How Our Brains Stop Us Achieving Our Goals and How to Fight Back

2K Flares Filament.io Made with Flare More Info'> 2K Flares ×

As admittedly wonderful and fascinating as the human brain is, it definitely can feel like our brain is out to get us sometimes.

Summed up perfectly in the many observations of the “Scumbag Brain” meme, our brain does seem to engage in “sabotage” in terms of how it naturally reacts to situations.

The scary thing is that in some circumstances, these feelings are backed up by actual research!

We’ve already discussed how poorly our brain operates while multitasking (despite tricking us to feel fulfilled while we do it), and today I’d like to expand upon 5 new dangers present in our ‘scumbag brains.’

In this post you’ll learn how to combat your brain’s own brilliance, overcoming it’s instinctual reactions which often have devastating effects on those all-important long term goals that you set for yourself.

Let’s get started!

1.) Your brain can hurt your goals by fantasizing too much

Would you believe that fantasizing is the #1 way your brain can unintentionally ruin your goals?

It seems unlikely, right?

The thing is, the proof is in the pudding (or in this case, the research): psychologists have found that while positive thinking about the future is broadly beneficial, too much fantasy can have disastrous results on achieving goals.

Researchers tracked the progress of how people cope with four different types of challenges.

As an example, in one of those challenges (trying to find a fulfilling job), those who had spent the most time fantasizing performed the worst in a variety of critical data points:

  • they had applied for fewer jobs
  • they had been offered fewer jobs
  • if they were able to find work, they had lower salaries.

Why?

Why could fantasizing about a positive end take a turn for the worse?

Jeremy Dean, a psychological researcher at UCL London and the owner of PsyBlog had this to say about the researcher’s conclusions:

The problem with positive fantasies is that they allow us to anticipate success in the here and now. However, they don’t alert us to the problems we are likely to face along the way and can leave us with less motivation—after all, it feels like we’ve already reached our goal.

It’s one way in which our minds own brilliance lets us down. Because it’s so amazing at simulating our achievement of future events, it can actually undermine our attempts to achieve those goals in reality.

Our poor brain is thus a victim of itself.

Again, this is not to say that visualizing goals is necessarily a haphazard strategy for achieving them, it’s just that we need to be aware of the dangers of excessive fantasy.

Instead of being entranced with what the future may bring, we need to learn to love the work here and now.

Enjoying our day by day progress and realistic ‘checkpoints’ is a much more practical way to create our future; getting lost in grandiose dreams that focus on the ultimate end is not.

As they say, don’t give up on your dreams, but don’t fall under their spell either.

2.) Your brain procrastinates on big projects by visualizing the worst parts

Procrastination, of all of the things on this list, is likely the most recognizable: everybody realizes that they procrastinate from time to time, and it’s something we are forced to battle with every day.

How can we fight this persistent opponent?

Interesting research from Russian psychologist Bluma Zeigarnik (of whom the Zeigarnik Effect is named after) reveals to us an interesting tidbit about the human mind: we are better at remembering things that are partially done.

Ms. Zeigarnik came to this conclusion by testing the memory of folks doing simple “brain” tasks like puzzles or crafts.

She then interrupted them and asked them to recall (with specific detail) the tasks that they were doing or had completed.

She found that people were twice as likely to recall more detail about the tasks they had been interrupted in than in the tasks they had completed.

What does this have to do with procrastination?

Before we get to that, know this: in a study by Kenneth McGraw, participants were given a very tricky puzzle to solve with an “unlimited” amount of time.

The thing is, all of the participants were interrupted before they could finish, and then told that the study was over.

Guess what happened next…

Despite being told they were done, nearly 90% of participants continued working on the puzzle anyway.

What both of these studies teach us is that when people finally manage to start something, they are much more inclined to remember the task and finish it.

The Zeigarnik Effect and the subsequent McGraw study assure us that the best way to beat procrastination is to start somewhere… anywhere.

Our brain has the habit of envisioning the impending huge workload of an upcoming task.

It also tends to focus on the most difficult parts or sections, and this is where procrastination begins to set in: as we try to avoid the “hard work”, we find ways to skate around it and trick ourselves into thinking that we’re busy.

Just starting though, triggers our brain in a different way.

It’s the same way that cliffhangers are utilized to keep us coming back to our favorite TV shows; we’re primed to remember the last episode because the story was interrupted, and our brain wants a conclusion.

It’s the same with your tasks: start, and your brain will overcome the first hurdle.

This seemingly small milestone appears to be the most important one to overcome if you wish to defeat procrastination.

After starting a task, your brain will be more enticed to finish it to it’s “conclusion.”

You also tend to see that it’s not as big a mountain as you initially imagined, and that the work involved in completing this task won’t be so terrifying after all.

 

3.) Your brain will “abandon ship” at the first sign of distress

Anyone who’s fought the good fight with dieting will likely recognize this phenomenon.

