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10 Reasons Why People Who Keep Diaries Are Successful

10 Reasons Why People Who Keep Diaries Are Successful

Diary entries are normally associated with the teenage years, scrawling down passages about you and your friends or your latest crush. However, diaries are not just for the besotted teenager – carry on reading if you’re interested in the traits of successful people who keep a regular diary.

1. They Practise Self-Discipline

Regular diary writing takes self-discipline and perseverance. There is no expectation for results, which some may find difficult as there isn’t any obvious success to show for their work. However, diaries can teach the art of discipline, writing regularly in order to look back on entries, rather than seeing results instantaneously.

2. They Use Diaries to Self-heal

There’s nothing more healing than spilling your feelings to a friend – however, sometimes we don’t want anyone else knowing our business, so what better way to self-heal than writing a diary. People who write regular diary entries become able to boost their own feelings, getting all their thoughts down onto a page in order to see perspective.

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3. They are Confident

In being honest about how they’re feeling, people who write diaries are naturally very confident, particularly if they’re using an online diary for example. Even if no-one else is reading your diary, it is normal to feel a sense of determination, as having your feelings on a page can give you a sense of direction and courage in decision making.

4. They Have a Strong Focus on Ambition

People who write down their thoughts and feelings regularly tend to know where they’re going – perhaps they can see more clearly where they’ve gone wrong in life, and when they’ve been successful. Being able to look back on past thoughts and feelings can allow you direction and ambition in future ventures.

5. They are Motivated

Due to their confidence and ambition, people who keep diaries are usually motivated individuals who want to use their time wisely. Writing down your thoughts allows reflection, and can show how well you’re using your time, a great motivator for future aspirations.

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6. They Always See Perspective

Keeping a diary certainly gives people perspective on life, as the ability to look back on your thoughts and experience gives you a refreshing outlook on life, in which you will never settle for anything.

7. They Can Link Their Past and Present (Woolf)

Being able to reflect on your past allows you to link it to your present. Famous for ‘stream of consciousness’ writing, Virginia Woolf has commented on her thoughts of a diary being a bridge between the future and the past.

8. They Keep Their Brains Uncluttered (Andre Gide)

Due to the chaotic nature of everyday life, some believe our brains can become cluttered, and an easy, acheivable way to ‘declutter’ your brain is to keep a diary. Writing down your thoughts can help to discover oneself and declutter the mind, as thought by the nobel laureate Andre Gide.

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9. They Understand Their Own Emotions

Working through your feelings can very much help to understand them, seeing your emotions almost from an outside perspective. By taking a step back, your thoughts and feelings become more obvious, and it is easier to decipher the best way of dealing with them.

10. And Finally, They Have a Productive Way to End the Day

There’s nothing better than getting home from a long day and talking it through with someone – however, by keeping a diary you can manage your thoughts at any time, and can conclude your day by getting everything down on paper to clear your over-worked mind.

These traits are present in most people who keep diaries, and many of these may infact derive from keeping one. Give your mind some extra space by writing down your thoughts regularly – you may be pleasantly suprised at not only how much better your feel, but also how successful your other ventures are, just because you’ve given your mind a break.

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Featured photo credit: Picjumbo via picjumbo.com

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Nicola Vaughan

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Last Updated on July 17, 2019

The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

What happens in our heads when we set goals?

Apparently a lot more than you’d think.

Goal setting isn’t quite so simple as deciding on the things you’d like to accomplish and working towards them.

According to the research of psychologists, neurologists, and other scientists, setting a goal invests ourselves into the target as if we’d already accomplished it. That is, by setting something as a goal, however small or large, however near or far in the future, a part of our brain believes that desired outcome is an essential part of who we are – setting up the conditions that drive us to work towards the goals to fulfill the brain’s self-image.

Apparently, the brain cannot distinguish between things we want and things we have. Neurologically, then, our brains treat the failure to achieve our goal the same way as it treats the loss of a valued possession. And up until the moment, the goal is achieved, we have failed to achieve it, setting up a constant tension that the brain seeks to resolve.

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Ideally, this tension is resolved by driving us towards accomplishment. In many cases, though, the brain simply responds to the loss, causing us to feel fear, anxiety, even anguish, depending on the value of the as-yet-unattained goal.

