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7 Inspirational Rules for Achieving Your Life Goals

7 Inspirational Rules for Achieving Your Life Goals

Whether your definition of success is a happy marriage, a healthy bank account, or worldwide fame and adulation, we’re all motivated by ambition to some degree; the enduring question is “how do we achieve success?” The truth is, there’s no simple answer, but there are plenty of tips you can use to improve your chances of being successful in life. We’ve come up with a list of seven fantastic tips for achieving your life goals, as advocated by some of the world’s highest achievers.

1. Don’t let rejection stand in your way.

Harry Potter author JK Rowling is probably the most famous writer in the world, but if she hadn’t had the courage of her convictions early on in her career, things could have been very different. The Potter series has sold over 400 million copies worldwide since the first installment was released in 1997, but the global hit was rejected twelve times before a publisher agreed to take it. Even once it was released, it wasn’t plain sailing for Rowling — one of the first journalists ever to interview Rowling was given a first-edition copy, but thought nothing of throwing it in the trash; that copy would now fetch around £50,000 at auction! To quote Rowling herself, “Had I really succeeded at anything else, I might never have found the determination to succeed in the one arena I believed I truly belonged to.”

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2. Invest in yourself.

As world-renowned businessman and philanthropist Warren Buffet once said, “the best investment you can make is in your own abilities.” By constantly working to improve yourself through the acquisition of relevant skills and information, you’ll be in a much better position to achieve what you want to achieve. Some of the world’s greatest sportsmen and women put their success down to their passion for self-improvement — and you only have to look at superstar footballer Cristiano Ronaldo for proof. Ronaldo may not be to everyone’s tastes, but he is one of the most dedicated athletes of all time, and regularly reaps the rewards of his efforts on the field.

3. Learn from your mistakes.

Along the path to success, there are bound to be a few bumps in the road — it’s important that you don’t let these setbacks slow you down. Every mistake you make is an opportunity to learn, and by recognizing and accepting your errors, you can ensure they don’t happen again, smoothing that path towards achievement. No less an authority than Einstein put it succinctly: “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, and expecting different results.”

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4. Don’t be afraid of a little hard work.

If you want evidence in favor of this little bit of advice, look no further than Bill Gates, the creator of Windows and one of the world’s wealthiest business people. The Microsoft founder has always pushed the idea that success requires hard work, and once revealed that he didn’t take a single day off during his 20s, when he was getting the company off the ground. Quite simply, the more effort you put in, the more you’ll get out of it — as NFL icon Vince Lombardi famously stated, “The price of success is hard work.” It doesn’t get much simpler than that.

5. Dare to be exceptional.

Walt Disney knows a thing or two about living out fantasies, animating some of the world’s favorite fairy tales, so when he says “if you can dream it, you can do it,” it’s probably worth sitting up and taking note. Aiming low might reduce the possibility of making mistakes, but what great businessman or woman ever aimed low — if you’re passionate about a project and truly believe in it, there’s every reason to believe you can achieve your goals. You might even find that they’re closer than you think!

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6. Be pro-active.

It’s probably no surprise that Richard Branson has a “get up and go” attitude — the man that created the Virgin conglomerate has delved into the worlds of business, music, media, and politics during his life, not to mention space travel, charity and the odd world record attempt. The billionaire entrepreneur has often cited this energetic take on life as key to his success, advising ambitious young people to “get out there and do things — don’t watch other people do things, and don’t watch television.” In the modern age, it’s all too easy to take a passive attitude towards life, but if you want to achieve big things, it’s best to have a hands-on approach.

7. Engage in your passions.

Ultimately, if you’re going to achieve great success in life, you’re going to need to care about what you’re doing — so if you’re an ambitious high-flyer who wants to go right to the very top, take a close look at the things that interest and excite you, and see if you can use that passion to achieve your goals. As the celebrated jazz singer and famed “First Lady of Song” Ella Fitzgerald once said, “Don’t give up trying to do what you really want to do. Where there’s love and inspiration, I don’t think you can go wrong.”

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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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