Envision this:

You’re on a diet, and have been doing well for about 2 1/2 weeks, but you know your defenses are at risk.

To make matters worse, you’re having dinner with friends tonight.

Instead of the healthy meal you could have made at home, you’re forced to use a restaurant menu.

The problem is this: At the bar before dinner, you had a little “cheat” moment by ordering snacks and drinks, after all, you’re with your pals tonight, right?

You know that those drinks and snacks, combined with the bread you had before dinner, leave you with one option to stay a bit over your caloric intake goals: you must eat a salad.

The thing is, your brain is yelling out “BURGER!”.

Instead of finishing the day a tad over your 2000 calorie goal, you order the burger with fries and don’t look back.

The crazy thing about this scenario?

It’s much more than a momentary act of weakness: psychologists have observed that this is much more likely to happen as a result of you missing a previously set goal.

Specifically, in research by Janet Polivy and her colleagues, people who were actually on diets were tested with pizza and cookies.

In the study, two groups of participants (those on diets and those not dieting) were told not to eat beforehand and then served exactly the same slice of pizza when they arrived to the lab.

Afterwards, they were then asked to taste and rate some cookies (I’m getting hungry already : )).

The thing was, the experimenters didn’t really care about the cookie’s rating, they just wanted to see how many people ate.

This is because they tricked some of the participants into thinking that they had recieved a larger slice than the others (using framing and false information). This was to make them believe that they had most certainly “ruined” their diet goals for the day.

The result?

When the cookies were weighed, it turned out that those who were on a diet and thought they’d blown their limit ate more of the cookies than those who weren’t on a diet.

This doesn’t paint the true picture though: they ate over 50% more!

On the flipside, the dieters that did think that they were in their caloric limit ate the same amount of cookies as those who weren’t on a diet at all.

Truly, our brain is geared towards a call of “Abandon ship!”, whenever we come short of our goals.

Don’t let this happen to you!

The best way to combat your brain from signaling ‘Mission Abort!’ after you’ve missed a short-term goal is to re-frame what just happened.

Yes, you did fall short or maybe mess up this time, but remember the progress that you’ve made.

With the diet example, you could look at all of the “good days” you’ve accumulated thus far: even if you fell after only a few days of starting your new diet, it’s still an accomplishment to have started one and to have set long-term goals for yourself.

Short-term lapses in your end-goal is not like a bad apple spoiling the bunch: you have gotten things accomplished so far and you need to stay focused on the long term, not become distraught by a single mishap.

Research tells us that this is the best mindset to take for misfortune and failure in general: your progress and achievements go so much farther than that slip-up; don’t let your brain convince you that all is lost!

 

4.) Your brain loves mindless busywork disguised as progress

How fitting that this should be posted on a site that relates to social media!

One of the ways in which your brain continues it’s trickery is through busywork: work that gets “something” done, but not something that produces any measurable results.

In fact, research by John Bargh and colleagues reveals that our brain just loves to become robotic and to even mimic people out of habit.

I shouldn’t have to tell you that this is disastrous to achieving long term goals!

In fact, this is one of the main reasons that I love Buffer for social media use: it keeps me from logging into Twitter 8 times a day and instead allows me to focus on my writing and on my business.

This busy work is often a mechanism our brain uses in cohesion with avoiding big projects (mentioned above): instead of diving into the difficult tasks we KNOW we should get done, we’ll instead float around doing semi-related (read: barely related) menial tasks to make ourselves feel productive without actually getting anything done.

Here’s the thing: you’re not going to build a thriving business or a successful blog with that kind of busywork.

It takes doing the hard work and it takes deliberate practice, there’s no way around it.

The thing is, your brain knows this, that’s why you have to remind it remind yourself that the challenging stuff is often the stuff that produces the results you desire.

Also remember that you can fight that procrastination by just getting started.

When you look back at what you’ve gotten done by the end of the day, make sure you’re proud of what you got accomplished, don’t let your brain ruin your goals by diverting you from what needs to be done!

 

5.) Your brain is not good at “winging it” when it comes to planning… ever!

Every night before I go to sleep, I like to write a simple “to-do” list that I group into two categories.

I put some in category ‘A’ (must be done tomorrow) and some in category ‘B’ (must be worked on or done in 2-3 days).

I do this because when I sit down at the computer to do work without a plan, I tend to fall flat on my face.

My so called “work time” turns into the not-so-productive “check email time” or “browse Reddit” time; nothing of any importance gets done.

It seems that I’m not alone!

In research by Gollwitzer and colleagues, the subject of “if-then” plans was discussed in relation to how we set and stay consistent with out goals, and the results are not surprising but reveal a lot of insight into how our brain reacts to planning (and even some great tips).

The thing is, researchers found that not only do well laid plans seem to get accomplished more often, but planning for failures along the way (“In case of emergency…”) helps people stay on task under duress.

Let’s continue our diet example from above.

