The Neuroscience of Achieving Goals

I like listening the Huberman lab podcast.

Andrew is really good at distilling research and studies into small bits of practical advice.

The two biggest lessons I've garnered from his podcast are to get sunlight exposure in the morning for ~5 minutes, and physiological sigh is effective in reducing anxiety and stress.

In his episode on goal setting and achieving goals, he shares 8 science-backed strategies.

They can be broken down into three main categories:

  1. Goal Setting: how do we set the right goals?
    • The 85% Rule — you should set your goals so that you achieve them 85.13% of the time (failing 15% of the time despite your best efforts)
    • Make A Plan — set SMART goals, create a specific set of action steps that get right down to details about what success would look like.
    • Imagine The Worst — write down/talk about how bad it will be if you don't achieve your goals, it’s motivating to think about what it will be like if you fail.
  2. Goal Execution: how do actually do the actions required to achieve our goals?
    • Outsmart Your Obstacles — identify potential obstacles ahead of time and then planning out how to defeat them (foreshadow failure).
    • Procrastinate with Other Tasks — pre-task multitasking before a work session can actually help you generate adrenaline and get you into action.
    • Focus Your Eyes to Focus Your Mind — Focus your visual attention on a single point for 30-60 seconds, it increases levels of systolic blood pressure and adrenaline.
  3. Goal Persistence: how do we stick with our goals?
    • Have A Weekly Check In — review the progress you’ve made on your goals once a week, “dopamine milestone” — a pit stop where you signal to your brain that things are moving forward.
    • Reward Your Effort — the next time you make an effort on something important — take note, and then take pride. Celebrate progress, not perfection, pat yourself on the brain.

To go more in-depth into these strategies, read this article.