Doctor of Leadership in Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

Here and Now Versus There and Then

Written by: on January 13, 2022

Why do some people continually strive for more and fail to enjoy what they have? Why do others find fulfillment in what they have but fail to pursue possibilities of a better future? An internal tension exists in every person. That tension presents a challenge to manage between what is and what could be. “The Molecule of More,” by psychiatrist Daniel Lieberman and physicist Michael Long, explains that all-too-human tension from a scientifically researched perspective elucidated through many relatable examples. The book sits within the field of psychology, specifically dealing with human physiology and the impact of chemicals within the human brain and the resulting emotions and actions attached to them.

The subject of the book’s title identifies, explains, and illustrates dopamine as “the molecule of more.” Initially dubbed the pleasure molecule, recent research concludes that dopamine does more than deliver pleasure. The authors bluntly state a recent hypothesis, “dopamine. . .isn’t about pleasure at all.”[1] This chemical serves to explain and even predict human behavior across a wide range of fields. Dopamine reacts to the serendipitous, future possibilities, and the unexpected. In contrast, other chemicals (i.e., serotonin, oxytocin, endorphins) give pleasure from emotion and sensation. In other words, they are “here and now” (H&N) chemicals that allow one to experience, even enjoy, the present.[2] All people have some combination of the various chemicals that influence emotions and actions.

The book unpacks dopamine’s effect on an individual and personal level. If that person serves as a leader, the implications become corporate as well. The effect experienced individually within a senior leader’s life inevitably influences the group he or she leads. The senior leadership role includes clear communication, creating culture, and casting vision for the organization. On the one hand, every organization exists within a present reality. A leader needs to honestly define the current reality, whether good, bad or somewhere between. On the other hand, a leader also needs to lead toward the organization’s future. Where are we going? How will we get there? The leader’s position within the tension between “here and now” versus “then and there” impacts those they lead in that same direction.

An overemphasis on the attachment to the present stunts the development and growth of any organization. In a rapidly changing world, a lack of substantive change will inevitably consign that organization to ineffectiveness. For example, in a ministry context, a church’s strategies and cultural engagement during the time of Christendom in America must shift in a post-Christian culture. Without changing the content, the methods must adapt to be effective in a culture different from those that led to those strategies to engage a culture that no longer exists. Constituents overly tied to the present may resist needed change implemented by leaders and seek to sabotage change efforts within systems, as described by Edwin Friedman.[3]

An overemphasis on the possibilities yet to be realized can create a sense of exhaustion and confusion within an organization. A continual focus toward the “next hill” never allows for the present accomplishments to be celebrated and enjoyed. An example from the book quotes Buzz Aldrin after his historic trip to the moon, “It’s something we did. Now we should do something else.”[4] The first trip to the moon present ample opportunity to celebrate and reflect on a significant accomplishment. Many people worked to realize that accomplishment and quickly moving on to another does not allow for recognition of their efforts. As the authors state, “Living our lives in the abstract, unreal, dopaminergic world of future possibilities comes at a cost, and that cost is happiness.”[5] I believe that statement to prove true individually and corporately.

I fall on the high-dopamine side of the spectrum. I remember getting into the car after my first marathon. “I just want to do one” I promised often before that day. I closed the car door and turned to my wife and said, “I know I can a lot better. There is another marathon in fall. I am going to enter it tomorrow.” A time to celebrate turned into an immediate desire for another level of performance. In a ministry context as a lead pastor, my emphasis in the early years fell on possibilities and vision of a preferred future. “Wins,” whether they were accomplishments toward goals or the efforts of those who made it happen, were not celebrated. I paid the price for that oversight. I have learned that recognizing accomplishments works hand-in-hand with vision because it creates organizational confidence that future dreams are achievable. Lieberman and Long conclude their work with the encouragement to find “harmony.” They state, “If we are able to mingle dopamine with H&N, we can achieve that harmony.”[6] Individuals and organizations can find an appropriate balance between what is and what could be. May leaders and those they lead find greater happiness in that appropriate space.

