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More Ways to Go on a Date with Life

More Ways to Go on a Date with Life

More Ways to Go on a Date with Life

    Yesterday I suggested that the rules that apply to successful dating could be applied more widely to life in general. After all, when we go on a date, we want our partner to see us at our best – and what could be better than being at your best all the time?

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    With that in mind, I listed 6 guidelines that apply as well to life as to dating, and today I’m back with 6 more. Since life, like dating, can take a lot of different forms, these are still only brushing the surface, and I encourage readers to leave their own tips for dating and for life in the comments. Who knows, we might all become better at both!

    1. A negative outcome can be better than a positive one.

    Everyone wants to be liked. On dates, this often leads us to settle for less than we really want to avoid the negative consequence of being poorly liked by our partner. This, in turn, can give rise to awful relationships – disrespectful, overly dramatic, even abusive ones. If the goal of dating in general is to find that special person you want to share your life with, though, you need to risk being not liked by your partner – why waste time with someone that isn’t what you’re looking for? Every date that ends without the promise of a call can be chalked up as a success – provided you didn’t bend your character around what you assume s/he would like best. In life, too, failures can often be seen as successes, provided you learn from them and carry those lessons forward, and provided they were come by honestly, through your commitment to your own goals.

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    2. Be yourself.

    It hurts me to see people pretend to be other than they are in order to impress a date. Pretending to have more money (or less), more education (or less), or different tastes than you have is such an awful strategy – first of all, who wants to build a relationship with someone who doesn’t accept you for you, and second of all, what’s going to happen when eventually the truth comes out (which it almost always does)? While there’s something to be said for the old maxim “Fake it until you make it”, as a general rule following your own dreams in your own way is the only real road to success and happiness. Doing things because others think you should (or because you think they think that) is bound to be unsatisfying, and incredibly difficult to maintain any kind of real motivation for.

    3. Practice seduction.

    Dating is all about revealing yourself over time with the intention of drawing a partner to you, eager to learn more. Likewise in life, people who are both interesting enough to merit attention (what Seth Godin means when he says “Be remarkable”) and open enough to allow their interestingness to shine draw others to them. But it’s all about the timing – reveal everything at once and you become nothing but a resource to be used and discarded; reveal too little too slowly and you become a bore.

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    4. The start foretells the finish.

    Although there are exceptions, for the most part the way you and your partner interact on a first date sets the tone for everything that follows. If you’re open, honest, and comfortable at the beginning, chances are you’ll remain so throughout your relationship; be too closed off, self-conscious, dishonest, or negative, and you’re setting yourself up for failure – even if you and your date really like each other. When we say “first impressions count”, we’re saying much the same thing, but it’s deeper than just impressions. I know that as an educator, the way I interact with my students on the first day of class will carry through the whole semester; if I am personable and interact with them a lot, I can expect a highly engaged classroom, whereas if I do all the talking and take an authoritative tone, I can expect to spend the next 15 weeks lecturing with a minimum of student questions or input. Taking pains to get things off on the right foot can go a long way towards avoiding complications later on.

    5. Be on time.

    Really. Woody Allen once said that 90% of life is just showing up, and at least half of that is doing it on time. Imagine a date where your partner is late – what does that tell you about his or her feelings about meeting you? Now, imagine he or she is late for the first 5 dates? The first 10? Now what do you think of their attitude? Being late suggests that you don’t value the other person’s time, that you don’t believe they have anything better to do than to wait for you. It can also suggest that you’re incompetent and disorganized – not exactly qualities people look for in a person they potentially want to build a life with. Or in any other area – what applies to dating applies just as easily to the workplace, family gatherings, and just about everything else. While being punctual often goes unnoticed, being tardy sends powerful messages that are often nearly impossible to recover from.

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    6. Just say no – until you’re ready to say yes.

    When it comes to sex, most of us are pretty aware of whether we’re ready or not with any given partner. Some of us are hot to trot after a good first date, others want to be married, and most of us fall somewhere in between. Regardless of your preferences in that regard, we all feel taken advantage of when a partner seems to demand we “give it up” before we’re ready. While most of us are fairly adept at keeping our pants on until we’re ready, in the rest of our lives we often stumble over “no” and commit ourselves to projects we either don’t want to do or don’t have time to do. This also leaves us feeling taken advantage of. Learn to say “no” when you need to – you’ll respect yourself for it in the morning.

    Let’s hear your tips in the comments below!

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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!

    More About Goals Setting

    Featured photo credit: Alexa Williams via unsplash.com

    Reference

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