Setting and achieving goals is a great way for you to take ownership of your life…and your brain will thank you for it!!
Those who don’t set goals, and rather work with vague plans, tend to rob themselves from the feeling of ‘achievement’. Yes, they avoid a sense of failure too, but the great thing about working towards a goal, is that it usually inspires us, to get up and start again even when we fail miserably at something.
Why is this???
While working towards a goal, our brains produce a chemical called dopamine. Dopamine acts as a motivator towards our goals – it basically creates a sense of pleasure in our brains, whenever we achieve something. Now, for example, although your ultimate goal may be to run a half marathon, each time you go out on a training run, you gain a sense of achievement, thus causing the production of dopamine. Dopmine thus pushes us towards achievement – it’s our brains way of affirming our desire for achievement.
On the other hand, unfortunately, there are obviously things that cause our brains to fight against our goals too.
Problem 1: You set unrealistic goals
This then causes you to become stressed, thus producing adrenalin. Adrenalin although awesome (I’m a fan of that fast heart-rate feeling) is not all that positive on your mood as it cause intense feelings of tension.
What can I do: Set SMART goals, thus reducing stress and tension-type feelings!!
- Specific – Target a specific area for improvement. Don’t give 1 goal too many facets!!
- Measurable – How will you know when this goal is accomplished?
- Attainable – Are you willing to make this commitment & make the necessary changes to your life?
- Realistic – Are you physically and mentally able to achieve this goal?
- Time-frame — Specify when the goal will be achieved. Set a deadline!
Problem 2: You allow yourself to fantasize
As much as visualization is important (I’m all for it), it’s also essential to remain realistic and to focus on the task at hand.
What can I do: Keep a level head. Be realistic about your actual capabilities while still remaining positive. Keep at your goal, and don’t allow your brain to tell you that you are closer to achieving the goal, than you actually are!!
Problem 3: You spend far too much time focusing on the difficult parts of the goal
Goals are supposed to be challenging and so YES, you have every right to be slightly overwhelmed at first…BUT you cannot allow yourself to set up camp here.
What can I do: Write a list of the things that worry you about the goal, and now be proactive in finding ways to address these problems. If it helps to keep a diary, write a schedule or see a Life Coach – then DO this to help you stay on track with your goal, and AWAY from negative thinking!!
Problem 4: One slip-up and it’s OVER
It’s SO normal to accidentally, or intentionally, eat an extra slice of pizza when you know you shouldn’t, or fail to practice your violin, when you are supposed to spend 2 hours a day on it. The problem here comes in when we make a mistake and then allow our brains to YELL “Abandon ship…it’s all over!!”
What can I do: Again, ensure your goal is realistic (SMART model) and that you are not trying to overcome fate. If this isn’t the case, then when those moments reveal themselves, instead of giving up, quickly remind yourself of the progress you have already made. Name your successes thus far, give yourself the credit you are due – this way, you will trick your brain back into ‘achievement’ mode and thus producing dopamine instead of ugly tension causing chemicals 🙂
Goals set properly allow us the privilege of working towards something tangible and thus giving ourselves access to the feeling of ‘success’. Those who don’t set goals, will seldom have a chance to feel the joy of succeeding in something.
The cool thing with success is that each of us has our own standards for this word…our own understanding of what this looks like. And when we reach it, we tend to feel somewhat satisfied and thus positively feed and develop our self image.
Although success or goal setting won’t make you happy in the long-run (happiness is an internal thing, not determined by external factors), it will definitely help you move in a positive direction. And that’s worth something right?? I mean who doesn’t want to be moving forward in life, rather than plodding??
Lastly, success tends to feed success. We all delight in happy hormones – and thus dopamine production causes us to want to achieve more, and thus get this feeling of elation again 🙂
Go out there and shine!!