Love, Loss, Dopamine, and Our Dreams

The brains functions are carried out by a stew of chemicals called neurotransmitters. You’ve probably heard of serotonin, which plays a key role in our emotional life – most of the effective anti-depressant medications on the market are serotonin reuptake inhibitors, meaning they regulate serotonin levels in the brain leading to more stable moods.

Somewhat less well-known is another neurotransmitter, dopamine. Among other things, dopamine acts as a motivator, creating a sensation of pleasure when the brain is stimulated by achievement. Dopamine is also involved in maintaining attention – some forms of ADHD are linked to irregular responses to dopamine.[1]

So dopamine plays a key role in keeping us focused on our goals and motivating us to attain them, rewarding our attention and achievement by elevating our mood. That is, we feel good when we work towards our goals.

Dopamine is related to wanting – to desire. The attainment of the object of our desire releases dopamine into our brains and we feel good. Conversely, the frustration of our desires starves us of dopamine, causing anxiety and fear.

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One of the greatest desires is romantic love – the long-lasting, “till death do us part” kind. It’s no surprise, then, that romantic love is sustained, at least in part, through the constant flow of dopamine released in the presence – real or imagined – of our true love. Loss of romantic love cuts off that supply of dopamine, which is why it feels like you’re dying – your brain responds by triggering all sorts of anxiety-related responses.

Herein lies obsession, as we go to ever-increasing lengths in search of that dopamine reward. Stalking specialists warn against any kind of contact with a stalker, positive or negative, because any response at all triggers that reward mechanism. If you let the phone ring 50 times and finally pick up on the 51st ring to tell your stalker off, your stalker gets his or her reward, and learns that all s/he has to do is wait for the phone to ring 51 times.

Romantic love isn’t the only kind of desire that can create this kind of dopamine addiction, though – as Captain Ahab (from Moby Dick) knew well, any suitably important goal can become an obsession once the mind has established ownership.

The Neurology of Ownership

Ownership turns out to be about a lot more than just legal rights. When we own something, we invest a part of ourselves into it – it becomes an extension of ourselves.

In a famous experiment at Cornell University, researchers gave students school logo coffee mugs, and then offered to trade them chocolate bars for the mugs. Very few were willing to make the trade, no matter how much they professed to like chocolate. Big deal, right? Maybe they just really liked those mugs![2]

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But when they reversed the experiment, handing out chocolate and then offering to trade mugs for the candy, they found that now, few students were all that interested in the mugs. Apparently the key thing about the mugs or the chocolate wasn’t whether students valued whatever they had in their possession, but simply that they had it in their possession.

This phenomenon is called the “endowment effect”. In a nutshell, the endowment effect occurs when we take ownership of an object (or idea, or person); in becoming “ours” it becomes integrated with our sense of identity, making us reluctant to part with it (losing it is seen as a loss, which triggers that dopamine shut-off I discussed above).

Interestingly, researchers have found that the endowment effect doesn’t require actual ownership or even possession to come into play. In fact, it’s enough to have a reasonable expectation of future possession for us to start thinking of something as a part of us – as jilted lovers, gambling losers, and 7-year olds denied a toy at the store have all experienced.

The Upshot for Goal-Setters

So what does all this mean for would-be achievers?

On one hand, it’s a warning against setting unreasonable goals. The bigger the potential for positive growth a goal has, the more anxiety and stress your brain is going to create around it’s non-achievement.

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It also suggests that the common wisdom to limit your goals to a small number of reasonable, attainable objectives is good advice. The more goals you have, the more ends your brain thinks it “owns” and therefore the more grief and fear the absence of those ends is going to cause you.

On a more positive note, the fact that the brain rewards our attentiveness by releasing dopamine means that our brain is working with us to direct us to achievement. Paying attention to your goals feels good, encouraging us to spend more time doing it. This may be why outcome visualization — a favorite technique of self-help gurus involving imagining yourself having completed your objectives — has such a poor track record in clinical studies. It effectively tricks our brain into rewarding us for achieving our goals even though we haven’t done it yet!

But ultimately, our brain wants us to achieve our goals, so that it’s a sense of who we are that can be fulfilled. And that’s pretty good news!

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Featured photo credit: Alexa Williams via unsplash.com

Reference

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