As we all know, working towards our goals is not always bright and shiny. It gets hard. We want to give up. Sometimes it involves hard work, grit and determination. And that’s what makes our sense of achievement all the more satisfying. When we can sit back and enjoy the feeling of overcoming all the obstacles that came our way.
So how do we keep going when the going gets tough?
This is where neuroscience comes in. The key to motivation and perseverance is a natural brain chemical called dopamine. It influences the reward centres in our brain and is what gets us interested in something and keeps us coming back to it.
Taken too far, dopamine is what drives addictive behaviours but, when cultivated in healthy doses, it can keep us going towards our goals and what’s most important to us.
Here’s how can you use dopamine to your advantage for achieving your goals…
1. Set yourself small wins
We’ve all heard the advice to break goals into small, manageable pieces. And while not new, it is wise advice, especially when you consider it in the context of neuroscience. Research shows that small incremental steps are the best way to achieve lasting positive change. They may not be as exciting as giant leaps and bounds, but they sure do add up – and they can change your brain chemistry in positive ways.
2. Celebrate the small wins
Related to the above approach, when we fail to stop and celebrate the small wins because we haven’t reached the big goal yet, we’re robbing ourselves of a sense of satisfaction. Small goals and small wins give you small and regular doses of dopamine, keeping you motivated and encouraged to keep moving forward.
3. Frame the process positively
Of course, things get difficult and don’t always go as planned. And this is where a growth mindset is all-important. Instead of viewing perseverance as a hard slog, try to think of it as a way to boost your skills, resilience and confidence. Instead of letting it wear you down, view it as making you strong. Making the effort to focus on the benefits of what you’re experiencing will keep your dopamine flowing and help you to keep going towards those things that really matter to you.
How could you apply these principles of neuroscience towards achieving your goals?