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Do You Make This Mistake as a Professional?

Do You Make This Mistake as a Professional?
Do You Make These Mistakes as a Professional?

    Broken promises are one of the biggest mistakes that one can make in their career. Broken promises are a problem because:

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    • Broken promises diminish the value of your word. People want to count on you when you’ll say you do something. If you regularly drop the ball people will rely on you less. Your reputation becomes one of a partial contributor and you will not be offered opportunities.
    • Broken promises decrease your ability to work for and with others. If you regularly break your promises people will not want to have you on projects, teams, and committees. And, if you’re not on one of those, you’re not working and will soon be out of that job. You may be out of any job that requires responsibility and contribution.
    • Broken promises lessen our own self esteem. We don’t know why we don’t come through on our commitments sometime. Still, knowing that we’re not holding up our end of a deal whacks our own integrity.

    Do you sit in a meeting and take action items then complete only some of them? Do you promise someone in your family that you will be at a game, dinner, or meeting and fail to show up on time? Do you say, “OK, I owe you that,” and inconsistently deliver? Do you miss deadlines? If you said yes to any of these questions, you are breaking promises. And the straight talk on this topic is: you need to stop breaking promises because it’s hurting your reputation and prospects for the future.

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    Here are four ways to start building a reputation for reliability, delivery, and contribution:

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    1. Don’t forget the things that you promise to do. The #1 way to do this is write it down! When you take action items voluntarily or are assigned them, put them on a list. This keeps the specifics of your responsibilities in one place. And, it keeps them out of your mind where you might forget it or it might be overpowered by something urgent or fun.
    2. You should clarify what is expected of you. Ensure that you and those you work with are synchronized. Match what you believe you’re supposed to be doing with the expectations the other person or people have. Get confirmation in writing. An example of this is writing a summary of a meeting which identifies the action items you are to take and stating: If there is something that you anticipate me doing that isn’t on this list, please reply and let me know right away so I can be sure to do the right thing.
    3. Take on less. The adage we use in sales is “Under Promise, Over Deliver”. There will always be more things for you to do than you can possibly attend to. Do only those things that are of highest importance and be clear that you won’t be doing the rest. Get agreement on what those vital activities are.
    4. Use ‘As Promised’ in your communications. When writing follow-up emails or talking to people state specifically that you are delivering on your commitment. For example, say, “We discussed the trigger list for creating your list of things to do. As promised I’m sending the list to you attached to this email.”
    5. If you might miss a deadline or have to stop one project to give attention to another, renegotiate. You will need diplomacy and tact to deliver your message and get agreement that things have changed. Yet, you will get credit for integrity and keeping your eye on the ball.

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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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