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4 Things That Hold You Back from Success

4 Things That Hold You Back from Success

Imagine you are walking down a street in your local neighborhood. Suddenly, your eye catches a breathtakingly beautiful rose garden on your right. It is vibrant, bursting with a variety of bright colors, and emits a heavenly scent. You notice how beautifully manicured it is, with bright, colorful roses lining the garden and yellow sunflowers poking their heads out in the back.

But then, suddenly, your attention gets drawn to the garden directly next to this. It is an awful sight, completely overgrown and wild. The garden is dull and full of weeds with many ‘unwanted plants’ that have grown. It looks sad and miserable.

Life is very much like a garden. Each garden looks very different and every garden holds within it unlimited potential. What have you been sowing in your garden?  What are the results you have reaped?

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Perhaps you have been trying your best to create your ‘dream’ garden but you are just not seeing the results you want. Is there too much sun, too much water or too much shade? Getting a successful garden to grow, is not easy and you may be doing a few things that are holding you back from having success.

1. The law of weeds

What are you planting exactly? If you don’t plant flowers, weeds will grow for sure. In other words, if your thoughts and actions are not geared towards success, they will bring you results you don’t want.

Identify the weeds in your garden and spots the wild shrubs that are strangling the roses from growing. Every bad habit, limiting thought or action, does not only hold you back from success, but reinforces what you are not happy with, making it harder to change each time.

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2.  A half-grown garden

What will your garden look like if you only spend a few hours a week gardening? Some roses might grow here and there, but it will most likely be teetering between success or failure. Most people want to have more success in life but they don’t want to actually work for it. You can see it every day, people put comfort before results and that is definitely going to hold you back.

You also have to do some things you don’t like and no half jobs. You are going to have to prep the soil, get your hands dirty, etc. Put results before comfort, success is not about staying in your comfort zone.

3.  Always digging up your seeds

You need to be patient to see the results you want and to be successful. When you plant a flower, you believe and trust that it will grow. You don’t dig it up every day to see how much it has grown. Sometimes we don’t give ourselves enough time to produce the results we really want or we half halfheartedly try something and we give up too easily. We live in a world where instant gratification is possible and we assume this means every area of life. Patience could be your missing link to success.

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4. Every flower is different

Every flower is different, unique and special in its own way. Just like you. Most people struggle to have success in an area because they are too influenced by outsiders. Do you feel torn between doing what you want and what others say you ‘should’ or ‘need’ to do; you must look, act and talk a certain way to be successful. Ironically, it is when we don’t give ourselves permission to be ourselves completely that we actually fail.

You cannot separate who you are from the success you achieve and you need to give yourself permission to do it ‘your way’, you already know what is right for you.  You need to remain impartial sometimes to other people’s words and actions and how much you allow them to influence your success.

Lastly, if you really feel that you have been spending hours gardening, and you have applied what you have learnt, but your garden is still not growing, how can you identify why your garden is struggling?

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It isn’t easy to see your blind spots, so asking yourself similar questions to these could be your best next step

  • If you viewed things from another person’s point of view, what new information would that perspective give you?
  • How do you normally sabotage or hold yourself back – and what will you do differently this time?
  • What might you have to give up in order to be more successful?

We tend to focus more often on what is going wrong, rather than what is going right and sometimes we forget our small successes. Remember that success is a journey, not a destination!

To your success!

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Kirstin O´Donovan

Certified Life and Productivity Coach, Founder and CEO of TopResultsCoaching

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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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