Train Your Brain To Do Hard ThingsAug 18, 2022
The end of the year is finally here, and the trials and tribulations that many of us have faced have worn us down. With little energy left in the tank, people are struggling to do anything difficult. So, how do you train your brain to do hard things when your instant reaction is to run away and why do we?
We Are Wired To Steer Away From Things That Make Us Feel Bad
It's completely normal to want to head towards comfort rather than discomfort. In fact, we are wired to do so! This is called The Hedonic principle. Hard work, feels bad, it's simply easier to put your feet up and chuck on a Netflix series! Annoyingly, we know that hard work equates to big rewards that are not always instantaneous. Yet, we still struggle.
David Rock, author and co-founder of the Neuroleadership Institute, suggests that when decisions need to be made and we're exhausted, our brain uses easily accessible and recallable information to save mental energy. Quite often we depend on our gut feeling. However, this results in us not accounting for other variables we may need to consider before making decisions. David explains, "this is called expediency bias: doing the thing that feels right, or rushing to judgement, without properly considering all the variables." This process can also be related to the psychological principle, fluency. For example, it's easier to learn Portuguese if you're Spanish than learning Chinese.
Strategies To Overcome, "Ugh, I don't feel like it."
At the start of every day, we get a tank of energy that we can use throughout the day. And, depending on our night's sleep and our health, will determine how large our tank is. The very act of dwelling and thinking about all the hard things we need to do uses up a lot of energy. Write them down and attack each task one by one.
In 2016, PNS conducted a study and found that when an individual is upset, they're less likely to attempt to do challenging tasks. In contrast, when someone's underlying mood is happy, they're more likely to see the positive outcome and overcome discomfort easier. This study highlights the importance of looking after your health and overall wellbeing, setting boundaries and taking charge of scheduling in your self-care.
It may feel silly to say out loud or think about how a challenging task could be great, but it helps! It's about focusing your mind on how the task could benefit you and the feeling of experiencing those benefits. Feelings are strong motivators and demotivators. By changing your mindset, your attitude and motivation are likely to become more positive. For example, provide yourself with incentives. If you eat well and exercise consistently you'll feel good, look good and have more energy for the things that matter.
Don't Feed Your Instant-Gratification Monster
Challenge your bad patterns and daily habits and swap them for something better. These days, instant gratification is like a drug. When we can get things easy and quick and feel good at the same time, we're less inclined to face challenges and embrace the feeling of discomfort. Why should we cook when we can order McDonald's on UberEats? It takes too long to cook and we feel tired. Why is our worth so heavily dependent on the number of likes we get on an Instagram photo? It's too hard to accept we need to work on ourselves and easier to feed off of others' compliments.
When we feed our instant gratification monster, its stomach will expand and it only becomes more hungry. A great way to remind yourself to get outside your comfort zone is to think of yourself looking back at your life at the age of 80. If your life was a book, would it have a niche of dedicated readers? Better yet, if you were to read a whole book about your life, would you get bored? Would the story be short or would it be a series of long adventures?
Harry Potter didn't stay underneath the stairs and neither should you.
From challenges and discomfort comes growth, and reward that feels better for longer.
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