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Life is a Marathon – A simple techique to keep on PACE.

Life is a Marathon – A simple techique to keep on PACE.

As I grow older, I can’t help but notice how much truth there is in folklores. We tend to brush them off as ‘stuff old people say’. Let’s face it, if they’re still alive, they must know a thing or two about life. One folklore that was imprinted on my subconscious and emerged to the forefront later on is KISS. No not the 70s face painted rock band. My alcoholic, 11th grade chemistry teacher would say it everyday. Kiss stands for Keep It Simple Stupid. If you’re an average Joe like me, especially at the that age, you might misinterpret the proverb. Without having an opportunity to apply it I wasn’t able to grasp the true importance of the concept. After being battered by the waves of life, its definition became clear.

Preparation Is The Key

In today’s information overloaded world, making decisions can be a convoluted process. This often results in stress, anxiety and indecisiveness. We all know that life is a chess game but the victor must always be steps ahead of the competition while staying present. How is that even possible? A simple answer – preparation! Chance favors the prepared mind. Is your head spinning from folklores yet?

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So how exactly do we prepare for this superfluous information chess game of life which supposedly is also a marathon?

Life is a marathon as it is a chess game because all three require strategy. The sooner one stops being reactionary and starts thinking things through, the sooner the chess match evolves. At this point a PACE plan can provide a key technique to enduring aches and pains of the cross country run.

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Apply The KISS Technique

This particular KISS technique can be used in both personal and professional areas of your life. PACE stands for Primary, Alternate, Contingency, and Emergency. Pretty self explanatory right?

One can literally apply this system for almost every decision one makes. If you decide to visit a friend 30 miles away, you can take four possible routes: the most direct or efficient; an alternate route in case there’s an accident or traffic; contingency thorugh back roads if there happens to be an influx of drivers on the road and the first two options aren’t effective; and an emergency route that you hope you’ll never have to take because of the lengthy duration but guarantees a safe passage to the destination.

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Having a PACE plan reduces stress of overcoming adversity or unforeseen events. You already have a plan in place and only need to execute with some minor changes if necessary. Having simple systems in place is one of the key differences between successful people and well the other guys. They are rarely caught off guard and are seldom reactionary. This is why successful people rise to victory when faced with adverse circumstances. They are prepared so chance falls in their favor.

Similarly this is why a lot of small businesses stay small and others grow into big corporations. Instead of having to address mundane issues on a regular basis, leaders can focus on developing business and taking calculated risks by emplacing clear and simple systems.

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If you’ve ever worked in corporate America, then you know that there is a form or procedure for almost everything related to the business. That’s their insurance policy to keep the Is dotted and Ts crossed.

Having a PACE plan is a proven life saver. This is why it is one of the first techniques Green Berets learn during their qualification course. To be successful in corporate America one has to have a warrior’s mentality. It’s no coincidence as to why high ranking leaders of our Armed Forces take on senior roles in the corporate world. The two entities share uncanny resemblances in their structures. Corporate America made a carbon copy of the bureaucratic structure of the military with some changes and ‘civilian’ flair.

It’s not everyone’s goal to be corporate but implementing some of their strategies can definitely make you more present in the chess match. Knowing that, on every play, there are multiple options on the board that put you at an advantage regardless of what piece your opponent moves. It allows you to be steps ahead while remaining present and alert for any surprises.

Keep It Simple

For someone who has, on numerous occasions, almost lit me on fire with a bunsen burner, I would never have thought my chemistry teacher on her second mug of whiskey spiked coffee would enlighten me with such a gift. If she didn’t remind me to keep it simple then applying the PACE plan wouldn’t have had such an impact on my life. It opened my eyes to the realization that I needed to simplify more areas of my personal and professional life. Keeping it simple stupid by running the marathon on PACE can do the same for you.

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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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