Day without intention is a day wasted. Powerful words but it’s absolutely true in my case. There are days when I come to office, do something and while going home, in my car I think what did I do whole day? I feel uneasy like I wasted my whole day. I am sure many people have this kinda feeling time to time. Isn’t it?
And then there are days, when I feel energetic & happy about what I did whole day, feeling of completeness, sense of purpose. I put up my best music and pour a glass of wine, I enjoy my ride back home even with bay area traffic.
One day, I thought what’s the difference between good and bad day. Why do I feel happy sometimes after work and sometimes feel miserable. Is it kind of work? Is it meetings? Is it interaction with someone? And I couldn’t find single concrete answer based on my activities during the day. Somedays with many meetings, I feel good because whole quarter just got planned while on the other days with meetings, I feel I wasted my time. Somedays, with lot of coding work, I feel I didn’t get anything done while some other days, even with few lines of code, I feel like I have conquered the world and moving towards something big.
So, I thought let me be note my happy feeling days and frustrated feeling days. After couple of weeks, pattern start to emerge. What I found was I feel really energetic and satisfied on the days when I have my goal set for day, I tell myself this is what needs to be done and I can finish it today. Not tomorrow, not day after tomorrow. TODAY!
Every time, I setup my goal, backed by action plan and finish the job at hand, it gives me immense pleasure. And that was the trick.
Dopamine: neurotransmitter which controls the brain reward and pleasure centers.
There is scientific reason behind this happiness. It’s called “dopamine”. It’s the famous organic chemical which gets released in body when you achieve your goal, It feels awesome. Dopamine control the brain’s reward and pleasure centers.
Remember that feeling when you see your goal and suddenly you get hidden energy. Like marathon runner, when he see his finish line, somehow,,he kicks in his reserves and pickup speed. It’s all dopamine.
When we see our goal, we get small hit of dopamine, when we feel little closer to our goal we get another shot of dopamine. And biological reason of this is to get things done.
That’s why we should write down our goals, we are visual animals. When we imagine ourselves at our goal, dopamine starts to work and we don’t even realize it. That’s why writing down our goals are so important. Warning: Dopamine is so successful as pleasure chemical that it’s and used in alcohol, nicotine, gambling and highly addictive.
I had a friend, married with two kids. That means no time for doing anything else. But he really really wanted to get into Harvard MBA programs. He knew his path was tough and he had to be really motivated to get this goal. After lot of preparation and hard word, he finally got into Harvard and when I asked him how did he kept himself motivated. He told me that he flew to Boston and got his picture taken right in front of Harvard business school and he kept that in front of him all the while he was preparing and that kept him going.
So, it’s very important that you imagine yourself what you want to be?
Generally, there are two obstacles to achieve your goal.
Others: One is external like people coming to you and telling you that you can’t do that,,you are not good enough. This obstacle is easy to overcome. Whenever anybody tells you that you can’t do something then just ask “why”. Majority of those won’t have any answer to “why” and for those who has answer to your “why”, listen to them, analyze what they are saying and you will find a solution to that. These people just helped you overcome your obstacle by telling you. You didn’t have to fail to learn this.
Self-doubt Second one obstacle is bigger and harder to come over. Second is ourself. When we start to doubt ourselves then that become a bigger problem. What comes after “I am” or “I can” is crucial to set our internal goals. When I say “I am bad programer”, “lousy engineer”, our mind is noticing all this and setting us up to become exactly that. Mind is picturing exactly what we are saying because that’s what you are imagining. On the other hand, when you say “I am hard working”, “I want to join Harvard MBA program”, “I can do sky diving” you are imagining yourself doing this and that’s the first step towards achieving your goal. We have to be specific because humans are visual animals. If we don’t see our goal, we don’t get that shot of dopamine. Goal must be specific.
New year is perfect time to see this in play. People say “I want to lose weight” and they are back to what they were doing even before January ends. On the other hand, When people say, “I want to be good at public speaking by giving 10 speeches this year”. They have specific plan, goal in mind.
In the end, Specific goals backed by solid action plan achieves things and you feel like you are thriving rather than surviving.