It’s amazing how much we can do in emergency and panic situation when the adrenaline kicks in our bloodstream, for example an eighty year old woman lifting a car to save her son below the car after an accident or simply finishing the project we are doing lazily for the recent past. In both situation, our body produces adrenaline and oxytocin among other neurotransmitter that strengthen our body muscle and brain processing power. However, we can’t control the production of these neurotransmitter, which is release only when we are in a distressed condition. But we could simulate our thinking and habit to be more effective in doing daily tasks based on this concept. Indeed, deadline is the key to all productivity.
When we know human would be dead if drowned for more than 2-3 minutes due to lack of oxygen supply to the brain that leads to brain damage and severe impairment. This “critical period” is crucial for a lifeguard to save someone’s life and force him to act quickly, without deadline there is no need to rush and the same analogy could be implemented in our daily living.
I want you to reflect back to the last one year and remember the time you feel very productive, which astound yourself to how much you can do in such period of time. The feeling was good, wasn’t it? You feel like you are progressing toward something, perhaps a checkpoint in your life. Human are wired to feel good when we are productive, but on daily basis we often feel like doing nothing for the day. Perhaps the problem wasn’t because we are truly a lazy organism, but the lack of bigger and meaningful purpose in life, our life.
However, when we are in a “low” state and feel like there is no point in doing anything we shouldn’t feel bad either, because as a complex emotion creatures we are influenced by the fluctuation of neurotransmitter in our brain, among them serotonin and oxytocin. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter released that make us feel happy, elevated mood, and more active. The closest counterpart to serotonin is oxytocin, neurotransmitter released when we are stressed and in an emergency situation. Other than this two neurotransmitter there are a lot more that contribute to our emotion and physical reaction such as adrenaline, GABA, dopamine, etc. The imbalance of these neurotransmitter in our brain could alter the way we act, think, and respond to certain situation, and these imbalance is the cause of many psychiatric disorder such as schizophrenia, OCD, depression, and bipolar.
The importance of understanding this complex chemistry reaction in our brain is for us to make a cue, creating a pattern of habit that will become natural to us with time. In the famous experiment Pavlov did in the past, whenever he ring a bell, his dog will come and given some food. He did it over and over again until one day he ring a bell but give no food to his dog, however he found that his dog is salivating even though there was no food. That is the power of habit, the cue is the bell and the result is salivating, trained over a period of time we could benefit from this simple concept.
I was lazy whenever it come to exercising, for the past four years I didn’t exercise much. I would make a resolution every year to exercise at least once a week to no avail. Until a quote struck me, and perhaps you too:
“Instead of saying I can’t or I won’t to things we don’t want to do, try saying that it’s not a priority to you for now. When you conflict with your belief, you know something is wrong in your life”
So instead of saying I can’t exercise every week due to my “busy” schedule, I would say “Exercising is not a priority for me right now.” When I look at the bigger picture of such phrase it equals to, “My health is not a priority for me right now”. Somehow it doesn’t feel right to me, it didn’t feel right in the past and will never feel right in the future. Not long after the realisation, I bought running shoes and go to gym at least three times a week.
Applying the theory of cue and results, I set a timer at 15.00 everyday when I’m home. Whenever it rings, I would change to shorts, wear my shoes and go to the gym. The result is amazing, in the first week I manage to go twice, then four times the next week and I think it’s good to stick to that number. Don’t over do it as well, you’ll grown too tired and make rationalisation for not doing if you hit the limit.
In the first paragraph, I have outlined the power of deadline in creating a situation that force us to act, when there is no deadline on a project completion, the project itself rarely got completed. And there is no such thing called mental deadline, it should be written on a paper or calendar, broken down to the details of the project and it’s own deadline.
In the third paragraph, I explained about the nature of human that feels good when productive, and the importance of having a purpose in life. It acts like a map, knowing where we are right now and where we want to go, it also details the road we have to walk, activities we have to complete, etc. Having a purpose in life also affect our belief in responding to crucial events in life. A pessimist and optimist would have a very different approach in finding a solution to a problem, a pessimist would very likely be covered in negative moods and turning to other people for finding solution while an optimist would hope to cooperate and find help to have resolution to the problem.
Then, all we need is to find our cue and train our mind to follow to the procedure. Not only exercising, the whole concept also works on doing chores such as cleaning my room, writing a blog post, and doing part of a project. I hope you’ll try it in your daily life and benefit from it.