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7 Brilliant Tips to Handle The Hard Tasks

7 Brilliant Tips to Handle The Hard Tasks

Accomplishing anything worthwhile in life is difficult. You’re a human being, though, and no task is impossible to us. Quitting alcohol takes twelve steps, but most of them are proprietary to AA. If you want to accomplish a truly difficult task, you need only half the steps. Here’s how to handle the hard tasks.

1. Brainstorm

Thinking is critical to our survival as a species, and creativity is much more useful than brute force in the wild. That single trait of invention is what separated early man from the animal kingdom, and led to our eventual dominance of this planet.

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When you start any project, sit down and brainstorm every idea possible. Let your thoughts and ideas flow freely; it’s during this brainstorming period that your most critical ideas are created.

2. Plan

Once you have a pile of raw ideas, it’s time to formulate a concrete plan. This plan is a step-by-step guide to each phase of your impossible task. Visualizing the realistic and practical completion of your project will lead you in the direction of actually completing it. Pretend you’re a Goonie, but you can draw your own map to One-Eyed Willy’s treasure.

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3. Commit

A plan is just a plan until you execute it. Your commitment to the plans you make is what separates success from failure. You know your plan is solid, so commit to it. It’s only by following your plan that you see the forks in the road and other obstacles you’ll encounter. Get out there and do it!

4. Relax

Sure, everything is riding on this one project. If you complete it, you’ll get a promotion, a raise, move up, buy a home, settle down and live happily ever after. If you fail, you’ll go broke, lose everything and fall from grace. It’s ok – everything in life is life or death. That’s just how life works, and we’re all going through it.

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Close your eyes. Sit up straight or lay down for a moment. Relax your body and focus on slowly breathing in…and out…and in…and out…and relax.

5. Overcome

Every path has obstacles, but when you keep pushing, you eventually overcome. The U.S. was originally settled on the East coast, but pioneers blazed a trail out west. Think about how terrifying it must’ve been to have discovered California or trekked out west during the Gold Rush.

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No matter what they hit you with, you shall overcome. Continue to get up and fight every time you’re knocked down. When people laugh at you, laugh back. If you keep your nose to the grindstone long enough, you shall overcome.

6. Enjoy

Winning or losing in life isn’t about the scoreboard. When you’re in the game, it’s easy to focus on the time, penalties, and score, but at the end of the day, you won’t look back on your life and focus on those things – they just won’t matter.

What matters at the end is that you enjoyed your time. You have very precious few moments in life, and those difficult times are the ones that define who you are. At 33, I’ve lived through some very hard times, and each one taught me a valuable lesson, introduced me to a memorable person, and made me a better person for having been through it.

Whenever you hit a really difficult time, don’t let yourself be overcome with stress. Instead think about the successful you in the future, laying on your deathbed. Think about the small toddler you once were. Both of those people would love to be in the position you’re currently in, no matter how bad it is. Keep your head up…for them.

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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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