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When Unexpected Delays Happen, Take Advantage of Them

When Unexpected Delays Happen, Take Advantage of Them

“All great achievements require time.”
-Maya Angelou

You have a picture in your mind of launching and selling your handcrafted meditation cushions. You can visualize your on-line shop and imagine people buying your beautiful works of art. You’ve been working your butt off to make it happen. Long days, late nights, and gallons of coffee. You visualize your goal. It’s there just over the horizon!

Most of the pieces are now in place and it should be smooth sailing!

Then, unexpectedly, everything slows down. There’s a temporary machine malfunction at the factory that produces the cloth for the cushions. You’re frantically trying to find a material replacement but, it is a no-go.

It feels like you’re butting your head against a wall. All you have for your effort is a headache.

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Yup, been there done that!

When you start a project, you set a timeline — and now that timeline has a huge speed bump in it. All effort appears to be futile. In fact, your frustration, anger, and anxiety are making things worse.

Now what?

Turn the delay to your advantage.

“The obstacle is the path”
-Zen proverb.

The above quote might remind you of other obstacles you’ve faced along the way. If you look closely, you’ll see that each one served a purpose. (Isn’t 20/20 hindsight great?)

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These apparent obstacles helped you to grow, learn, and experience different facets of life. They were neither good nor bad, but just a part of your life’s road.

In any venture you take, be it business, relationship, or pleasure, you’ll find obstacles at some point. Since they’re bound to show up,  why not take advantage of them when they do?

Below are some ways you can do that…

Focus on the meaning of being an entrepreneur.

You can take advantage of the delay by reflecting on what it means to be an entrepreneur. Merriam-Webster on line defines an entrepreneur as a person who organizes and manages any enterprise, especially a business, usually with considerable initiative and risk.

You’ve chosen to do what you want in life. So enjoy it! See the delay for what it is…a bump in the road and an opportunity to learn something new.

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Let go of expectations.

Try to get beyond the need to hold on to how things “should be” and accept a temporary “this is what it is.” Returning to the present moment stops you from going in to the “what if” mindset. Once the need for the “should” goes, along with it goes the anxiety and pressure you feel. This clears the way for something else to appear.

Time for a break.

This may sound silly, but you may be experiencing a case of self-sabotage! Perhaps you’ve been working long hours with little sleep and your body, mind, and spirit have had enough. There is a chance you’ve inadvertently made an error that has slowed things down. Take advantage of it, and take a break to refresh. Come back with a clear mind.

Celebrate your progress.

When you’re in the midst of creating a new project, it’s easy to ignore how much you’ve accomplished. So when progress is delayed, take time to look at what you’ve done. Celebrate your accomplishments up to this point — the big ones and the little ones too. It’s okay to pat yourself on the back and feel good about what you’re doing.



Look for fresh ideas.

Often when things go wrong and you’re backed into a corner, you’re forced to discover an innovative solution. Go ahead, free up some time to find a quiet place, clear your mind and see what shows up. Take the time, it’ll be worth it.

Keep productive.

Realizing that the situation is out of your control can be very freeing. While waiting for things to move forward again, you have the time to do those things that you have been putting off: answering non-urgent emails, calling your mom, meeting with friends, or finishing that tedious task you let slip. You might even find that your productivity gets a boost.

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In all areas of life you can expect the unexpected. That doesn’t mean you sit down and bemoan your lot. No! You stop for a moment, take a look around to see what you can do and then get on with that which can be done.

Each obstacle on the path to achieving greatness can be used to learn, excel and polish your craft.

The choice is yours, stay stuck or fly! I choose to fly! How about you?

Featured photo credit: HappyMotoring/MichaelLeland 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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