“We will open the book. Its pages are blank. We are going to put words on them ourselves. The book is called Opportunity and its first chapter is New Year’s Day.” – Edith Lovejoy Pierce
A brand new year is coming, festive songs are in the air and everyone is gearing up for the new year ahead!Advertising
I’m really psyched up for the upcoming year because there are so many exciting things I have planned for next year.
How about you? How do you feel about the new year? How do you want it to be? What kind of experiences do you want to create? What memories do you want to build? What impact do you want to have for yourself and others?Advertising
With every upcoming year, I’m always sure it will supersede all previous years to become the best year ever. One reason is because I set goals – Goals which I know will improve the quality and fulfillment of my life. I’m a huge fan of goal setting. The best way to determine how your next year to be is to set goals AND act on them. As Zig Ziglar said, “You need a plan to build a house. To build a life, it is even more important to have a plan or goal.”
For this same reason, I recommend you to think about what you want for yourself in the year 2013 and set them as goals. Here is a list to kickstart your thinking process. Of course, goal setting isn’t restricted to just the start of the year – you can refer to it anytime of the year. There’s never a ‘best’ time to set goals – it’s all the time!Advertising
- Stop procrastinating
- Spend more time with your family
- Widen your social circle – Meet new people!
- Become more organized
- Exercise more and keep fit
- Lose weight: Achieve your ideal weight
- Eat more healthily
- Wake up early every day
- Be on time
- Express gratitude to people who have made a difference in your life
- Do volunteer work
- Do more kind deeds
- Further your education
- Learn a new language
- Cultivate at least one new skill that will enable you to perform even better at work (presentation skills, public speaking, effective writing, etc)
- Be emotionally generous
- Drop caffeine
- Reconnect with old friends
- Make at least 5 positive, like-minded friends and foster strong relationships with them
- Take your family out on a vacation
- Revamp your room into your personal, inspirational haven
- Run a marathon
- Don’t bad mouth other people
- Stop complaining
- Be a more positive person
- Be your real self
- Read more books
- Read one meaningful self-help article a day
- Visit the holiday destination of your dreams
- Deliver your best performance at work ever
- Double your business revenue (for business owners)
- Get a career switch to a better career
- Or better still, pursue a career of your true passion
- Earn a million dollars
- Earn a billion dollars (for those who have achieved #34)
- Find your soulmate
- Move out and get your own apartment
- Get out of debt (if you are in debt)
- Save more money
- Help other people achieve their dreams
- Get rid of clutter
- Take up a class in something of your interest (dancing, singing, roller blading, ice skating, swimming, photography, web design, rock climbing, piano, guitar, yoga, pilates, etc)
- Drink more water
- Reduce your alcohol intake or quit drinking altogether (for people who drink)
- Quit smoking (for smokers)
- Learn to see the positive side of everything
- Turn every challenge into an opportunity
- Let go of any past baggage
- Meditate daily
- Go on a Vipassana Meditation Retreat
- Write a book
- Visit a new place you have never been to
- Stop beating yourself up when bad things happen
- Love yourself more
- Start your life handbook and use it document everything it takes to live your best life
- Limit your mass media exposure – Stop watching television or reading newspapers (remove negative stimuli from your environment)
- Take time out to rest and rejuvenate every week
- Live every moment to the fullest!
Note: Success in resolutions is almost always in line with cultivating habits. Be sure to read how to successfully cultivate a habit in 21 days, an all-time readers’ favorite article.
58 Noteworthy Resolutions For Anytime in the Year | Personal ExcellenceAdvertising
Last Updated on July 17, 2019
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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!
More About Goals Setting
- How to Set Goals and Achieve Them Successfully
- How to Set SMART Goal to Make Lasting Changes in Life
- How Setting Personal Goals Makes You a Greater Achiever
Featured photo credit: Alexa Williams via unsplash.com
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