Changing Habits

Keep Dopamine under Control and Reach Your Targets – Part 2

Reach Your Targets
wrote this on January 28, 2013
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On my previous post Keep Dopamine under Control and Reach Your Targets – Part 1, I discussed how our brain is wired to seek out the next shiny toy, play with it a bit and then discard it like yesterday’s trash.  It’s a behavior pattern that compromises our ability to reach our goals.

I used the term “shiny toy” to describe the next thing that we obsess about; it can be a new phone, new project, creating a new habit, developing a skill and even new interactions with someone new.  They all fall under the same category in our brain; seeking out, anticipating, receiving, and getting bored with rewards.

During the anticipation process, our decision making process and especially the cognitive appraisal component of it, gets sort of disrupted temporarily which causes us to evaluate experiences and objects in a nonobjective way – a.k.a jumping around gleefully with the new toy which ultimately leads to getting tired of it and throwing it away.

The challenge for me has always been to stick with it.  I may start running 3 miles every other day, only to stop it after two weeks, and try something new like p90x.  Once we understand the underlying issue, let’s try to answer the key question – how can we trick our mind, satiate our dopamine habit at the same time, and stay focused and on-track with our key objectives and goals?

Here are a few tips to consider:

1# Change To Reach Your Target

I can only describe it as building excitement into habits, projects and almost everything daily and routine. By planning the introduction of new ideas and concepts into my routines, my shiny toy will continue to stay shiny.

Take my running example; I may want to keep it shiny by changing my running route, buying new running shoes, running with a different partner each week, etc.  My main goal to keep fit through running remains, however, I am constantly keeping is shiny.

– Schedule an introduction of a new element prior to beginning the process of engaging in a new activity

– Make sure that it’s exciting enough to create anticipation

– Apply change

– Repeat

2# Talk To Reach Your Target

Whatever your goal, you should talk about it with friends, family, or colleagues.  There are so many benefits when others are involved. When people know what you are trying to accomplish, it will be harder for you to admit failure.  Also, this will invite others to provide feedback.  As with everything, there may be positive and negative feedback.  Make sure you absorb all constructive feedback; different viewpoints are good.  When you get other people’s input, it will constantly challenge your perception of the shiny toy, and thereby keep it shiny!

3# Review To Reach Your Target

This is probably my favorite – like Aukje Johanna Jansen-Olthuis described in her post, the review process is an excellent opportunity to complete the past, kick-start the present and design the future.

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My review process is the time I use to plan the introduction of change into my plans, implementing new ideas and concepts I’ve gathered from my peers and molding everything together to improve my own routine.

4# Visualize To Reach Your Target

As my martial arts master said – you should be practicing constantly. Training is not only in the Dojo; it’s when you are having your breakfast, riding the bus to school, etc.  Whatever our objective or target, we can use our brain to actively look for possible new patterns in existing routines.  Visualizing the target allows you to take a look into a possible future and anticipate both risks and rewards.

This helps you to come up with new ways to do something you’re already doing, improving the process, and keeping it shiny.  It also helps you avoid risks which in turn build confidence in what you’re doing and eliminating debilitating uncertainties.

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