Say you did have that lapse and go over your calories for the day.

Instead of “winging it” and letting your brain crumble to it’s likely response (discussed above), you should have a backup plan ready to know what to do when failure strikes.

This could be something like: “If I go over 2000 calories in a day, I’ll finish the day as close to 2000 as I can, and then the next morning, I’ll go for a 15 minute run as a ‘penance’, make sure I eat an extra healthy breakfast, and then continue the rest of my day as normal.”

You are likely no stranger to feeling ashamed about getting off track, we’ve all been there.

Having those “In case of emergency…” plans help us to have a gameplan in case we do falter, and including a small ‘penance’ like I discussed above can help us get over it quicker.

If you failed on your diet for a day and then ‘punish’ (again, just with a quick run) yourself by running in the morning, you can go about your day knowing that you got what you deserved, instead of sliding down the slippery slope of guilt through the rest of the day.

So remember to include an “If-Then” plan for your next big goal, you’ll be able to beat back your brain’s guilt over slipping up now and then and you won’t have to ever “wing it” in case something goes wrong!

 

Over To You

Thanks for making it to the bottom of my post!

If you’re wondering what’s next, here’s what I got for ya:

  1. Let me know in the comments which one of the above ways your scumbag brain tries to sabotage you the most.
  2. If you’ve got any great “lifehacks” for achieving goals that deal with tricking your brain,definitely let me know in the comments!

Thanks for reading, and I’ll see you in the comments!

About the Author: Gregory Ciotti is the content strategist for Help Scout, the invisible email management software for startups andGregory Ciotti small business owners.

Read more of our free guides on creating brand loyalty and on measuring customer satisfaction for your small business.

  • http://twitter.com/ossamaweb ossama benallouch

    Procrastination is the ultimate problem I’m fighting for the moment. Any hacks that will help me deal with it?

    • http://www.sparringmind.com Gregory Ciotti

      Hey there, one of the best ways that I’ve found to deal with procrastination is to utilize what I call the “bridge burning” technique.

      Essentially, you are going to burn the bridges away to possible entertainment by doing what it takes to get into a state where there’s nothing else left to do but work.

      Since I work a lot on the computer, for me this often takes heading to the library and blocking time-wasting sites with Chrome extensions like StayFocusd.

      Without any way to access sites that cause me to procrastinate or to lay down and just lounge, I’m forced to grind it out. :)

      Good luck!

  • http://twitter.com/Anish_Kumar_20 Anish.Kumar20

    Procrastination is the biggest problem I am facing these days. And then lots of work pile up, i am not able to plan my work accordingly.
    Second problem which i think only i have, whenever i am working hard towards my goals, then before achieving them in reality i feel proud and think i can so easily do that because in past i have very easily achieved checkpoints, so now the goal is no different for me , i will do it. But, when the result comes, it looks like i have failed by a margin.
    Can you help me with this ? Why just before the endline my mind gives up ( its like in gym trainer shouts “Dude, 1 more push up, this is last one ” and then i give up , i couldn’t do that ) ? Why I am not able to do that last push up ?
    Is it me only or other people also face same problem ?

    • http://twitter.com/PattyTMitch Patricia Mitchell

      I have had the same experience not making it to the finish line with a goal. For some reason i get close and think I don’t need to follow the plan anymore I can just wing it and be fine- I do this with dieting all the time. Now I have a mental and literal list of reasons WHY I need to meet the goal and what I will lose (or lose out on) if I quit the plan now. Good Luck to you!

      • http://twitter.com/Anish_Kumar_20 Anish.Kumar20

        thanks . i have always tried the same thing ( what i gain or what i lose thing) , but only mentally ( i don’t know but for a strange reason it lasts only 2-3 days :D) .
        Thanks for your advice, this time i’ll write them also. I guess writing them makes a commitment or contract kind of thing which our brain thinks is important.

  • http://www.qualitylogoproducts.com/blog Mandy Kilinskis

    Shoot! I had no idea that over-fantasizing about your goals was actually harmful to achieving them. Thanks, scumbag brain.

    And thanks, Greg, for writing this post!

  • Jim Theo

    That was a wonderful and genuinely thought-provoking post. Speaking of organizing or planning, I have found that using a physical ‘daily organizer’ (you know, the kind that requires a pen) has always yielded much more ‘manifesting’ power for accomplishing goals, more so than using calendar/scheduling/tasks software, as nifty as those software products might be, (Google calendar, Wunderlist, Lotus Notes (yes, old, but cooool)). On a tangent, I also have been requiring myself to actually read good blogposts, such as this, slowly (as if I could hear the author’s voice) instead of skimming through them at lightning speed. Obviously that helps with absorbtion of the information/ The ‘consumption’ side of internet/computer-related activities can also be rather fragmented, in addition to the fragmentation of ‘productivity’ as you masterfully delineate here. Thanks for sharing! ~Jimmy

  • http://twitter.com/citylifematt Matt Saunders

    Thanks for the great post! My brain tries sabotage me a various times with each of these items.

