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How To Plan In Your Mind Without Writing Things Down

How To Plan In Your Mind Without Writing Things Down

Many successful people would say that a goal without a plan is not really a goal, but rather a simple wish. Therefore, if you are aiming for something significant in your life, what’s equally important is to carefully plan the steps for getting there.

For some people, planning may be a daunting task and they simply choose to ‘wing it’ because it’s easier. However, as Alan Lakein is reported to have said, “Failing to plan is planning to fail.” Planning may be tiresome and daunting since it involves a lot thinking, but if you look at in the long run it will actually save you time, money and effort. It will help you determine the things you need to do now and in the near future, and avoid the things that will bring you zero to little results.

If you are interested in learning how to plan, especially for your career, then you have come to the right place. Furthermore, although it is advisable that you write down your plans, some people prefer to store their plans in their head rather than in a document. If this is the case for you, then here is an elegant solution.

Self-Understanding

If you are planning for something, then one of the most important aspects you must give careful consideration to is yourself. What you are trying to determine are behavioral tendencies, personal interests, potential, and current abilities. Furthermore, try to prioritize the variables that are closely related to whatever it is you’re planning.

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If you want to be thorough, then you can ask significant people such as your family, close friends, professors or classmates about your self-assessments. Find out if they agree with your personal assessment and to what degree?

The primary reason for this is to gather information. The more information you have, the more informed your decisions will be. Also, you can honestly find out the things that you are naturally good at and possibly delegate or hire someone to do the things that you are not so good at.

For example, if you are a naturally good at designing a logo and are able to finish the job in an hour, then it would be a waste of time if you are doing mathematical-related work that would require three hours or more for you to finish. Play to your natural strengths, as you will get better results with the same amount of time invested.

Understand the Situation

Once you have gained a good understanding of your capabilities in relation to whatever it is you’re planning, the next step is to understand the situation or environment. Find as much relevant information as you can as this can help you tremendously in the latter steps. Do not be ashamed to ask for external advice or consult an expert.

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For example, if you are planning for a simple birthday party, then gather information such as the location of the party, the number of guests and the size of the party venue.

If you are planning a career, then gather information about the job market. Find out what kind of skill sets businesses are looking for at the moment. Take notes on the jobs that would seem to complement your natural talents, behavioral tendencies and personality.

You will not only improve faster, but you will also get more satisfaction from life in general. Do not be ashamed to ask advice from a career advisor. And remember, the Internet is a great resource worth tapping.

Goal Setting

Once you have gathered sufficient information, it’s time to set a goal. When setting up a goal, make sure that it is measurable, concise, reasonable and has a deadline. This it will make it easier for you to evaluate your performance against your goal.

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If you have a ‘Big Plan,’ then it is better that you break down your goals into smaller pieces to make it less daunting. You can then set long-term, medium-term and short-term goals.

Now that you have a goal, it is time to recall the information related to yourself and the situation. Identify the kind of job or tasks that are right up your alley. For those jobs that do not work with you very well, have a plan on how to fill the gap.

Implementation

The last step of the planning process is the actual doing. Some of the time you will not achieve your goal. In fact, if you are successful at every goal you have set, then your goals are not high enough.

Also, don’t forget to evaluate your progress against your goal periodically. Keep in mind that it is your goal and you can re-adjust things in case your overall plan needs to change.

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Mnemonics

As mentioned before, not all people are fans of writing down their plans. If you are one of these people, then you can use memory techniques so you won’t forget the plans you have just made.

One mnemonic technique is to use vivid mental images. Each mental image represents one item within your list. You can then create an animated story that links all the mental images together.

As an example, you want to remember that you have to repaint the house by June 10. You can start by picturing a big desert dune to represent the month of June. Imagine a big tornado coming and breaking down the dune into 10 smaller dunes, this represents June 10. Finally, you can imagine the dunes being covered by raining wet paint, this will represent that you need to do some repainting.

This is just an example of using a mnemonic device to help you remember the things that you have planned without the need to write them down. Here are a few more tips if you are interested in using the same memory technique:

  • Use pleasant and positive images.
  • Make things seemingly absurd. Your brain tends to easily recall extraordinary images.
  • Give your mental image a 3D depth.

Final Word

Learning how to plan is very important for success. Hopefully, you’ve now learned a few things about how to properly make a plan, as well as some techniques for remembering your plans so you won’t have to write them down.

Featured photo credit: Saad Faruque 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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