We all have goals. Some are easier to achieve than others. And some are better at reaching their goals than others. The problem with reaching a goal is that it involves making changes, and that is something our mind generally resists. Our mind, psychologists have found, tends to prefer the familiar, the routine, rather than something new.
So, how can we get our mind out of this rut and ready to embrace movement toward a goal? Here are a few techniques based on psychology.
1. Connect the goal with a habit.
For example, you brush your teeth every night. That is your habit. But you would also like to rinse your mouth with mouthwash – this is your goal. The problem is that sometimes you remember to rinse, sometimes you do not.
The brain changes a goal into a habit through the use of certain chemicals that are released. And the best way to get those chemicals released is to be consistent about your goal. For example, if you want to rinse with mouthwash, be consistent about doing it. Do it at the same time every night, or always do it after you brush your teeth. The more regular the behavior, the easier it is for your brain to make it into a habit.
2. Change your location
Moving to a new location can also help you to make progress toward a goal. Psychological research has revealed that the brain is very good about linking location with a particular behavior. In fact, one psychologist recommends changing a behavior while on vacation because the usual environmental cues are missing.
So if you are having trouble making progress toward a goal, change your space. For example, do you usually read the newspaper at the coffee shop rather than write? Try sitting in a different spot to help you get your writing done.
3. Give yourself a reward
This is a unique kind of reward, however. It’s the reward the brain gives to itself when it accomplishes something or gets something it wants. The reward is in the form of a neurotransmitter called dopamine. When this chemical is released, it literally gives us a pleasurable sensation. So, you can use dopamine to your advantage by breaking down your long-range goals into little ones that are more easily accomplished. When you do achieve one of these smaller goals, you brain will release dopamine, which can act as an incentive to keep going.
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