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If You Want To Be A High Achiever, You Need To Adopt This Mindset

If You Want To Be A High Achiever, You Need To Adopt This Mindset

You’re driven. You achieve a lot of your goals. Like a tyrant, that little voice in your head demands your absolute commitment to achievement. Heck, you even wrote out plans for achievement. You may think these thoughts and actions are pushing you to achieve but are they the habits of high achievers?

You could also be just the opposite having to constantly tell yourself to stop using Facebook, be more productive, focus more. While these are definitely not the habits of high achievers, you really have the desire to become one.

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The real question is, when it comes to life do you just want to just “take it as it comes” or reach for something great? Hopefully you’re serious enough to choose the latter and ready to start your journey to truly become a high achiever.

How To Be A High Achiever

You must begin with discovering something that matters to you in a big way. It must mean enough to light a fire inside of you. Whatever it is, you’re willing to do whatever it takes to get there. You may already know what that is. The key point is having that passionate drive to really push yourself hard to accomplish your goals consistently.

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Next, set yourself a BANG – a Big Awesome Nervy Goal with your passion directly in the cross-hair. There is no brain surgery needed here. The goal just needs to be achievable but challenging enough to make you push the envelope so to speak, to get it done. Realize that every time you stretch your boundaries and push your limits, you grow as a person.

Learn To Become A Finisher Through The Completion-Centric Planning Approach

High achievers are obsessed with finishing. Once a project is given to them, they will work obsessively and compulsively to finish it. Some may go about it in an organized way, others may not. But one thing is certain – they will do whatever it takes to get it done.

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Cultivating a finisher mentality is not hard to do if you go about it the right way. Let’s start with one truth: real achievement requires you to push very hard. When you work on achieving something one task at a time, it’s easy to bypass these hard pushes by doing lots of easy tasks. Instead, adopt a completion-centric planning approach. With completion-centric planning, you are focused on the completion of projects instead of individual tasks as your daily constitution.

Here’s how it works. Sit down at your computer, open your favorite word processor and do the following:

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  1. Make an Active Projects List– List 5-10 of the projects that are most important to you from 3 related categories: professional (related to your job or school), personal (family, home), other (big projects like writing a book, starting a business).
  2. Mark each project with criteria for completion– For each project write a brief description of the actions that must be taken to complete the project.
  3. Make another list on the same page and name it a Holding Pen– Use this list to add new projects while working on the active projects. You can save them here until you’ve completed the current batch.

Working The System

Each day, review your project list and figure out which project that you can make the most progress on that day and do it. Do whatever it takes. If it requires a hard push, go for it. Your biggest goal is to work on completing projects despite other responsibilities outside of these project. Harness an obsession to kill the list.

Work as hard as you possibly can to finish your projects. Once you’ve completed a project take a rest for at least a week. Spend this time doing small amounts of work. Use this time to recharge your energy.

Some Final Thoughts

Following a system that creates a workflow rhythm that’s necessary for completion-centric planning is what high achievers do to accomplish their work. Sure, it doesn’t have the appeal of leisurely working on tasks at your own easy pace but achievement is not pretty. You need to learn to go after your goals with a fierce determination and gusto. This system will teach you to do that. Now, try it for yourself. You might be surprised at what you can achieve.

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Anthony Pica

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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