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5 Evening Habits of Successful People

5 Evening Habits of Successful People

Many have heard the phrase “The early bird catches the worm,” and that may be true, but the truth is that highly successful people have habits for both the morning and the evening that make both time frames more productive. The evening is a crucial period of resetting, and maximizing the use of that time can do wonders.

To ensure you never fall behind, I’ve compiled a list of the evening habits of a few highly successful people. Incorporating these into your daily routine will give the strength and introspection to make a real difference.

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1. President Barack Obama’s next-day preparation

Whether due to his nature or the demands of his job, President Obama often spends a few hours each evening analyzing the following day’s schedule and tasks. He gets a thorough idea of the next day’s run down so that he can be as prepared as possible to make smart, informed decisions on a repeat basis the following day. If tomorrow is known to be a hectic day, go through your schedule the day before and visualize what success means in each scenario.

2. Fashion designer Vera Wang’s free associative period

After checking emails from her staff, Vera Wang allots a portion of her evening to simple free-form thinking about design. Because of its unguided nature, this allows her to simultaneously decompress while also providing opportunity for that “Aha!” moment that many creatives constantly pursue. At the end of the day, you would do well to allow yourself to unwind. You may naturally think about work, but try not to take action unless a major epiphany strikes.

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3. Buffer CEO Joel Gascoigne’s walking habit

Each evening, regardless of the day’s events, Buffer CEO Joel Gascoigne takes a 20 minute walk, one that he has worked to associate with shutting his mind and body down for sleep. Gascoigne uses walking to, “reach a state of tiredness,” so think of a way to incorporate activity to bring your mind to a state of rest. Many great minds have used walking as a tool, and it could easily be incorporated into any schedule.

4. Microsoft CEO Bill Gates’ reading habit

Bill Gates spends an hour before bed reading every day. Doing so helps to relieve stress levels and to boost cognitive function, all the while creating new knowledge from which the next great innovation might spring. Spend some time every night before bed reading on any subject. The stimulation can work wonders for creating new connections between work and play, bringing you one step closer to the next big break.

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5. Ariana Huffington’s shutting down of her phone

Many workaholics have a hard time turning off their phone for the night, but the ones that do advocate for this process. After passing out from exhaustion on one occasion, Huffington has become an advocate for leaving the phone off and away from her while sleeping. Others, including Facebook leader Sheryl Sandburg, would agree with Huffington’s habits. It is often said that the bright lights of cell phones trick the human brain into thinking its awake, so shut it down unless you want to be up all night.

6. Podcaster Alex Blumburg’s family discussion time.

In an episode of his new hit podcast “Startup,” former NPR producer Alex Blumburg speaks of his desire to spend a significant amount of time with his young wife Nasneen. The entire series is a collection of the insights and work it takes to start a business, and Blumburg, while desiring more than anything to succeed at starting his own company, also makes sure he carves out time to discuss how his work is affecting his family and his wife. Make sure that your choices about work incorporate the opinions of your family, and you will be better off.

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What habits do you have that kick start your next day? Is it a certain exercise routine? A specific time frame in which you must brush your teeth? Share it with us, we are always looking for feedback from our community.

Featured photo credit: jesscalive via flickr.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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