    The one item that I have become more aware of in the last year or so and am working hardest at over coming is the “Abandon Ship” one.

    I also have a “Don’t I have something more important to do” issue. Just being and accepting that what I am working on at that moment is the most important thing I have to do right then is a big challenge for me.

  • Matt

    Wow, this article was amazing. Hell, it seems like it was written about me specifically. Very eye opening, I have this bookmarked for future use too. Thanks.

  • http://stephenbobbett.com Stephen Bobbett

    I’m finding there are two great steps to overcoming brain sabotage and achieving long-term goals. One is something you already mentioned: to write a concrete to-do list that prioritizes each task. The second is to work according to the 45/15 rule: 45 minutes of focused work, 15 minutes of rest and mental wandering. This has helped me more than any other exercise in productivity I’ve ever encountered.

    Thanks for the great article. I’ll be watching for these pitfalls!

    • http://www.sparringmind.com Gregory Ciotti

      Thanks Stephen, and thanks for the suggestions!

    • Renton

      I’ve never heard about the 45/15 rule, I’ll give it a try. I’ve always been using the Pomodoro Technique: 25/5 and 30 mins after 4 “pomodoros” and it works really well for me

    • http://mentalrecovery.net/ jesse freida

      I actually use the 25/5 minutes break but sometimes I procrastinate in between breaks!! It’s really annoying at times, but at least I have seen improvements. I read somewhere that one should also see things/tasks as easy. Breaking it into mini tasks or projects help. Of course, optimism helps a lot. http://mentalrecovery.net/

  • http://twitter.com/PattyTMitch Patricia Mitchell

    What a great post- it resonated with me on so many levels- writing, dieting, anything that requires planning, follow through, and discipline. I am going to find myself referring back to this when I feel like I’m falling short on my goals. I do think that making sure one’s goals are reasonable is also criticial- driving yourself to do something that cannot be adequately done in the time provided is setting yourself up to fail. Thanks for all of the helpful information.

  • Sisi Tsoi

    Thanks a lot for a revealing post. It rings true in every way. Instead of blaming myself, I can just blame my brain!

    • http://www.sparringmind.com Gregory Ciotti

      Haha, well… you gotta take credit for what your brain does, kinda like being a parent to a bad kid ;)

  • http://twitter.com/BradGerick Brad Gerick

    Some lines that really spoke to me:

    “Would you believe that fantasizing is the #1 way your brain can unintentionally ruin your goals?”

    “Our brain has the habit of envisioning the impending huge workload of an upcoming task.”

    And I really like this as a procrastination solution:

    “It’s the same with your tasks: start, and your brain will overcome the first hurdle.”

    Some of these things sound so obvious once you read them, but it’s nice to spark that self-awareness. Thanks for writing.

  • Denise Battista

    Interesting article, but far too difficult to read for lack of proofreading and a decent editor.

    • http://www.sparringmind.com Gregory Ciotti

      Hey Denise, sorry for any errors, I’ll comb through again.

      • Josh

        Greg, don’t waste your time. She’s probably just procrastinating reading the post and needed to create an excuse for it:)

  • max

    this is painfully close to the truth. thank you for helping me understand myself!

  • mailpraveens

    I love this point
    Your brain will “abandon ship” at the first sign of distress” and come to think of it, its relevant too

  • http://www.symbyoz.com/ Joel Cheuoua

    That was a fun and interesting read, thanks, although I can’t agree with the “it’s not me, it’s my brain” line of thought here … we have to take responsibility for our actions (an inactions). It’s not always someone (or something) else’s fault :)

  • Yusuf

    what a superb article it is, I found the point “Your brain loves mindless busywork disguised as progress” this almost happens everyday with me. I try to spend time checking emails again most of them are subscribed ones whcih do not make any sense directly but eat away productive hours of the day.
    I will keep on checking this again and again till i can overpower the thinking of my brain :)
    Good job Greg

  • Renton

    Hi,

    I’m very into PNL and other ways of self improving and from both personal experience and biographies of people that achieved great goals (like Jordan, Disney, …) I don’t think the point “Your brain can hurt your goals by fantasizing too much” is really right. I think instead that people get stuck because they don’t know where to start to achieve such big goals, as you also say in one other point.

    Having a vision and keep thinking/imaging about it is the key to achieve huge success.

    • Phil Hershkowitz

      What’s PNL?

  • deepstructure

    Great article (mostly read on Lifehacker). Definitely recognize these traits in myself – especially the fallacy of thinking I can “wing it” when it comes to my goals.

    I did however want to point out that the article you linked to on Wikipedia regarding the Zeigarnik effect seems to indicate that the effect doesn’t exist and was the result of that one study, which further studies were not able to replicate:

    “However, several thorough replication studies done later in other countries failed to replicate Zeigarniks results. In those studies no significant recall effects were found for completed and interrupted tasks (e.g. Van Bergen, A., 1968. For a review see Kiebel, Elizabeth M., 2009 ).”

