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Why You Should Cherish People Who Hold You To A Higher Standard

Why You Should Cherish People Who Hold You To A Higher Standard

Have you ever stopped and thought about the people in your life? Are they all the same sorts of people? How do they influence what you do or how you think about yourself and the world around you? It’s often quoted that we are the average of the five people we spend our time with, so what kind of people do you choose to be around?

Have you ever considered that the quality of your life and the quality of your work are a direct result of the standards you have for yourself and the standards of those around you?

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Do You Think About Who You Spend The Most Time With?

Most of us pick up friends out of proximity to where we are at a particular time. Whether they are friends we know from school, work, or the activities we do most, we tend to choose to spend the most time with people we see easily on a regular basis.

Not only that but, as humans, we always want to make friends and spend time with people that praise, appreciate, and recognize us. This seems obvious because we all want to feel loved and accepted without any hassle or feelings of criticism, but is this helping our growth and development as a person?

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Why The “Harsh” Friend Is Better For You Than You Think

Shying away from people that are seen as harsh or critical might be doing you more harm than good. This isn’t about spending time with selfish, manipulative, and hurtful people we all encounter from time to time, instead it’s about surrounding yourself with friends that tell you the honest truth and who don’t feel the need to sugarcoat their opinions – especially when they feel it will encourage you to grow.

These are the people who are actually holding you to a higher standard. They are the people who believe you can do better, who believe in you to do better. They are the ones who always have your best interests at heart and steer you into a direction that you might not have seen or wanted to see.

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I always had the same group of friends who I loved – they would tell me how great I was, they always agreed with my opinions, they always told me I looked beautiful without makeup when I felt insecure in myself. But there was always one friend who challenged what I said, would give me their honest opinion that I would sometimes interpret as harsh, condescending, or critical, but as a result I never felt so close with her.

As I got older, I soon realized that what she was doing wasn’t critical, it was just that I wasn’t used to hearing the truth and I wasn’t used to being challenged. I saw it as a knock to my ego rather than an opportunity for growth.

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Why You Should Surround Yourself With People Who Have Higher Standards Than You

If you want to improve and succeed in your life, whether personally or in your career, surrounding yourself with people who hold you to a higher standard can do more wonders for your self-improvement and personal growth than you realize. These people aren’t the ones we should avoid or escape from, but instead we should cherish them for the unexpected growth they can provide us with.

So, don’t neglect those that love us dearly and tell us everything we want to hear, but also don’t neglect the people in our lives that sometimes tell us what we don’t want to hear. Your life is a reflection of your standards and how much you develop yourself can simply be  down to who you are venting your opinions to and who is telling you honestly how things really are.

Don’t let your ego get in the way of facing your limiting beliefs, limited perspectives about yourself, and what you’re capable of. Cherish those that elevate your thinking and energy. Don’t take what they say to heart but rather, take what they say mindfully and consider using it to push yourself and raise your game. They are not there to criticize, they are there to teach you something about yourself you weren’t aware of.

Featured photo credit: unsplash.com via pexels.com

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Jenny Marchal

A passionate writer who loves sharing about positive psychology.

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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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