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Want To Double Your Chance Of Success? Acquire This New IQ In Today’s World

Want To Double Your Chance Of Success? Acquire This New IQ In Today’s World

How much time do you spend surfing the internet? It might be a crucial part of your work or take up a big part of your personal time. Either way, most of us are glued to the never-ending stream of information at our fingertips and it may be becoming increasingly detrimental to our attention and ability for success.

How? Purely by the way the internet is changing how we focus. Now a normal, everyday habit of today’s society, being distracted by technology, has affected how deeply we think and, in turn, it’s affecting the way in which we live.

Developing The Art of Detrimental Distraction

The author of Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World, Cal Newport, has commented on the increasing loss in people’s ability to focus.

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“The ability to perform deep work is becoming increasingly rare at exactly the same time it is becoming increasingly valuable in our economy. As a consequence, the few who cultivate this skill, and then make it the core of their working life, will thrive.”  –  Cal Newport

While the internet serves many advantages such as sheer access of useful data and ease of connection with others, the way you use it could determine your success in work, education and even your personal life.

The younger generations that have now grown up not knowing life before the internet, are particularly susceptible. However, we are all in danger of being affected. The core problem is distraction and the way we can use the internet to open up opportunities for endless procrastination.

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We all know focus is the number one key to get anything done, whether it’s a menial activity or a major project. But like many habits, we as internet advocates, have managed to develop the instant ability to distract ourselves several times throughout a task – to the point where we don’t always realise we’re doing it.

Your Ability To Focus Will Determine How You Thrive

The trouble with this is, while we feel we’re rewarding ourselves by generating a distraction, we are actually stopping our deeper thinking.

Focus allows us to concentrate on the central point of what we’re trying to do and taking away this focus, even for a small moment, means we need to make extra effort to get ourselves back to that focal point. This detracts from the deep thinking and creates a more shallow thinking. Our willpower – which is highly connected to our focus – also wanes in the process and as we all know, once willpower is compromised it can take extreme effort to get back in the saddle.

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As mentioned earlier, the internet is the biggest distraction we have with many scientific studies coming through backing up how this is affecting our brains.[1] Our focus is slowly but surely declining and this is becoming a huge problem when it comes to our work.

Deep Thinking vs. Shallow Thinking

Cal Newport talks about the development of shallow thinking in today’s distracted world. Shallow thinking or shallow work, is the little tasks we get done such as answering emails, texts or ticking off a to-do list of mundane stuff. It’s stuff that needs doing but the problem is that we’re opting for this shallow work instead of the deep work.

Deep thinking or deep work is when what we are doing is creating value and contributing to our goals. When our brains are filled up with what’s going on in the virtual world of the internet, our real world priorities tend to lean towards the less important tasks.

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As Newport points out, people who can cultivate this dying skill of focus and attention, contributing to the forward movement of ideas and innovative projects, will become the rare few who will thrive in this distraction-based world.

So, what should we do? It’s hard to completely shut ourselves off from the internet and our phones, but trying to reduce the amount of time we spend idly browsing will help immensely. Take note of how often you find yourself distracted without even realising and make a conscious effort to stop yourself.

It could be the difference to how successful or unsuccessful you are.

Reference

[1] The Saturday Essay: Does the Internet Make You Dumber?

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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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