  • poboy502

    I like to fight back by working on planning ahead and prioritizing my tasks so that I know what is important, and what smaller, concrete steps can be taken to complete a larger project. Typically, I just use a regular to-do-list, but recently, I downloaded this app called the Priority Matrix (http://www.appfluence.com) that puts my most urgent, important tasks in one group so that I know what things need to be done immediately.

    That way, I get to disguise my mindless busywork as progress by crossing off each thing as I do it. In addition, I am able to not just visualize the worst parts of a project, as I visualize the entire project as a whole when I am planning out steps to take.

  • Greta Boris

    So helpful! I’m a weight management coach and deal with all of the above all the time. I plan to quote you copiously in upcoming blog posts. Well, better get back to work. Obviously distraction is an issue for me.

  • Elias

    Unfortunately, for me, the tricks our brain uses to sabotage our goals sounds all too familar. Even to finish reading these article was a battle as my brain tried to stir away ffrom it.I really need help and this article was a good start, I only hope that I can overcome this problem.

  • rohit juneja

    i was really amazed…….all these things happen with me on everyday…at every time….i am really suffering from this situation …i hope these things would really help me….but i need help….

  • http://twitter.com/KissaDurank kissa durank

    Thank you Gregory and Buffer great team!

  • Ajeet Sandhu

    How to beat procrastination? Just do it

    • Phil Hershkowitz

      Maybe tomorrow.

    • yoshimoto

      Do what? ;) That is the question.

  • http://www.facebook.com/eelco.wiersma Eelco Wiersma

    I can relate to point 2, however to start working on a goal is the easy part for me. Maintaining something is the hard part. What helps for me is structural/consistent planning each week. For example by going to the gym each Tuesday and Thursday right after work helped me achieving my goal. Maintaining this long enough has turned going to the gym into a habbit, you could say I’m addicted :)

    Unfortunately this isn’t useful for all kinds of goals. I have a major problem with finishing goals. Once I have started I quickly lose interest and focus. Are there any tricks to overcome this?

  • Laciface

    All of them for me…..yeah I know

  • Saeede

    unfortunately all of them ! but mostly procrastinating, thanks a lot for this helpful post.

  • Brian

    Interesting, but remember, you don’t always have to be productive, do you?

  • ak

    Gregory, This is very interesting. A comment and a question. Comment: I knew I wasn’t the first one to notice what I call “clean shirt syndrome” which is that if you are wearing a spotless shirt you will go to inordinate lengths to keep it that way but if you get one spot then you get into “this battle’s lost, throw up and fight another day” mode.
    Question: If one has diverse interests and very broad set of knowledge (albeit superficial in most subjects). They want to focus on 2-3 things but get distracted by something “new or in the news”. How to stay focused for 4-5 years where you can achieve your real goals and not just jump from one thing to another (btw, I think that your point about not winging the planning can be a useful tool in the arsenal to fight this lack of focus if one has the discipline to stay at it). Thanks.

  • Saeede

    Thank you so much, it is so helpful and actually i forced myself to re-read it once a week, as you know we read many things, we know many things, but we forget so soon ! unless they turn to our habit or life style

  • asd

    well written man

  • Volker

    Really enjoyed reading your article. What about this: you reach a goal that you set, like more income. The sensation of reaching it wears off qickly. Not reaching it would have been undisireable, and having reached the goal doesnt have this happy for the rest of your life sensation either. Why? What changes over the years of growing up? When I was a child, these goals had a much longer enjoyable duration…

  • schuifaan de kant

    thanks for this Article totally worth reading

  • Market

    This strongly resonated with me. Thanks for writing. I often begin cycles of self improvement in attempt to achieve goals whether they be business, exercise or social.
    I have gone through these cycles for years and failed every time but now I understand why.

    I always fantasize about my goals constantly…whenever I have work to do I sit back and start daydreaming about how awesome it would be to complete it and where I will be a years time from now. I feel so good about myself and feel so sure of my success I switch on the TV because my logic is, 30 minutes of TV isn’t going to be the death of my success – I don’t even have to do anything right now and in a years time I will be successful. I’m in the same place year after year.

    I have a schedule (like all successful people) as I believe so strongly it will make or break my success. If I find I’ve slept in for an hour (even if its still early) I feel so bad for failing my schedule I literally ‘jump ship’ and spend the next 6 hours in a slump.

    I’m glad I understand why this happens and i’m not just a person incapable of success.

  • Shavor

    Just start….I take too long to start and when i do it makes no sense anymore…..so just start early!!!!doesnt matter if you finish now,just start…..if you wanna finish it just start again :)…..

