Buster is a really smart dude. He began his talk by telling us about dopamine, the devil on our shoulder, that regulates our impulses to do things. When dopamine in is balance, we are calm and in the moment or motivated and goal-oriented, but too far on either side and we are a hopeless mess stuck in bed, or a manic crazy person buzzing like a bee.
Dopamine is released in our brain all the time and it "tags" certain behaviors, thoughts and experiences in different environments or social situations as good or bad. These tags become our CUES. Cues are everything and influence our behavior constantly. They are the source of superstitions and rituals and it is these cues that make it SO HARD to change our habits and behaviors. If there is something in our life that we want to change, we literally have to battle our own brain to improve ourselves.
However, there is HOPE! With all the research and studying that Buster has done, he's identified four ways that we battle our cues. The first way, eliminating our cues, would probably make us crazy forcing us to live in a white box and do nothing. The second way, fighting our cues, requires grit and stamina and it can be painful and kind of sucks. The third way, distracting ourselves from our cues, works sometimes, but it's not something that we can count on to work every single time. Buster suggests a fourth way, which is to BE AWARE of our cues and to work with them and use their power to our own ends.
This idea, of acceptance and awareness, is so critical to growth and change. Many times, simply recognising WHY we are doing something that is not good for us is enough to get past it or stop doing it. Looking at ourselves truthfully and understanding our motivations, our weaknesses and our patterns will help us to devise a way to tackle the issue and create new behaviors. We will gain strength in our knowledge and understanding of our cues and triggers and be able to better cope with them.
In my opinion, one of the best ways to do this is to write. Writing it out, in a letter to yourself or someone else, in a journal for your own eyes, or even on a blog like this for all to see is a wonderful way to sort out your thoughts and feelings about your cues, to figure out why you do certain things and how to do better.
Change and growth is hard, and we need all the help we can get in managing it. Thanks to Buster we can begin to understand the chemical situation in our brain that makes these things hard and realize that being our best selves might be a life time process that is ongoing. It is the struggle that defines us and pushes us into new territory. If we simply keep trying to be better and we face our greatest challenges, we will have won.
Update! ⇒ Watch Buster's talk on the Camp Mighty Vimeo Channel.