When you set a goal, do you persevere and achieve it by doing what ever it takes or do you fizzle out when things get uncomfortable for too long?
Perseverance is one of the best gifts you can give to yourself. It builds confidence to challenge yourself and ambition to reach higher. Virtually everything we enjoy in life is a result of goals that were set and then met throughout time, but why is it easier for some than others? I used to think that being a go-getter was just a simple personality trait, but it’s way more scientific than that and it takes repetition. Would you be surprised to know that perseverance is a habit that is actually reinforced by the dopamine in your brain? Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that helps control your feelings of reward and pleasure.
“It does not matter how slowly you go as long as you do not stop.”
Whether it’s one small task you told yourself you needed to cross off your daily to-do list or a significant task that you’ve been chipping away at for months, once you mentally mark it done dopamine is released and “feeling good” ensues, if even for a brief moment. The consistent release of dopamine following the sense of achievement, either consciously or subconsciously, is important to keep dopamine reserves available for future habit and achievement reinforcement.
Do you have goals but can’t seem to stick with the actions that it takes to reach them? Those who consistently don’t “feel accomplished” or have low motivation can suffer from apathy caused by low dopamine levels.
The great news is, you can turn this around with intentional practice. By looking for smaller (or otherwise insignificant) opportunities of achievement, you can actually build and tap into your dopamine stores. It could be as simple as resisting a donut in the break room, having ice tea instead of soda, or even taking a walk around the block. Once you make it a consistent habit of feeling accomplished, you can start to rebuild your dopamine stores which will allow you to slowly start setting and achieving goals on a larger scale.
“Let me tell you the secret that has led to my goal. My strength lies solely in my tenacity.”
The simple act of marking tasks off a list will release dopamine and increase one’s productivity. This helps explain why many people do well with to-do lists. I hear all the time from clients, that being able to check the box and having that habit task fall off their program list makes them feel so good! When clients come to me, I assign them habit actions in an order that make sense and build on one another, similar to learning math. The actions should be challenging, yet sustainable enough to allow the repetitive release of our reward chemical. The feeling of “doable discomfort” is the perfect foundation for practicing the habit of perseverance by tapping the reward center of the brain. You can do the same to build the habit of perseverance!
Increase Your Perseverance With These 6 Tips
- Deconstruct your big goals into smaller ones which will increase the frequency of achievement and positive reinforcement from your brain’s reward center. For example, instead of setting a goal of losing 30 lbs in 6 months, break down into a goal of losing 5 lbs a month or 1-2 lbs a week for 6 months. Don’t forget to celebrate the small daily wins along the way.
- Formulate a plan by considering what actions or habits need to be carried out for your deconstructed goal timeline. Sequence them in an order that makes sense and builds on your strengths first.
- Write it down and post it somewhere visible. Until your goal is written down, it’s just a wish or dream. Studies show that writing out goals and action plans create ownership and increase success rates.
- Create realistic deadlines for increased dopamine release. Motivation and actions are positively driven by realistic deadlines and time constraints which create a healthy sense of urgency.
- Remember your Why’s when things start getting tough. You knew when setting the goal it would not be easy but moved forward with it anyway. Don’t let your “whys” get drowned out by the “why nots” when things get uncomfortable. The more grit it takes to achieve your goals, the more rewarding they will be.
- Celebrate all achievements no matter the size. Don’t underestimate the power of conscious acknowledgment for all achievements, big or small. These regular dopamine rewards will build momentum and provide staying power.
“Success is the sum of small efforts, repeated day in and day out.”
Whether the goals you’re working towards are personal, athletic, professional, or health related, the repetitive “mental payoff” of performing the habits necessary pave the road to perseverance and the achievement of goals. Opportunites to feel accomplished are EVERYWHERE, all you have to do is look for them. Consistency is the key for building and tapping your dopamine stores to keep you motivated to create the life you want through perseverance.
Until next time…
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