  • JustCallMeSally

    I notice that I find what I need when I want to change. I’m stuck in this scumbag brain of mine, and accurately pinpoint to #1, #2, and #4 mind sabotage. I feel that I am now paralyzed with fear and lack of motivation that I will repeat the same sabotaging mindset; and I’m just getting exhausted from doing the same thing over and over, but in a different setting, and expecting a different result. Hence, hamster on the wheel and dare I say disappointment and depression that makes me want to give up, quit, finet.

    I have always went full steam ahead; you know the “law of attraction” if I see and believe it, it will happen.–lots of fantasizing. And, for most of my life this has been true. But, as you point out in #5, I notice that I always try to wing what I have captivated (steps 1,-3) instead of using the #5 SbS plan. It hasn’t been until the last two months that #4 applies to my stress and distress level to quit, give up. Oh yes, I love that busy work that keeps me from progress.

    In past difficult times, I usually head into the forest with a blank writing journal and just start writing everything that comes to my mind. After I get my worst and best experiences written down, then I move onto what has happened. How did I get here, how will I move on, what do I want to do, how will I do it, and what results do I expect. Then I feel motivated again and things start to click in my life. But not this time, my mind is numb. It is very different, many different happenings that have changed my expectations into a totally different realism.

  • Guest

    I love this stuff! I think what you described, highly applies to “analytical” personalities. “Driver” personalities are motivated by results. Analyticals are motivated by the process.
    Both fantasy and mental rehearsal release “feel good” chemicals. The difference is, mental rehearsal prepares you for action, and moves u toward the logistical steps to achieve ur vision. I call this integrity = (Aligning ur visions with ur movements) Lack of action (paralysis of analysis) / (excessive fantasy) Can instead reassure ur doubts and harmful beliefs because the subconscious is being taught or told; “ur all talk and these dreams are not reality, nor are we getting any closer.”

  • http://www.facebook.com/aaronclarkt Aaron Clark

    I love this stuff! I think what you described, highly applies to “analytical” personalities. “Driver” personalities are motivated by results. Analyticals are motivated by the process
    Both fantasy and mental rehearsal release “feel good” chemicals. The difference is, mental rehearsal prepares you for action, and moves u toward the logistical steps to achieve ur vision. I call this integrity = (Aligning ur visions with ur movements) Lack of action (paralysis of analysis) / (excessive fantasy) Can instead reassure ur doubts and harmful beliefs because the subconscious is being taught or told; “ur all talk and these dreams are not reality, nor are we getting any closer.”

  • Daniel Warren

    Thanks so much for this! I think sometimes I quit when I see the finish line because of a deep seated fear of failure. Frustrating…

  • sc

    every single one! it all makes sense now, no joke that is (now was) me! that triathlon is going the fuck down now! thank ya for the info

  • rue

    my brain is so unfair, this is half the thing that have happened to me and i have fallen victim over and over again, now that i know my brain does this, i am going to make a good size for it. thanks a lot…….

  • Braiiinnn

    wow , check this pod cast where i stumble on while I’m searching for topics like this one and guess what , i just finished reading you article and i found this pod cast where they read exactly what you wrote and he is not mentioning you

    http://braintreepodcast.com/episode-10-ways-our-brains-stop-us-from-achieving-goals/

    • http://www.sparringmind.com Gregory Ciotti

      Sheesh, oh well, it happens.

  • Thomas ET

    very informative post..thank you..

  • Bagreen

    Wow I really enjoyed this article. I have struggled my whole life with all of these things and it has made for a very bumpy ride for me. I will practice all of these exercises and hopefully tap into the potential I know I have.

  • Willll

    lol so the first one for me, stupid dreaming!!! Always imagining storylines, situations, progresses; well at least only recently I have finally got down to actually doing what I want to do, but it is hella annoying when i am imagining certain things still.

  • Ravinder

    Amazing insight.

  • kshenya

    So true…especially the “fantasy part”…!!! have got me into trouble many a times, and im still workin on it!…nyways thx a lot gregory , now i can catch my brain red-handed :) :D

  • mark scott

    this totaly resonates with me amazinhg what/how the brain can influence you even when awake

  • Smriti

    I am a Grade 11 student and I was one of the top rankers in my class till last year. My teachers give too many homework, because of which I’m not able to finish my study on time. Now I panic at seeing my Chemistry and Biology Books though they are my favorite subjects. I have 17days left for my exams. How can I control my fear and start achieving my target of getting back to my original performance? How should i manage my time effectively? Please help.

  • thanksbud

    Very accurate. All the points in this article are well-known to me. The results from all quoted researches are infact exactly the problems I was facing.
    The solutions that you have mentioned seem appropriate and I’ll give them a try.
    Thanks.

  • madhav

    hi i am madhav. i wanted to be a fighter pilot. But i could’nt make it. i decided to join army for which i had to clear a exam. All of a sudden when exam was nearing i started giving up…

  • Ron

    I can apply this article to many things in my life. Some of it I was somewhat aware of like dreading the amount of hard work I am facing but I never thought that over fantasizing could hurt me. Set backs usually kill my motivation to continue. This blog gives me something to think about.

