Settings Goals: Trigger Rewards in your Brain

Many of us spend every New Years Day writing goals for ourselves. But how many of us actually see these goals through?

When we set unreachable goals for ourselves, we either forget about them, or we give up. We might find that piece of paper down the road and feel ashamed at ourselves for not doing what we said we would. We lose self-trust when we don’t keep those promises to ourselves.

Or maybe 6 months later, you wake up and realize your life is completely the same as it was on New Years Day. Nothing has changed and you’ve made no progress.

But did you know there’s a way to set short-term manageable goals? Instead of setting annual goals for yourself, you can set daily goals. As you check the boxes off your to-do list every day, you actually cheat your brain’s rewards center to motivate you to achieve even more goals.

Keep reading to find out how to organize your goal setting routine for maximum productivity!

How does achieving goals affect your brain?

Dopamine is truly one of our brain’s favorite neurotransmitters. It’s known as the “feel-good” hormone because it makes us feel great.

It’s known to be dangerously addictive, and it’s the reason why many people get linked on bad habits that trigger dopamine (such as junk food or drugs).

Basically, it’s a neurotransmitter that is released anytime we get something we want.

Psychology Today writes, “It’s possible to manipulate your dopamine levels by setting small goals and then accomplishing them.” If you keep a promise to yourself, no matter how small it is, your brain experiences a dose of dopamine.

Psychology Today continues, “Each time your brain gets a whiff of this rewarding neurotransmitter, it will want you to repeat the associated behavior.”

This means that chores that used to be your least favorite will begin to make you happy.

Whether it be working out or mopping the floors, you will begin to enjoy the tasks that used to feel like work.

How to Maximize Dopamine Levels

The reason the annual goals are so hard is because they don’t release a lot of dopamine. Plus, there’s no dopamine released on the way to reaching the goal.

Let’s think about it in terms of someone who wants to increase their healthy habits. On New Years, this person might write that they want to work out more often and eat healthier. But these aren’t specific enough and they’re too long-term.

A better approach would be to write down these goals on New Years, sure, but dive deeper than that! What will your weeks look like? What will your days look like?

What is the actual routine that you will have to follow to reach your goals?

I love using my planner and just making monthly, weekly, and daily checklists for myself. I always invest in a high-quality, cute agenda, and I write down everything in there. Everything from freelance writing projects that I have due, to the days I am going to cycle, to the cleaning tasks I want to complete.

And when I finish those daily goals, the more I will want to complete more goals that day, week, and month. Checking those boxes makes you feel better because of the dopamine rush it gives your brain.

Break bigger goals into smaller goals.

So rather than a goal of completing a huge project, break it down into individual goals and tasks you can check off. For example, when I’m working on a freelance project for a client, one blog will have multiple boxes I can check off: researched, drafted, edited, and sent!

See what I mean? You can probably continuously keep breaking down each goal into even smaller goals that detail where you’re at in a project. You can continuously reach certain goals within your project, and that will continue to motivate you to reach the rest of your project goals, plus your own personal ones, too.

Every chore is better when you get to check something off after, right?

Make sure your goals are achievable and realistic.

Don’t set goals you know you can’t achieve. If you never work out, and all of a sudden you set the goal that you’re going to work out every day of the week, then you’re probably setting yourself up for failure.

At the end of the first week, if you’ve only worked out 6 days out of 7, you’ll feel like you failed. But if you set a more realistic goal of working out 3-4 times per week, then when you work out 6 days, you’ll feel like a winner! See how the shift in mindset is all that’s needed?

Especially when it comes to short-term goals, they have to be realistic!

We’re animals at the end of the day!

Think about it: many people train their dogs with treats. The treats release dopamine in the dog’s brain, and the dog learns to repeat the behavior to continue to feel good.

You can train yourself using dopamine, too! You’ll learn to set your goals, achieve them, experience a dopamine rush, and continue to be motivated to crush even more goals.

It doesn’t matter what type of goals you’re setting. These dopamine rushes will trigger rewards in your brain, which will motivate you to continue doing well in your life!

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