Monday, February 13, 2017

You Need Clarity of Purpose to Succeed

Your direction defines what you do every day. Clarifying not only your purpose but your direction reinforces your ultimate life purpose. You should have a clear understanding of what you want next month, next quarter or next year.
Think about it: When you feel unclear about a goal, you have difficulty achieving it. And if you don’t know why you should do something, you lack committed to taking action.

Napoleon Hill once said “There is one quality that one must possess to win, and that is definiteness of purpose, the knowledge of what one wants, and a burning desire to possess it.

People who are constantly striving to achieve something meaningful in life crave clarity. It’s the only way to reach deeper into yourself to find out what makes you come alive. We all start from somewhere confusing, because you probably like to do a lot of things. But once you define your purpose, you will become unstoppable.

Successful people have a definite sense of direction. They have a clear understanding of what success means to them. Everything they do is consistent with their goals. They look forward and decide where they want to be. Their day to day actions help them move closer to their vision.

Once you find your why, you will be more careful and selective about your daily actions. In the words of Margie Warrell, Author of “Brave”:
“Knowing your why is an important first step in figuring out how to achieve the goals that excite you and create a life you enjoy living (versus merely surviving!). Indeed, only when you know your ‘why’ will you find the courage to take the risks needed to get ahead, stay motivated when the chips are down, and move your life onto an entirely new, more challenging, and more rewarding trajectory.”
Great visions aren’t hard to think up; committing to them and carrying them out is the problem!
Without a purpose, it’s easy to pursue things that you “think you should be doing”

“Existence is a strange bargain. Life owes us little; we owe it everything. The only true happiness comes from squandering ourselves for a purpose.” — William Cowper

According to Deepak Chopra, M.D., founder of The Chopra Foundation and co-founder of The Chopra Center for Wellbeing, what most people find when they look inside themselves are:
Confusion: this manifests as not setting clear priorities because the path ahead doesn’t look clear and decisive.
Distraction: this manifests as a hundred small things that pull your attention this way and that.
Disorganisation: this manifests as a lack of orderly thinking that leads to productive results.

Most people’s lives are still not perfectly clear. It’s a struggle almost every adult goes through. “What do I want to do with my life?” “What do I not suck at?” Millions of people have no clue what they want to do with themselves. And that’s okay.

No assessment is going to provide you with immediate clarity and sense of purpose. Seeking clarity in uncertain times can be a daunting experience, and it can be very stressful if the solutions you seek don’t appear when you need them.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

The crimes against dopamine

Dopamine is in the cultural zeitgeist. Want to lose weight? Eat the Dopamine Diet. Want to dress happy? Try Dopamine Dressing. Want to be a Silicon Valley hi-tech entrepreneur genius? Boost your dopamine. Want to feel constant pleasure? Stuff as much dopamine in your noggin as you can.
Craving that dopamine hit? Then check your phone. Read a story. Watch an advert. Or visualise something good happening.

Dopamine will enhance your mental prowess, give you the figure you always dreamed of, and make you happy. Not bad for a lowly chemical sloshing around in your brain. And all of it utter rubbish.
Here’s what it does. Dopamine either changes fast or slow. Fast changes are an error signal. Slow changes are a motivation signal. That’s it.

Dopamine: fast and slow. Error and motivation. These correspond to two different ways dopamine is released. One way is a precise, short, large spike in the amount of dopamine, in a small region of brain. The other way is all the time, creating a constant, low concentration soup of dopamine sitting around in many regions of your brain.

(A couple of things to get out of the way. Dopamine is in many places in the brain. There’s some in your eyeball, for example. But when the media says “dopamine” it means the dopamine releasing neurons in small groups in the middle of the brain. And they also mean where those neurons release their dopamine: a big brain region tucked up nice and warm just under your cortex: the striatum).
How is that precise, short, large spike an error signal? Say you wandered into my house unannounced and, instead of throwing you out on your ear, I offered you a chocolate biscuit (McVities, obviously). Your dopamine neurons would burst into life, spiking dopamine. They signalled the error between what you predicted (being forcibly ejected with a hoof to the bum) and what you received (a nice biscuit). This prediction error was in your favour – it was a positive error.

Say I asked you to turn up at my house at 3 o’clock so I could you give you a chocolate biscuit. You turn up at 3 o’clock, and I give you the promised biscuit. What do your dopamine neurons do? Sod all. You predicted you’d get a biscuit at 3 o’clock, you got a biscuit at 3 o’clock; all is right with the world. Nothing surprising is going on. There was no error.

What if, when you turned up at 3 o’clock, I didn’t give you that chocolate biscuit? What if I just blithely ignored your presence instead? Then your dopamine neurons would briefly pause their activity, stopping the release of dopamine. They signalled the error between what you predicted (a chocolate biscuit) and what you received (nothing). This prediction error was not in your favour – it was a negative error.

This is what fast dopamine does: it signals the error between what you predicted and what you got. That error can be positive, negative, or zero.
It is not reward. Dopamine neurons do not fire when you get something good. They fire when you get something unexpected. And they sulk when you don’t get something you expected. Rewards make you happy. Dopamine does not.