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3 Ways Towards Finding Out How to Get Real Self-Help

3 Ways Towards Finding Out How to Get Real Self-Help

What is Self-Help?

Self-help seems to have become a Mecca for anyone, regardless of background or credibility, trying to make easy money. Today, when the currently unemployed put “life coach” as the occupation on their Facebook profile, it is hard to know what that vague term even means.

Everyone needs some coaching from time to time, and the Internet is full of legitimate resources. Tony Robbins’ services are not exactly affordable to all who are in need. So, how do you choose someone that is legitimate and worth your investment.

First of all, remember this, it is called “self-help” for a reason. The idea is an old one. Instead of feeding the hungry, teach the hungry to fish so they can feed themselves. These lifehacks teach you what are 3 “must-haves” in the arsenal of any worthwhile “Life Coach”.

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1. Vision: If you don’t know where you are going, how do you expect to get there?

If a counselor of any sort is offering advice and they don’t first test your vision, then they cannot help you very much. Envisioning your future isn’t some sort of mystical scene, it’s not supernatural by any means. Necessary, on the other hand, it definitely is. Take for example a construction tradesmen, while many look down on physical labor of any sort, the tradesmen know and teach a fair share about vision.

If a tile setter has been contracted to set a floor on the a certain slab of concrete that has existing tile already adhered to it, some challenges are in play right from the beginning of the job. Contractors do not see challenges, albeit, they only see solutions. Not a single profiting contractor would say, “I cannot finish this job.” Because that’s the only way they get paid, by finishing the job no matter what. The contractor doesn’t see cracks in the slab of concrete. They see a need for membrane. They never see a foundation out of level. They see the low places that need to be filled, and the high points that need to be ground down. Your vision must be the same.

2. Take Action: Now that you see the finish, run towards it.

Taking action, is always a necessary lesson taught by any good instructor. Those life coaches’ teaching, that you don’t have to diligently labor to get what you want, are banking on naive, lazy, disillusioned people who believe they shouldn’t have to do anything to have everything. If that happens to be you, don’t feel bad, just evolve your mind, because it’s just not reality.

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Now that you’ve established where you will one day be, it is now time to take the next step. Make sure your next move is something that will line you up with your final goal better than you were before. For instance, if my end goal was to finish the floor that was contracted in the previous example, my next step would be to remove the existing tile floor first.

Once you’ve done the second step, start the next. You should always be moving forward. There will be times you fail, some of the journey will not be easy. You will need, aside from taking action, the 3rd ‘must have’ for any life coach: Perseverance.

3. You must persevere: If you get off track, don’t stay that way.

Without perseverance you will never accomplish your goals. In the words of the one time Austrian immigrant, from humble beginnings, Mr. Olympia himself, Arnold Schwarzenegger, “Don’t be afraid to fail.” Failure should be your fuel, not your foe. If you fall down you stand back up better, faster, and stronger.

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The first person to ever inspire me to never give up was the greatest champion that ever lived, Michael Jordan. When I was a child, I remember the first time I heard the account of Michael being cut from his high school’s basketball team, I thought it was a lie. In truth, he was cut from that team but Michael Jordan persevered. His Royal Airness wasn’t looking like royalty as he vomited into a bucket on the sidelines during game 5 of the 1997 Finals. Years later, I would contract the flu, only then I was truly able to appreciate the 38 points he scored to win the contest, now infamously known as “The Flu Game”.

The year before that, Michael Jordan’s father was robbed and murdered. MJ came out of retirement to regain the title that same season. Time and time again Michael Jordan persevered. When the Gatorade’s promo “Be like Mike” aired, children and adult alike absolutely wished they could be.

If your end goal is a great task, you must have vision, take action, and persevere. If your “self-helper” is not teaching you those three tools, then try a different outlet. Remember, self-help is just that. So help yourself apply those three parts of the self-help lifehack and find the strength you need. In the end, there will be no mentor, no “life coach”, the end game finale has only one hope for help: You.

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Featured photo credit: The University of Chicago Campaign via campaign.uchicago.edu

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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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