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Turning Television Into A Positive Activity

Turning Television Into A Positive Activity
Television

I used to hate TV. Not because of the shows that were on (although many of them were terrible), but because it killed my productivity.

It was a love/hate relationship. When I was stressed out and my brain had been overwhelmed all day, I’d use television to escape for a few hours and recharge. It sure made me feel better, but then I would feel guilty sitting there on the couch, thinking of all the things I could have gotten done!

Going to the gym was also a stressful activity. I knew it was good for me, but there never seemed to be enough time, and I subconsciously avoided the hard work that went along with it.

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So one day I made a rule for myself: I would only watch TV while at the gym!

It was combining the best of both worlds. I no longer felt guilty about watching TV because I was getting great exercise, and I had an incentive to get myself to the gym if I didn’t want to miss a show!

The benefit was immediate and profound. Pretty soon, I was spending an hour a day, four days per week, at the gym (after all I liked watching TV). And while it wasn’t easy to really pay attention while lifting weights, getting an hour of cardio done was easier when I could reward myself.

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Of course, sometimes I’d cheat (movies in particular I deemed “exempt” from the rule), but overall it worked quite well.

You can also apply this concept to other areas of your life. I call it “getting leverage on yourself” (I don’t think i came up with this, but can’t remember where I heard it first).

The basic idea is to create a simple rule for yourself that AUTOMATICALLY causes you to accomplish your goal. After all, you probably know yourself pretty well after all these years. You know what will cause you to take action, and what will probably never get done. Try to structure incentives and punishments for yourself that will give you this “leverage” on yourself.

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Here are some other examples of getting leverage on yourself:

  • If you have a tendency to waste time on instant messenger, and you KNOW you can’t ignore it, then make a rule you will turn it off during the day, and only turn it on once your top three items are done.
  • Let’s say you’ve set a goal to call at least 100 new prospective clients. Give $100 to your best friend, and tell them to give you back $20 for every 20 calls you make in the next month. (By the way, this works for any goal that requires you to do something over and over again. It could be to write 100 pages, approach 100 people, or to do 100 push ups.) Your friends will happily agree, sensing the opportunity to earn some cash, and I guarantee you will think about making those calls every day!
  • Get an accountability partner who will make you feel guilty when you don’t hold up your end of the bargain.

Getting leverage on yourself is a lot like what your parents did when you were younger: “if you don’t eat your green beans, you can’t have any desert!” But now you are being your own parent, and creating the rules for yourself.

If you’d like to spend less time watching TV and more time at the gym, try getting leverage on yourself by making that a rule: I can only watch TV when I’m at the gym.

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Give it a try and you might just be surprised with the results!

Brian Armstrong is an authority on time management and how to quit your job to work for yourself! You can download three FREE chapters of his book and sign up for his free online course, “Successful Entrepreneurship”, by clicking here now: How to Start Your Own Business

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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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