Tenacity and Your Goals: Directing Your Own Brain Chemistry Toward Success

Acquiring Tenacity through the lens of Self-Awareness is, as I mentioned in my recent article The Glory of Grit, a prime asset for any business professional. The trick is getting yourself there— a journey that can be simplified with a little curiosity, an intentional willingness to embrace that self-awareness, and a basic understanding of the brain chemistry that governs our emotional states. This time, let’s have a closer look at that brain chemistry, and see if we can’t create for you a path to success with fewer roadblocks.

Stay Gritty

Have you ever noticed yourself becoming overwhelmed, exhausted, and frankly negative? You’d find yourself saying, “This new strategy will never work” or “I don’t think we can pull this project together in time.” Such a mindset stimulates emotions like defeat, anger and hopelessness, which are the ones that alert our old reliable amygdala to the impending danger….in this case, of failure or embarrassment or even losing your job.

The forewarned amygdala then instinctively releases cortisol into the body, also known as the stress hormone, which literally fogs the mind and erodes the incentive to “get tough”. By contrast, if you embrace a growth mindset going in, you can be hopeful that a new plan will work. You’ll be inspired by the ideas that flow from discussion, and you’ll consider ways to continue learning in the future. This “hope” mindset releases the feel-better chemical oxytocin into the body, allowing you to more clearly see things as they are and maximizing the lessons learned. For instance, “We will all fail at some point, and it will happen over and again. It’s okay, and it’s simply part of the learning process”.

Recognize The Boredom

Surprisingly, it’s not just failure or the fear of failure that carves away at Tenacity and stops professionals from reaching their goals. Often, we give up, or are sidetracked, because we’re bored. The brain wants to remain stimulated perpetually (which is why email and social media use should warrant a prescription!) Just the thought of receiving email makes some people’s mouth water, and other people’s heart rates increase. Checking that inbox every 42 seconds gives the body a hit of dopamine each time. Remember: that’s the same hormone that gets stimulated by cocaine or Oreo cookies. Is it any wonder people are furiously checking their smart phones when standing on line at the supermarket? If you’re one of them, it’s time to admit that you’re addicted to email, and you feel a need to keep up the high. Think of that declaration as the first step to recovery, and to transcending the inbox enigma. To complete the process, get inspired by my recent article discussing email and your mental resilience.

Bypass The Boredom

Not every work project is glamorous. And certainly not every task you need to do associated with the project can be fun and games. When I get bored, my brain instinctively looks for something else to do. Enter: my browser, that pile of dirty dishes, rearranging my hair bands, anything but sitting down to write this article! While it’s important during the day to acknowledge the good work I’m doing, when things are a bit dry, it’s even more important to reward myself mightily. A major mindset shift to accomplish your goals is to get comfortable your own boredom. After all, procrastination is GRIT’s kryptonite.

You can address boredom in three ways, which aren’t mutually exclusive. First, try to brainwash yourself to make a project or task fun, or at least painless. For me, getting to the gym is a drag. So, I save my favorite podcasts for when I’m on the treadmill. Another issue for me is expense reports. So, I carved out some time and created a system that will simplify the process in the future. Now I’m less likely to procrastinate!

Secondly, consider enrolling an accountability partner. When I did just this, I felt supported, and the results were FAR better than they would have been if I had tackled the project on my own.

And finally, embrace the mindful aspects of your task. When I write articles, for instance, I get into the zone. I choose some background music, and even set an alarm so I don’t have to think about when it’s time for that next meeting or phone call. Plus, by acknowledging that I can always delete if the article is roaming astray, I can stay in a free-form mode and get everything onto the page before my thoughts slip away.

But remember, any way you slice it, the true key to staying motivated is to build in the celebration of your successes.

Sweet Reward!

No matter what, after a workout or completing an article, I give myself an “atta girl”. As I’ve written about, spoken about and witnessed before, the brain doesn’t chemically know the difference between a tiny success and a major triumph. I just focused for 44 minutes straight on a writing project? “Woo hoo!” I scored another new client? “Way to go!” The result each time is a hit of oxytocin— that healthy hormone which is not only euphoria-inducing, but allows us greater tenacity, connectedness, creativity and deeper thinking. Build in a “cell-ebration” at the end of each task, and literally change the way your brain cells are configured.

And now, excuse me as I reward myself with a little midday meditation!