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How To Stop Other People Crushing Your Dreams

How To Stop Other People Crushing Your Dreams

What You Need To Remember When Setting A New Goal

As we embark on a new year, many of us will be devising new goals to chase and dreams to follow. However, staying committed to a new goal can be difficult. One common obstacle is the attitude of family and friends who may raise objections to your plans. These comments can be mean-spirited or well-intended, but either way they can trigger self-doubt and need to be dealt with.

It’s important to remember that the larger your goal, the more likely you are to be on the receiving end of people who doubt your ability to attain it. It’s a good idea to prepare yourself for their reactions.

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Why Do Other People Try To Bring You Down?

You may be thinking that your family and friends will want to support you every step of the way, but unfortunately you may well come up against their objections and even put-downs. They may say that your goals are unattainable, that you lack the relevant skills, or that you are wasting your time.

This behavior can be motivated by a range of underlying desires and insecurities. For example, your sibling’s snide remarks may be triggered by their feelings of jealousy, and your friends’ putdowns might stem from a simple lack of understanding as to what you are trying to achieve. Whether motivated by ignorance or malice, unhelpful comments can set you back if you let them.

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Fortunately, there are practical steps you can take to build your own self-belief and keep on pursuing your goals even if others do not believe in you.

How To Stop Letting Other Peoples’ Attitudes Crush Your Ambitions

1. Ascertain whether any objections are made in the spirit of concern or malice and act accordingly.

If someone repeatedly makes you question yourself and your abilities, take direct action and ask them to stop. Set aside time to have a conversation in which you make it clear that you have taken their comments on board, but do not need to hear them again.

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If their comments are motivated by spite, tell them that you will not be bullied and will even leave the room or hang up the phone if necessary in the future. If it turns out that their remarks are well-intended, thank them for their concern but tell them that their support would be much more helpful.

2. Keep a list handy of all the reasons why you want a particular goal that have nothing to do with winning anyone’s approval.

Write down at least three of your reasons for pursuing a particular goal that have nothing to do with winning attention, awards or social status. This will stop you chasing dreams just to secure the positive affirmation of others and therefore make you less vulnerable to their criticism. If you have the time, keep a regular journal in which you celebrate every small milestone on your path to success. This will help keep you motivated.

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3. Visualise a white light of positivity around you when others start directing pointless, unhelpful criticism in your direction.

If you are forced to listen to someone’s toxic comments, imagine a powerful white light surrounding you like a protective bubble. Imagine their words bouncing off the outside of this bubble and back in their direction. You don’t have to be spiritual or religious to do this exercise – it will help anyone feel more positive and protected against pointless negativity.

4. If you are relying on someone else’s resources or encouragement, make a backup plan in case they pull out or lose faith in you.

Even the most independent among us occasionally rely on others. For example, you may be depending on financial backing or emotional support as you pursue your dream. However, if your backer begins to doubt your abilities, you can rapidly lose faith in yourself.

It is sensible to always have a backup plan. How could you get the money and psychological support you need if your current sources were to be withdrawn? Write it down and keep it safe. When you have a Plan B, the end of a particular individual’s support does not have to mean the end of your dream.

5. Always Keep Your Focus Where It Belongs

If you have chosen your goal carefully and planned out the required steps you must take, you have nothing to fear from the negative opinions of other people. Focus on you and the end result. If others lift you up then so much the better, but know that you can achieve your goals even if others question your judgement.

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Jay Hill

Freelance Writer

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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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