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How to Un-Clutter Your Mind and Stay Focused on Life Essentials

How to Un-Clutter Your Mind and Stay Focused on Life Essentials

After my graduation, I decided to not to pursue my Master’s degree: I wanted to start a business right away. I was pretty sure that 2 years of MBA studies might not be the right choice if I could already start creating and getting experience from tiny businesses, which could save me from my hatred of predefined learning systems that would produce just one more industry laborer .

Everything comes with a price however, and starting a business without much experience and without a circle or sequential learning that could take it further is risky.

You know it’s risky, but you might not be aware of just how risky it is. That’s when your mind begins to guide your thoughts. Of course, this article isn’t about business itself, but the correlations between business and instances in which you try to do, and be, something different from the norm, strongly relate together.

When you strive to be different, your thoughts are trying to find a way to feel different, safe, and yet totally relevant.

What clutters your thought process anyway?

Our mind is programmed to survive and generate. We are not really adventurous by nature unless adventure tucks itself into our lives—we’re happy if life passes happily, but there’s this contradiction: When you’re in the generation phase of your life, where you have high levels of creativity, you also have high levels of hormones running through your body, telling you to do something different; something that makes you stand out, stand tall.

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When you’re in the survival phase of your life, you are continuously working towards survival—you just want to do what’s necessary and nothing more. A new-born child is in the survival mode, just like a senior citizen is.

Problems arise when your mind is torn between the two, mixing one priority with another. That’s what happens with young adults, who want to do something great in life, but simultaneously, the world around them is trying to teach them survival.

For a moment, the world around them might advise (or even force) them to shut off their creativity and work towards survival, if not greatness.

Is your life suffering because of your ghost thoughts?

When that kind of confusion happens, there are five ghosts that disturb your thought process. When you’re on the path of self-discovery, these mental situations emerge:

1. Resentment: Nothing seems perfect. People are not the way you want them to be, situations are totally opposite and your mind is guiding you the other way out. It even encourages you to quit and lead a punished life.

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2. Jealousy: Jealousy and Guilt often go together. You want to be something but you don’t want others to be what you’re not!

3. Guilt: You see people around you getting ahead in life, but you still feel that you’re going nowhere. It literally pushes your thoughts fast forward and makes you think about what isn’t going to be okay and how everyone else is doing fine.

4. Depression: When you aren’t allowed to do what you want to do, or can do, this ghost strikes.

5. Fear: Society wants you to be different. It appreciates differences, but the very reason it does that is because people surround themselves with cultural and social bonds that help people survive.

Fear discourages you, makes you feel incompetent, makes you notice all you lack. It disturbs your simplified thinking making it more diverse and logical. You can’t ignore these “ghosts: they make you anxious and overwhelmed, but you have to face them anyway. Every level of success demands a certain amount of work, and demands that you be willing enough to ignore these 5 ghosts of fear. Are you ready to pay for what it has to offer?

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After graduation, I began to study social psychology. These ghost thoughts kept appearing time to time, but, every day, I would start anew, and somehow survived them. Somehow, I’ve learned to ignore them. I learned to ignore the very reasons I should quit and go back, and thankfully, I’m not the only one who did this! There are hundreds more and many more to come!

How to ignore these 5 ghosts thoughts and stay focused

Be passionate. It sounds simple, but really that’s all there is to it: be obsessed. There’s nothing more.

I can’t tell you what to be passionate about, but I’m sure there is one thing you can’t resist doing, no matter what the cost of doing it may be. You’ve to experiment: via trial and error, you’ll find the activity you most enjoy doing. One way to determine where your passion lies is by procrastinating, of all things.

Suggesting that you procrastinate might seem like pretty dumb advice to give someone who’s already in chaos, but even in the mists of the worst procrastination, you’re doing something—when you are procrastinating, be aware that your passion is silently guiding your actions: the things you do when you procrastinate are probably the things you should be doing for the rest of your life. This isn’t necessarily because you’re passionate about it, but because your mind virtually ignores the ghost thoughts when you’re immersed in what you’re doing.

What you should learn from these ghost thoughts?

Ghost thoughts are simply a mode of survival psychology that’s created at the back of your brain. These thoughts pop up in an attempt to keep you safe, and  to keep you from taking on that adventure. If you give in to them, you’ll have to wait a long long time before you get anywhere in life.

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After graduation, I started giving interviews, and applied Ramit Sethi’s Briefcase Technique (Similar to Nap Hill’s technique on getting the perfect job you want, as described in Think and Grow Rich). I appeared in about 57 interviews over next 3 years, and my love for social psychology pushed me to cross the limits and figure out a technique that you can use whenever these brutal ghost thoughts appear.

I call it ” The Thought Stream Method“.

“The Thought Stream Method”

Here’s how you do it: keep a diary in which you can write down your day-to-day activities, and try to make a habit of doing so every evening, before you go to bed. Make two columns. Contemplate what you’ve been thinking all day, and then list your everyday thoughts in the left-hand column, and what you really need to focus on in the right column.

Here, you are actually streaming your thoughts out of your mind as you write and creating new, positive streams of incoming thoughts through subconscious notifications. With less than 5 minutes of work every evening, you’ll get up fresh and focused every morning. This technique may seem far too simple, but it does require quite a bit of daily work. Usually, it takes around a week or two to settle your mental disputes.

Ultimately, the best way to un-clutter your mind is to be utterly passionate about your goal. I could teach you a hundred techniques to help you focus, but if you are not passionate enough about a goal, you’ll lose track easily.

Featured photo credit:  Swallow in front of the sun via Shutterstock

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7 Simple Steps to Build a Successful Mindset How to Un-Clutter Your Mind and Stay Focused on Life Essentials How to Cultivate Willpower? 4 Simple Ways to stimulate your abilities to achieve your goals. How to Revamp your Life and Stop Procrastinating in Two Months

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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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