[1] Daniel Z. Lieberman and Michael E. Long, The Molecule of More (Dallas: BenBella Books, Inc. 2018), 3.


[2] Ibid., xvi.


[3] Edwin Friedman, A Failure of Nerve (New York: Church Publishing, 2017), 2.

[4] Lieberman and Long, The Molecule of More 79.


[5] Ibid., 218.


[6] Ibid., 223.

About the Author


Roy Gruber

Husband, father, pastor, student, and sojourner in Babylon

8 responses to “Here and Now Versus There and Then”

  1. mm Troy Rappold says:

    Roy: Great example of your marathon running and dopamine effects you have experienced. It can be addictive. There is a harmony to be struck in both running and ministry and it sounds like you have found the balance. It takes a lifetime of learning and a lot of reading. You evaluate this book well, I enjoyed it, too. It would have been interesting if the authors brought in the aspect of faith and how it can influence chemical levels in people. If the author’s wrote another book, do you think this would be an interesting line of research?

    • mm Roy Gruber says:

      Troy, I do think that would be a good study! This book didn’t examine the affect of environment on dopamine. Henry made a great point in his post wondering what the dopamine levels are within the poor. Does a limit of possibility change the level of the chemical? My pure guess is “yes, it does.” Testing those with faith and those without would be another interesting look at the impact of a person’s context upon their chemical makeup.

  2. mm Eric Basye says:

    Love it. We are alike! Here is my struggle. I hear that call for balance, but I also wonder, if we are being true to who God has called us to be, especially those with a higher level of dopamine, could it be that we our role within the organizations we lead is to challenge, push, and grow? This creates tension for me, though, as I know my staff and Board has limitations, So what do I do when I am at the crossroads (I want to create but they need to stop and grow deeper roots)? How have you done this in your role?

    • mm Roy Gruber says:

      Eric, you make a great point about balance – can someone essential change who they are and how God “wired” them? Maybe to some degree. My work toward balance came through hiring to my weaknesses. Those on our church’s management team create the balance I need. At home, my wife does the same. For me, the answer is trusting good people to keep me grounded.

  3. mm Nicole Richardson says:

    Roy I really appreciated your marathon example. What are ways you can practice self-awareness and therefore self-differentiation with something as allusive as a molecule running a marathon in your brain? Asking for a friend.

    • mm Roy Gruber says:

      Nicole, haha, tell your “friend” I’m still figuring things out! I believe my best help for enjoying the present comes from those who are inclined to do so and part of trusted relationships in my life. I wish the authors of the book had addressed whether or not changing one’s tendency toward the future can be done or just needs to be managed. I do believe senior leaders need a focus on the future, so I don’t want to minimize the value of that but I also see the benefit of those in tune with the present on our staff and in my marriage.

  4. mm Denise Johnson says:

    Roy, I appreciate the tension between the future focus and the celebration of the present in the leadership role. I’m the person who started her adult life as the person who created and implemented the pilot projects. I loved it! Every couple of years a new project, position or school. Then I went overseas where everything went at a snail pace and almost nothing changed. I thought it was going to kill me. I was forced to find appreciation in things as they are. I found that, in that environment, it opened up doors to actually be asked for ways things could be changed. I’m wondering if the harmony we hope to find is found in the body of Christ being who God has created us to be and challenging each other to be their best self?

    • mm Roy Gruber says:

      Denise, thanks for sharing your journey. I do believe community is the key no matter what our chemicals or “wiring” predisposes us to feel and do. I have found needed balance, or a better word is accountability, on a staff team that keeps me grounded. There’s one man in our church who is 77 years old and loves to ski locally. Every time I ask him, “How was the skiing?” he always answers with the same words, “It was the best ever!” It always makes me smile and reminds me to appreciate what is here and now. The body of Christ truly is interdependent.

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