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Live It

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Driving-Hell-And-Dopamine

Today I had a nightmare journey to Birmingham… or at least it was meant to be to Birmingham but I only got as far as the Cambridge junction and turned around to come home again after spending 2 hours stationery on a 3 mile stretch of the A14 in one of the worst traffic jams I’ve been in (and hopefully the last!). So, what was meant to be a day learning all about advanced Google Adwords techniques instead became a 5 hour journey up the A11 and back. But it was not all wasted time, as I was listening to one of my recent downloads on Audible: The Willpower Instinct by Kelly McGonigal (http://amzn.to/1EMfBen) and what a fabulous book it is.

The Willpower InstinctI’m about half way through now and it’s jam packed with gems about why we feel driven to act the way we do and how we can increase our willpower; let’s just say that our cavewomen instincts and dopamine have a lot to answer for when we reach for that chocolate bar!

There are a few key points that have jumped out at me from todays listening session and I wanted to share them with you:

Dopamine I have discovered is a sneaky devil; studies have shown that it kicks in to give us a drive to do something (there have been some fascinating studies done on both rats and humans around this). It creates a feeling of anticipation, arousal even, at the prospect of getting/trying/doing something that might just bring us the pleasure/result we are craving. Whether that be the tasty looking cake, a new book or that advert that promises to put an end to all your worries. But what’s really interesting is that the resulting feeling that you get after you’ve actually indulged is more of anxiety or relief rather than the feeling of bliss that the dopamine promised.

Going back to cavewoman times, we needed that drive (aka dopamine) to get us to take action and stay alive. In today’s world however, we don’t need that so much. Certainly we don’t need to be munching on sugary and fatty foods to last through a bleak winter, nor is that top in a new shade of purple going to ensure we don’t get caught out in the cold. But we still have those feelings and that drive to have them. The good news is that once we become aware of when Dopamine is calling the shots we can make a conscious choice as to what we do next instead of acting purely on impulse.

Another thing that struck me was the effect that just having a choice where one option is a good choice and once not-so-good actually increases the chance of you NOT choosing the better option. Crazy huh!? A couple of examples for you;

MacDonalds saw a surge in BigMac sales after launching the healthy eating options. When people considered that they had the option to eat a healthy choice it made them feel good and so they ordered the less healthy option, usually based on the thinking that they ‘could’ have ordered the healthy. There’s a strange correlation between thinking about making a healthy choice and that being enough reason to order the burger, without the guilt.

It applies everywhere; even with to do lists. Often the act of simply writing the to do list makes us feel like we’ve accomplished something great, so we feel happy to take the rest of the afternoon off as a ‘reward’ for a good job done, when in fact we should be focusing on the outcome of finishing the list and the rewarding ourselves at the end, when we’ve actually ticked them all off, rather than just the list making bit (though if you’re anything like me, sometimes just getting that list out of your head and on paper feels like a job worthy of a reward! LOL).

This links in with the human nature of instant gratification:

Another study saw that when students were asked to choose between instant gratification in the form of a money prize now or a bigger prize next week, after being told that they would be offered the same choice next week, the majority opted for the money up front. They said it was on the basis that they would make the ‘better’ choice next week. When in fact only 36% of them, the following week, actually opted for the long-term gain over instant gratification.

This was also the case with studies asking people bout their gym habits – nearly all of them were overly optimistic about how much exercise they would do in the next few weeks. Funnily enough, when it clearly asked people to be very realistic and honest they were even more optimistic with their answers. When the scientists checked in again 2 weeks later very few had hit the targets that they had said they would.

We have a habit of thinking that tomorrow will be different from today; that things will be easier, we’ll have more time, there will be more money etc. We put things off until tomorrow and then do the same over and again because it can feel easier than facing up to making a change now.

When in actual fact we should be thinking about how things are right now and how we can realistically do things that take us towards our goal. Creating small ‘rules’ that we can action every day that put us back in the driving seat and support our efforts so that we really can achieve our goals. Shift our thinking from instant gratification and instead focus on the long term benefits.

This is literally the tiniest snippet from the book and if you find it interesting I suggest you read it.

The main takeaway for me today was how we need to get fully conscious with what we’re doing and be aware of how we’re feeling and why.

There are copious things out there trying to distract us from our goal but when we know WHAT we want and most importantly, we know WHY we want it then we can keep ourselves on track.

I’m not talking a hazy ‘I want to because it would be great’ type why – I’m talking a deep down, soul searching, heart resonating, MUST of a why that when you think of it your dopamine kicks in and actually HELPS you make the choices that will deliver your goal.

Whether that be hitting your income targets, growing your list, writing your blogs, launching your business, losing weight getting fit – whatever! As long as it matters to you, deep down, and you have a reason to do it then you will have your:

  • I won’t
  • I will
  • I want

For example:

  • I won’t do jobs that are meaningless and waste my valuable time
  • I will focus on my success plan and take steady steps every day
  • I want to hit my profit target of £100,000 BECAUSE (the why!)…. I want to take my family on holiday/buy a house/feel amazing…. etc.

Insert your on answers above!

As every I would LOVE to hear your thoughts on this and if it resonated with you. Please comment below and tell me how you feel.

Love Sophie x