  • Marilyn

    do I have a unique issue?….I am a fine artist, however, the moment I achieve success with an artwork, I immediately loose interest and feel deflated …and it can take weeks before I attempt a new artwork…..it sounds crazy, but I am convinced that I will achieve the task set out for me, therefore I see no need to achieive it at all…thats why I stagnate in my art production…..because I no longer see any challenge to it, it just seems too easy …..and this causes a huge stumbling block for me, how can I get over this so as to continue with my art .

    • Dr P

      Marilyn,
      Think that you need to understand that you are special an you alone can invision the finished product of your work! But once this art work is complete you need to be comfired that what you have created was worth all your effort and time, an not by friends as they will tell you what you want to hear you need to hear it from strangers as they will give an honest opinion.
      Now as for being inspired to start a new paint you need to out source new invigorating art work weather that’s to travel to another country say or even simpler go surfing the Internet is great for getting lost so set you goal on emotion, what makes you feel different than what your artwork does to you get out side you comfort zone this is where life I feel traps every one no matter weather it’s painting or other goals in life.
      As soon as you know “yeah I can do that” in your head or “that was easy” you arrgue within your self why do I need to do it again that’s Done… Dusted ok next easy job, this is what happens when you fall into a small part of laziness an this happens to everyone.
      life is here to challenge your self to aways be the best that you can be I tell my self this everyday because really what’s the point of life if we just fall into a routine of just getting by in life!
      Push your limits, desire is great tho to recognize the hard work that is needed to achieve your desires is what will inspire yourself to have a go in life take that step forward stop standing there while everyone walks past you in life! I’m not saying overtake everyone just don’t get left behind.
      If you don’t love what you do an I mean absolutely love what you do an your hearts not in it of course this is where procrastinating kicks in, but for you I feel it’s inspiration to be the best you can be an this takes time.
      Time which because of technology we think we are getting left behind,
      I know from my generation that we want every thing now, we see what others have an tell ourselves we deserve that too but we don’t want to travel on that dusty, dirty long road we want instant gratification, satisfaction we want it all and we want it now, we are defiantly in a world of not caring any more!
      we don’t take the time to appreciate just how lucky we are! Its like We want life to be over in a heart beat we dont want to go through the heart aches sweat blood an tears it takes to over come learning to be someone special such as your self an artist. We want technology an In just a few month we’ll want the next new thing so lets just procrastinate an wait an maybe someone will design something that will do what our brain doesn’t want to do to give us more time to do the thing we want to do!

  • Rae Hering

    Just found this article and had to reblog it! You seem to touch on everything I’m struggling with. As a musician I want to be creative alllll the time – when I try to do the hard work of getting my songs out there, my brain procrastinates like crazy. Busy-work that doesn’t really matter, fantasizing about that angel investor that will make life easier, you name it. I’m posting these points up in my work space to keep me on track!

  • Wilson john

    everytime i wanna thing something good or wanna do something good for myself…my brain dsnt let me perform that…may my mind wanna take me towards the unsuccessfull path and be happy there…damn

  • Aram Ak

    One may ask, how can you achieve a goal without fantasizing about it? The desire of achieving your goal has to be there and that comes from fantasizing about it. You want something badly and you do everything in your power to do it. The brain is actually giving you options its your guts that have to follow it.

  • Successless

    I wish I was able to fantasize. My brain is so simple it can’t even accomplish that. I do all of what you suggested and yet I am still a failure. I guess there is no hoe for me.

    • Successless

      *hope*

  • Mohammad massadeh

    I’m suffering from fantasizing thing it’s destroying me and i can’t get rid of it i can’t study right i can’t do anything every 5 min’s i start fantasizing about future about how i’m going to in my after college life what achievements have to be done before finishing university my life is shit right now on top of all of that i need to study really hard because it’s my last year in high school and i need a high mark in order to move to university damn it.. i read once that it’s like ” Day Dreaming ” but with me it has gone way too far i’m like day dreaming 20 hours !!! I’m starting to get really depressed :\ what should i do to overcome that problem ?

  • Pastor Billy Wade

    Procrastination has often been my enemy, thank you for pointing this out. Now all I have to do is get started. You are right once I get started I’m motivate to complete the task.

  • Victor-Alexandru Truică

    Great article.

    One way through which i started to avoid procrastination was to IDENTIFY DISTRACTIONS and cut them off. My distractions were – facebook (yes, i’ve actually deleted my account several times), tv shows (no more two and a half men for me, he), pc games (i haven’t played a PC game from start to finish in almost a year) and going out(yep, i had to become a bit anti-social to achieve my goals, but not stranded).

