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If You Want To Be Successful, Stop Trying To Please Everybody

If You Want To Be Successful, Stop Trying To Please Everybody

Success is simple. Do what’s right, the right way, at the right time.

Arnold H. Glasow summarized his reason for success in a single, simple sentence. Here comes the question that has perpetually mystified human beings: what is the right thing to do?

They say curiosity kills the cat. In a sense, that is true. Every time we make a decision, we constantly question ourselves, “what if we did it the other way round?”. We initiate battles within ourselves, leading us to be miserable no matter what we chose or did in the end. Perhaps it comes with experience, but as I grew up, I began to realize that many of these battles began because we weren’t choosing the option we really wanted. We weren’t acknowledging our own desires. And if we want success that bad, we just have to stop trying to please everybody.

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Don’t say maybe if you want to say no.

It’s pretty self-explanatory, isn’t it?

It doesn’t seem appropriate to say “no” when someone is enthusiastically asking you to a party. I know I would have a hard time because that would mean looking at the crestfallen face of your friend and feeling guilty. Moreover, no one likes a killjoy. So you say, “maybe… I’ll see” instead. But once you said that, you started feeling a pull, an obligation to go and when you ended up in a place where you didn’t even want to be in, you started wondering how it had come down to this.

The truth is – you need to start saying no instead of maybe. Shake your head instead of shrugging. It’s okay to be polite, but not to the point when you have to force yourself to be somewhere or do something you don’t want to. There is only so much time you can spend and so many things you can do. Don’t waste it on the non-essentials.

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One aspect of your life is going to affect other aspects of your life.

The four burners theory mentioned that you would need to cut off something from your life if you want to be successful.[1] That’s because the people that constitute the different aspects of your life are going to expect you to go an extra mile for them. They don’t mean to make your life difficult. But do you remember your boss asking if you can help with an extra project? Or your husband or wife other asking if you can help with the kids on the weekends when they meet up with their friends?

When you agree with one side, you are going to have to stretch certain areas in your life, such as your health. Your choice has unconsciously affected your entire life. More importantly, when one area of your life is out of alignment, every area of your life suffers. The more you work for others instead of yourself, the more you are going to feel like your life is getting torn asunder.

Remember: everyone has their expectations, but it’s not your obligation to do what they want you to do. You own yourself.

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Don’t let “should”s hold sway over you.

It’s alright if you think you should do something because it would make yourself happy. However, most of the times, our mind goes like this:

“I should join their gossiping or else I am going to look out of place eating lunch alone.”

“I should probably go to this dinner or my friends are going to feel bad.”

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Nothing leads to indecision faster than letting your actions be guided by the desire to impress or satisfy others. – Iyanla Vanzant

There are a lot of things that you will feel that you should do. But as you go on in life, you will realize these are not things that you must do. There is only one right thing to do, and that is the things that you do for yourself and yourself only.

Featured photo credit: Picjumbo via Picjumbo.com

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Eamon Suen

Student, The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology

Life Is Not Supposed To Be Fair, We’re Supposed to Learn To Live With It If You Want To Be Successful, You May Need To Cut Off Something From Life The Earlier You Understand These Truths Of Happiness The Better Accept Where You Are And Happiness Is At Your Fingertips Your New Habits Will Stick With These 5 Killer Strategies

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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

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