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5 Pieces of Practical Advice You Should Take to Master Anything

5 Pieces of Practical Advice You Should Take to Master Anything

If only the life goals we dream about could be easily achieved in the physical world, there would be a world full of successful people. While getting advice on achieving our dreams from a friend or reading it around the web is a great start, today we will focus on the practical advice we should take to master anything.

It’s really strange to think that we all live by the same ticking of the clock. All around the world people are using the same number of seconds as you and me and manage to make more or less of them than us. However, the only difference between you and the 7 billion people around you is that we all have different mindsets and we use time differently.

These five pieces of practical advice will shift your paradigm on using your time more purposefully and will make you think more clearly about the things that happen every day.

1. Start early

If you analyze successful people, almost all of them start their day early — with the rising sun or, as they say, “with the peacocks.” I’ve read a few interviews in which successful people have said that they only sleep four to six hours a day. While that’s not really healthy long term, it’s also a technique for doing more in a day.

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If we want to use our seconds better than the rest, we shouldn’t sleep more than eight hours. I myself do with six hours sleep a night because that’s the best timeframe that fits my needs and body. But, as a rule, you should get no less than six and no more than eight hours of sleep a day. Grasp this habit and you are on the first step to becoming a success.

2. Organization

While getting up early cannot guarantee your success, your to-do list can do the rest.

By getting up early and having a precise, achievable list of things we should do, we organize how we should spend our day. The more you can do in one day, the better, and getting up early helps that.

Make a plan in the morning. Take a pen and a paper and write down your plans when you finish your morning routines. Never leave something until tomorrow if it’s already on your to-do list. This will also teach us that sometimes we need to give ourselves a little boost, even though we think we can’t seem to manage.

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3. Focus

Waking up early and fresh immediately gives you sharper focus on the things that await your actions. Organization is the second step to narrow your focus, but it doesn’t guarantee that you will have your focus set at the highest level possible. To narrow our focus we have to visualize and keep our minds on one task at a time.

For example, if your focus is on a  project for which you have to write a business plan, you will have to fill your mind with all the parts in the project — the regulations, products, fees, etc. Narrow your vision down to your tasks and finish them with the power of your mind.

4. Persistence

“Ambition is the path to success. Persistence is the vehicle you arrive in.” – Bill Bradley

Have you ever considered that if you hit the wall next to you with a hammer, even if it takes a thousand hits, it will eventually fall down? I really think that sometimes achieving success can be compared to the stupidest of examples like this one, even though it looks a lot more complicated from the outside.

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Persisting even when our emotions or fears block our way will guarantee our success sooner or later. There isn’t a successful person on this Earth who didn’t persist, even to the point of stubbornness. Edison famously claims it took him 10,000 attempts to invent the light bulb. I mean, can you even count to 10,000? Sometimes that’s what it takes to be a genius. It’s always impossible without persistence.

5. The key to infinite persistence

My personal key to persistence is my mantra I tell myself every morning and every night. It has nothing to do with religion, but with my personal attainments that I want to see in the future.

If we keep telling our mind something positive every morning and every night, it will become an obsession. But sometimes our thoughts can be toxic for us and we poison our minds with them. Keep your mind filled with the positive things you want to attain in the future and you will be astonished how they become like a prayer you repeat every morning.

Take a pen and a paper and write down the things you want to achieve and what you want to become in six months to a year’s time. However, also write down the steps and efforts you are going to take to attain those goals. Don’t set an impossible goal, but write something attainable. “I want to become a billionaire by March 2015,” is not realistic in the timeframe. But be aware that it’s not impossible eventually, because everything you can imagine is possible.

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Instill these five key pieces of practical advice into your day-to-day routine and you will ease your way to a better life.

Featured photo credit: Career Advice No. 3: Psychoanalyst/@fgr62 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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