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12 Things You Didn’t Know Successful People Do Before Breakfast

12 Things You Didn’t Know Successful People Do Before Breakfast

The “Golden Hour”

Successful people often talk about the “Golden Hour”, which is the first hour after you wake up in the morning. According to this article from the National Institutes of Health, while we are asleep, our brains are hard at work de-cluttering and detoxifying themselves. This means that our brains are at their best right after we wake up, when they’re squeaky-clean from the night’s mental hygiene activities. Successful people have discovered that the “Golden Hour” is the best time of day to prepare ourselves mentally, physically and spiritually for the upcoming day.

The 21-Day Mental Diet

Technically I’m not “successful” yet…but I figured, if I ACT like a successful person, sooner or later I’ll BE a successful person, and in the meantime, I’ll FEEL like a successful person. Which, since none of these practices cost anything except some discipline and a couple hours of sleep, is pretty much a win-win, if you ask me.

It was while I was looking up “how successful people think” that I stumbled onto Brian Tracy’s 21-Day Mental Diet. And guess what? It includes several of the practices mentioned in articles on what successful people do before breakfast. Imagine that! I am currently on day seven of this mental diet, and let me tell you, doing these has really brought a new sense of focus and productivity to my days — which is a tough thing to do when one doesn’t have regular office hours.

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Here’s a quick rundown of what you do on this mental diet:

1. Wake up early – Most top executives get up in the morning at 6:00 AM — at the latest! I get up around 5:00 AM most days.
2. Exercise –  While Brian Tracy suggests doing any physical exercise before mental exercise, I usually have to wait until later in the day to do any physical exercise because of schedule limitations.
3. Read motivational, inspirational or educational material for 30-60 minutes. Personally, I love the Abraham-Hicks material, which really gets my mind and spirit soaring for the day. Other favorites include the books by Wallace D. Wattles, (The Science of Getting Rich) or any of the other New Thought authors. There is a tremendous wealth of free reading material available in the public domain. If you like audio books, look to librivox.org, or for visual reading, check out this New Thought online reading list.
4. Write down your top 10-15 life goals. There is tremendous power in the act of writing, so yes, actually get out a pen and a notebook (What are those?) and physically write these down. Really. Just thinking about it doesn’t cut it. Use first-person, present-tense language: “I am making ___ dollars a year; I weigh ___ pounds; I drive a ___ car, I have ___ friends”, and so on. And don’t look back at your goals from the day before. By the way, this is a LOT of fun!
5. Write down everything you need to do that day. Again, yes, use a real pen and a notebook. Seriously. Organize this list according to priority, starting with the one thing you most want to get done that day.
6. Begin immediately to work on the biggest, most important task of the day. If you can finish this project while your mind is still fresh, it won’t loom over you and worry you for the rest of the day.

Throughout the day, but not necessarily before breakfast:

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  • Listen to educational audio programs while driving
  • Pick up the pace between activities

Other Things That Successful People Do Before Breakfast

These are practices that aren’t part of Brian Tracy’s 21-Day Mental Diet, but are part of the morning routine of many successful people:

7. Write down things they’re grateful for. This is a favorite of mine. Two years ago, I started writing a “Daily Ten” of things that I was thankful for, liked, made me smile and so on.

8. Meditate. Another personal favorite, and if I can’t squeeze it in before breakfast, I do my best to fit it in another time during the day.

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9. Work on a personal passion project. It is very easy to let what we love slip to the last item on our priority list, where it gets put off…and put off…and put off. I know — I never seem to get around to practicing violin!

10. Spend quality time with family/connect with spouses. My husband and I usually sit and talk over our plans for the day over morning coffee while we’re petting the dogs.

11. Network with coworkers, clients, or friends over coffee.  Early morning or breakfast meetings tend to be more productive in the mornings–because guess what? Everyone else’s brain is clearer, too!

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12. Read the news. Find out the problems in the world so that we can figure out ways to solve them!

Featured photo credit: Elle est de retour!/Francois Meehan via photopin.com

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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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