    This helped me a lot and my productivity increased dramatically. Now i’m facing the “fantasy” issue. My brain wonders off too much and and i seem to think about all sort of random stuff at one time.

    To solve this i use simple several minute breaks, where i breathe deep, focus on breathing (meditation) and massage my head (focusing on forehead and temples). I do it whenever i feel that i’m “wondering” too much. It really clears my mind and gives me a sensation of total relaxation.

  • neuromancer

    Interesting post, but accrding to my experience brain is far more complex and these methods that are described in this post to stop your brain from sabotaging your life shouldnt be taken as universal… after all every person has different brains that works differently :)

  • john

    Well written and very informative, thanks.

  • naman

    thanks i was not understanding what was happening with me , it was a great help

  • mario barrientos

    What do you call when you struggle thru the roads of getting to your goal, and when you get there, before accomplishing it, you turn around. And start something else.. I seem to have no problems getting myself to the grind, struggle, and hardships of a goal, whatever it may be, but once i am about to accomplish it, once it’s good, once it’s almost there, i no longer want to finish it. I guess the satisfaction of knowing i could have finish it, yet chose to not finish it, pleases me.

    • Bipin Gaur

      Wow, i was about to write almost exact same thing. I call it my 90% rule, I’d take the project to 90% conclusion and then the last 10% is when I am just not able to work anymore.

    • Royce White

      Couple thoughts… if you’re a self-starter and not a self-finisher, it could be that your estimates from the beginning are off. You think you are at 90% but not really because you estimated incorrectly. That frustrates us and emotionally we start to pull back or leave it undone.

      • It’s possible we want to “play with it” and it’s “done enough.”

      • Or it could be that good enough is acceptable – good is the enemy of great.

      • Sometimes we allow a lot of time for the design and implementation phase but not the finishing and testing phase. Hence, we get well under way before we realize we’ve expended all our energies starting and have none left to finish. When writing a book, it’s fun starting, planning, researching, writing, but it can be tedious if you don’t have it all mapped out to the end.

      • You may have detail plans for the early stage, but no concrete plans for the finish stage.

      • You may have had a lot of changes on the way which used up all your mental energy and you have expended the amount of time your brain estimated and you are mentally “done” even though there is still project left.

      • Finally, you may not be having enough down time in the rest of your life and this just feels like part of the grind. My recommendation is to plan a couple of replaning phases – or at least one at the 90% part. Re-plan all that needs to happen to be finished and then do the action items one by one to knock it out. If all else fails, use positive accountability and get some help to complete. Hence, one way or another, you WILL accomplish!! Fail forward!

  • Genevieve Kara

    I am a grad student with severe bipolar and a 6year old and 10 year old. when I became literally paralyzed with depression, and nothing motivated me to move forward with anything, I went old school and broke out the friggin’ sticker chart. It was as simple as “took a shower” to as complicated as “wrote 1000 words of concise thesis on the Bauhaus paradigm”. Seeing a happy, primary colored, simple, cheerful summary of my accomplishments on the cabinet showed me and the rest of the family that I was still participating in my life.

  • Jamie Moana

    I’d say my brain does all of the above. The thing that hinders me the most is that I set goals but because of not meeting them regularly, I no longer trust myself to meet them. Usher in impending procrastination and self doubt doom :(

  • jay

    No. 4 mainly — and eventually the feeling of depression and negative thoughts like — i’m not smart enough, others are born lucky, i can’t do anything. Finally when i feel enthusiastic — my brain starts finding ways to procrastinate. Also, the biggest of all — what will i get after achieving this? .. and then I leave. I’m not a disciplined person. But after reading your article I learnt the psychology behind my brain and it being trapped in this vicious cycle. I’ll surely break it this time. Best ways ever!! Thanks. Great article.

  • Mahesh Sarda

    I am facing with no 1,4 and 5 and its really very difficult to overcome the above three. I admit that i fantasize too much…almost my whole day….i set out plan for my studies but could never achieve it completely. Many times it happens that i know i have to study…my book is open infront of me…but something is stopping me to start…i dont know what is it…then i keep on fantasizing…and than i was feeling like helpless…and i thought to find a solution …and so decided to google by typing “something is stopping me from studies” and this is how i got to this article.

    • isha

      yeah exactly this is what happens to me too and a few other things included

  • KL

    I feel like this article was written specifically for me. Someone understands thank goodness, everyone else think I goof up.

  • isha

    When I try to solve logical problems in physics and maths or anything else which requires applying my logic, I get all confused, its like I want to catch that thought in my mind but it gets puzzled up with other thoughts. I find it hard to think coherently.

  • Techy

    I just lost accomplishing my dream so closely, and it affected me so hard that I cant focus on things which matter more in life.

    Thanks to make me realize that there is a big difference between pragmatic planning and fantasizing/dreaming.

    • KFC nut

      Ain’t no thang buttah chicken wang

  • Jivitha

    Thank You so much :)

  • yo

    Nice article mate.