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9 Strong Mental Habits That Successful People Never Give Up

9 Strong Mental Habits That Successful People Never Give Up

For most people, success in any endeavor is not an overnight phenomenon but is achieved through years of consistent effort and the development of strong mental practices. Along the way, we (hopefully) pick up good habits and drop the bad. Sometimes, though, knowing when to hold onto a habit that others might see as a negative can lead to success. For instance, the most accomplished among us almost always strive to adhere to the following mental habits.

1. Please Others

Successful people know that in order to get where they want to be, they need to get things done for others. In fact, you could make a good argument that wanting to help people is a requirement for true success, but it’s also a dangerous personality quality. If you try to please everyone all the time, you will become completely overwhelmed and unable to get accomplish anything. The most successful people know that saying “no” all the time is not the answer, though. Instead, they look for ways to get to “yes” that benefit all parties and help prioritize their work.

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2. Keep Their Options Open

While successful people are decisive and move steadfastly toward their goals, most of them avoid choices which limit future options. Modern life continues to move faster by the day, and new possibilities, opportunities, and even social standards arise all the time. None of us can afford to create boundaries that are so stiff we can’t adapt when necessary.

3. Listen Before Speaking Their Minds

Successful people are bold, but they know railroading every conversation is a quick way to end cooperation. We all need the help of other people in order to be truly successful, and one of the best ways to form alliances is to listen to what those around you are saying. Show them you understand their point of view with your responses, and they will be much more likely to hear out your opinion, too.

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4. Target Small Successes

Failure is a necessary part of ultimate success for most people, but bombing at regular intervals can kill your motivation and encourage you to abandon your dreams. Successful people set themselves up for victory by establishing many ambitious short-term goals on their path to whatever they see as their big prize. By consistently challenging themselves and achieving tougher and tougher objectives, they build confidence and move closer to their ideals.

5. Exercise Caution When Necessary

Fear of failure or embarrassment can paralyze even the most ambitious among us, but a healthy respect for the unknown and potential danger can save us from disaster. Successful people are not afraid of taking risks, but only after they have weighed possible pitfalls.

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6. Dwell on the Negative

Negative thoughts don’t make anyone feel good, but successful people realize that the shadow of potential failure lurks behind every new opportunity. By spending at least as much time and energy working through what might go wrong as what is likely to go right, they are able to dramatically improve their chances of long-term victory.

7. Have Multiple Projects Going

Multitasking has developed a bad reputation over the last few years, and for good reason since it’s really hard to do two things well at the exact same time. But that really only applies to what’s happening right now — can you read this article AND count to 100 at the same time without either one suffering, for example?

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Most of us are capable of working on multiple undertakings during the course of a day or week with no ill effects, and it’s a tactic that successful people use to become even more accomplished. They focus all their efforts on reaching the top of their field, but they line up numerous projects all aimed at that ultimate target. The variety keeps them fresh, and the multi-pronged attack keeps them moving forward.

8. Seek Ideas from Others

When we were in school, asking for input from other kids was a natural way to make decisions and get things done. Group thinking usually dictated what games we played and how we approached class projects. As we get older and assume more responsibility, though, most of us close off this avenue of fresh ideas in order to protect our turf and guard against credit for good work going to someone else. Successful people, however, know that collaboration is a key to really big accomplishments, and they never stop looking for external inspiration and help.

9. Stay Stressed

Stress is the “silent killer” that can wreak havoc on your health, but successful people have learned how to use it to their advantage. They realize that hardly anything worthwhile ever gets done at a leisurely pace, and the pressure to perform is a powerful motivator. The most accomplished among us thrive on deadlines and outdoing their previous best efforts, over and over again. By applying stress from the inside out and latching onto these other “negative” habits, they leave 99% of us in their dust.

Featured photo credit: Eneas via flickr.com

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Adam Hughes

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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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