m not suggesting that to get motivated we should don a flying wing suit and jump off the office roof at lunchtime.

But, it is worth reflecting on how risk acts as a motivator; How the phenomenology of a thrill – what we experience in our brain – is closely related to reward. So how can with think about this in a way that that is beneficial in practical day-to-day sense?

Firstly we should probably seek to understand the role played by Dopamine: It’s crucial for motivation, desire, and the pursuit of goals. Without sufficient dopamine, we lack motivation and the drive to pursue challenges or pleasures.

This – Huberman notes – is illustrated this by an experiment involving rats. It showed that when their dopamine levels were depleted, they lacked all motivation. Where with normal dopamine levels they would continually push a level to dispense a food reward. They would not move even the smallest distance to dispense the food when their dopamine levels were artificially suppressed. So we know dopamine plays a crucial role in motivation.

The next thing to understand is that fear and stress are closely tied to adrenaline, which, actually, is derived from dopamine. Huberman discusses how fear can manifest as either paralysis or as a motivator; depending on how it’s channeled. He emphasizes the importance of using fear as a motivational tool, rather than always viewing it as a negative emotion.

Understanding this relationship we can further underline how it is useful to focus on the craving aspect of dopamine to overcome laziness and a lack of motivation. By cultivating a sense of craving or desire, even in the presence of fear, one can activate the necessary neurochemicals to move forward.

This is a key point about the kind of neuro-hacks Huberman is famed for. A common message through his videos is that, though we tend to want to think of the world in terms of a narrative with narrative meaning and significance, the evidence is that we can in-fact gain motivation in ways that are meaningless in narrative terms. We can gain motivation through cultivating practices which produce a dopamine response. We ARE amenable to neuro-hacking.

So to give an example, in mental narrative terms, in many movies, when a father loses his wife and child and he becomes motivated to seek revenge. Revenge drives his actions for the rest of the movie. So we don’t consider the extent to which this is not in reality the only or even main driver of motivation. In day-to-day reality, most people don’t find motivation this way. In real life, most people who lose family members even if unfairly or too the mafia, aren’t suddenly motivated to take revenge.

It is only those who are able to generate a dopamine response who, take action, who get off their arses and do. This is not, of course, to suggest we should use dopamine to manufacture vigilantism. The point is that narrative “drivers” of action are much less a real-life factor than many believe. But by contrast, the ways our brain chemistry works, are remarkably prescient.

So Huberman style neuro-hacking is far more important than many appreciate. Huberman’s early morning sunlight hack, or his hack relating to following the science of doing difficult things – like taking a cold shower or bath – these are far more powerful and effective than we have led ourselves to believe. And today we are considering the role fear plays, and how it can be a healthy motivator. It might sound like an oxymoron, but we shouldn’t fear fear. It can play an important and effective role as a motivator. It shouldn’t be something just encountered “by accident.” We should, to an extent we think we can control, even consider generating it. Generating it through challenge.

There is a real physical chemical balance and we can take – I want to call it – a non-narrative action to help control it and engineer the outcomes we want to see.

Here lessons from extreme sports aren’t irrelevant. They surely illustrate the direct link between – dare I say – thrill seeking ADDICTION and motivation. The thrill we first experience when doing extreme activities can, later become sought-after. Now again, I’m not here suggesting thrill seeking is the answer to office productivity. But at a practical daily level, we can harness fear and challenge as something to be overcome. These emotions are central to the neurological pathways in our brains. And we can utilise the energy and buzz they provide as drivers. We can utilise this energy like mental clay so motivation becomes a self-feeding cycle.

It’s like this; There IS such a thing as healthy stress. There is such a thing as a dynamic office. Delivery buzz. Energy. And fear, fear of failure, fear of not being able to cover the bills, is a part of the mix, is a necessary aspect that makes challenge and overcoming challenges mean what it means. It an indelible part of the picture much like a plane has vertices, or a coin has a two sides.

Huberman and P’rohit go on to highlight the difference between undirected, paralyzing fear and directed, motivating fear. They reflect on how directed fear, such as setting specific goals or challenges, can be a productive force. The secret is to get dopamine as a motivator to overcome the fear, balance it out, so propotionately it is not so large as to repel and send us backwards.

It is like, if we are able to squeeze past the repelling end of a magnet, once we get past the critical point, we get a boost. So fear, if we don’t take get pushed back and take flight, will propel us forward.

And doing this, – learning we can do it – becomes a part of our knowledge base. So we develop faith in the energy, the excitement, the frisson or buzz that we can engineer.

In the Simple Focus App, this video has an objective associated with it and it runs as follows:

Today, let’s explore the concept of using fear and challenges as tools to boost motivation, as based on insights from Dr. Andrew Huberman.

Fear and motivation share a biochemical pathway involving dopamine and adrenaline. Instead of viewing fear as an obstacle, we can harness it as a catalyst for action and motivation. This approach challenges the traditional narrative-driven motivation and encourages us to seek out challenges to create a positive dopamine response.

**Why Focus on This:**
Focusing on this concept can help you break the cycle of laziness and inaction by reinterpreting fear and challenges as opportunities for growth. By understanding how our brain chemicals work, you can learn to manipulate them to your advantage, transforming fear from a paralyzing force into a propelling one. This shift in perspective can lead to increased productivity, a more dynamic approach to tasks, and a better sense of control over your life’s direction.

**Practical Steps:**
1. **Morning Visualization**: Start your day by visualizing challenges you may face and imagine overcoming them. Focus on the feelings of success and the steps you took to get there, rather than just the end goal.
2. **Identify Small Fears**: Throughout the day, identify small fears or discomforts. This could be as simple as initiating a conversation, taking on a new task, or trying something out of your comfort zone.
3. **Challenge Engagement**: Actively choose one small fear to tackle. Approach it as a challenge and notice how it feels to confront and overcome it.
4. **Reflection**: At the end of the day, reflect on the experience. How did facing the challenge make you feel? Did you notice a shift in your energy or motivation?

Remember, it’s not about eliminating fear but learning to navigate and utilize it as a source of energy and motivation. Reflect on this objective, and if you find it relevant, incorporate it into your daily routine. If the opportunity doesn’t arise today, that’s okay—keep it in mind and be ready to apply it when the moment comes.


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