UNDERSTANDING human brain chemistry might appear to be overkill when it comes to growing our wealth. It isn’t.

It took me years to figure out that I have an addictive personaity. Translation: I find abstinence easier than moderation. That’s part of the reason I decided long before reaching adulthood to remain a teetotaller for life.

Just like you, I’ve seen enough examples of people who don’t know how and when to say enough is enough with regard to alcohol consumption.

I’m not writing this to condemn the vast majority of liquor imbibers worldwide who partake of it in moderation and have no problems associated with drunkenness; so please don’t get me wrong. The reason I’m focusing on this today is to reinforce a truth that might be helpful to those readers interested in long-term financial success, yet, like me, have the added uphill challenge of possessing addictive personalities: Since nature abhors a vacuum, for people like us, the smartest thing to do is to replace a bad addiction for a good one. Can there be good addictions? Well, yes.

Here’s one example:

I know of serious road runners who are recovering alcoholics and drug addicts. As a key part of their recovery process, they proactively traded a life-destroying habit for a life-enhancing one.

The thing about addictions is that over time, we need ever larger fixes to experience the same perception of satisfaction. That, by the way, is why drug and alcohol addictions so often terminally — and predictably — destroy the unfortunates who fail to shake off their curse.

In the case of runners with addictive personalities, though, these wiser individuals simply find themselves embarking on longer, ever longer runs to be able to keep experiencing the emotional lifts they crave.

Exercise scientists tell us long distance runners often experience a literal runner’s high; this comes from the release of endorphins by different parts of the runners’ brains. Endorphins are a natural way for committed, consistent aerobic exercisers to experience a healthy version of a morphine spike.


Yet another feel-good chemical released naturally by our bodies is dopamine. You might have heard of it but you may not know dopamine is linked to movement and to pleasurable experiences we seek to repeat.

In Jason Zweig’s book Your Money & Your Brain, he expounds on research done at Harvard Medical School that shows the chilling similarities between the MRI brain scan of a cocaine addict and an MRI brain scan of a non-drug addict who simply thinks he’s about to make money.

Zweig’s writes: “... once you score big in a few investments in a row, you may be the functional equivalent of an addict — except the substance you’re hooked on isn’t alcohol or cocaine, it’s money.”

Writing and then reading that last sentence made me wonder if this phenomenon is responsible for the ever larger serial thefts committed by the worst kleptocrats worldwide; mull that as we explore a causal link between dopamine release and episodes of great delight humans sometimes feel.

Zweig continues: “Once you’ve learned what kind of cue can signal a reward, your dopamine neurons no longer fire up in response to the gain itself; instead, they will be triggered by the appearance of the cue.”

The 2013 winner of the Nobel Prize for Economics Robert J. Shiller writes this corroboration in his book Finance and the Good Society: “...if the brain gets an unanticipated signal that a treat is expected, the dopamine system broadcasts a stronger set of signals. It does not send out a stronger signal when the treat actually comes; it continues to fire at its normal background level.”

So, if we use our new knowledge of brain chemistry wisely, we might structure a series of incremental steps that are as constructive to our wealth as ever larger fixes of a drug like cocaine are destructive to our health.


For instance, what about harnessing our natural craving for a dopamine rush through a series of quarterly or halfyearly increases in the monthly amount of money we inject into a savings and investment portfolio?

We might start off by pumping RM500 a month from our bank account into a long-term diversified portfolio. Then, if we increase that by 10 per cent every six months, in about four years because of compounding growth we’ll be saving and investing RM1,000 a month. Another eight years beyond that would see us setting aside RM4,000 a month, and so on. Each time we put through the instructions for such an increase, we will experience a frisson or surge of joy!

More specifically, the cue for such an increase every six months will cause a dopamine surge in our brain. In short, knowing what excites and pleases us and then structuring targeted incentives to grant us both short-term mental pleasure and lasting wealth-building dividends is super smart.

The philosopher Socrates said, “To know thyself is the beginning of wisdom.”

While Socrates knew nothing about dopamine almost 2,500 years ago, he still hit the proverbial nail on the head. So, taking our cue from Plato’s teacher, we would be wise to use our desire for delight, triggered by the natural release of dopamine in our brain, to fuel our drive for success rather than wasteful self-annihilation.

© 2018 Rajen Devadason

Read his free articles at www.FreeCoolArticles.com; he may be connected with on LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/in/rajendevadason, or via rajen@RajenDevadason.com You may follow him on Twitter @RajenDevadason

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