All good intentions aside – projects often fall off the tracks before completion. Has it happened to you?
Why do so many power-packed-possibilities flicker, fizzle and die before they reach their potential? Some blame it on disorganization. Others attribute derailed efforts to laziness.
Why do Some Ideas Hang in and Others Let Go?
Neither laziness nor disorganizations’ the culprit – if you consider how a brain hangs onto one idea and lets go of another.
Research now shows scientific support for persistence as it links to working memory and basal ganglia, as illustrated in the video here.
Think of new ideas as sketched onto your brain’s scratch pad – or your working memory. Then imagine a new and different idea that erases your original sketches to make room for its details. Make sense?
Working Memory’s the Brain’s Sketch Pad
Working memory – that place where you configure and apply novel ideas – comes equipped to lose that data when you focus on other issues. So what would bridge the gap between research or concept idea and successful implementation into renewed practices?
Persistence comes from five principles that factor in the brain’s staying power. These include: targeting expected outcomes; critical first days; outsourcing detailed steps; tackling barriers; encouraging yourself and others.
First, Sketch specifically what you have in mind for outcomes. Then tweak and clarify this expected outcome at regular intervals, as the project moves forward. When you focus on a specific outcome, the brain’s working memory stretches to step that focused plan into reality.
Second, Before the working memory erases your ideas to make room for the next facts or details – capture critical details on a white board, email them to a friend, or apply key parts so that you move the initiative closer to your brain’s basal ganglia where it sticks and stays.
Third, Secure your ideas in more permanent storage spaces than the working memory’s non-reliable sketch pad. You might create a computer file with the ideas, map out an action plan with dates for each next step or hang an outline of your plan beside your computer, and include daily steps into your to-do-lists for the week. Keep your steps front and central, so that persistence stands a chance.
Fourth, Articulate, and then tackle barriers that limit your ideas. Check the research findings, or ask support from progressive peers but avoid cynical toxins in these early stages. Stress from a cynic’s scorn literally defaults your progress back to comfortable habits. Keep alive working memory possibilities, by tossing in solutions, and your brain stays alert until the project is finalized.
Finally, encourage yourself and others to zip along with a bit of attitude – so that novelty and play open serotonin’s gateways into genius.
What do you do to keep the magic alive in promising new projects?
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