DRIVEN TO PURSUE: STEPS TO STAY THE COURSE
SWAE is a company founded on chasing dreams at any cost. This ambition is good, but the road to dreams is fraught with challenges - primarily the ones you make for yourself. By exploring how the brain forms habits, we can better learn to challenge our minds and train them to help in our pursuit of a dream.
Neuroscientists compare the neural synapses of our brain to an interconnected system of highways and freeways. As we do tasks repeatedly, the habits we form will prompt the protein sheaths (Myelin) surrounding our neurons to migrate towards one another. For example, when you learned to ride a bike, a highway in your brain dedicated to balance had a loose connection to the highways associated with the horizontal reflexes of your legs and hips. But after trial and error, training wheels, and some scrapes, those two highways begin to build intersections and connecting routes. What were once dirt roads become paved, easily navigable routes of neural synapses. Now for the rest of your life, if you hop on a bike, you can ride. However, this same type of connection can be difficult to change when forming new habits, especially as we get older.
If the routine is coming home and sitting on the couch after years of practice, it becomes the highway in our brain - the fastest and most straightforward route. However, what if you want to build a new routine to achieve your dream? Maybe it’s getting in shape, building that unique piece of furniture, or writing a novel. Those achievements will require a new routine, a detour from the highway onto new or rarely used paths. At first, this new dirt road may be hard to travel, but if we stick to it daily, this will become the new highway.
Towards the Dream
But, it’s never easy. Burnout. Slowdown. Crashing. Taking the less-beaten path is mentally challenging, especially if your brain knows the nearby superhighway would be much easier. Studies from Scranton University indicate that 92% of people who set a goal for themselves will give it up. This cycle of attempting a dream and falling back into old habits is something nearly everyone experiences.
As gym owners can attest, people start their goals ferociously but often peter out. Every January gyms are packed full of people chasing their New Year’s resolution. But come March, people fall off the proverbial wagon. This cycle usually starts the same way. Prompted by some shortcomings, exposure to another way of living, or a passion we aim to pursue, we set a goal. Then most comes the unfettered wave of determination. The mental image of success takes shape, and we feel empowered to take strides toward it. Then, somewhere between two weeks and two months, fatigue, stress, or life prompts us to abandon that challenging trek and head back to the routine which has already been formulated from years of practice, for better or worse.
So what separates the other 8% who continue to trek down the dirt path and form a highway through those difficult mental mountains? As recognized in that same survey, not only are these 8% able to do it once but repeatedly across their lifetime. So are these people just superhuman, possessing some God-given talent for acquiring new skills? No, overcoming incredible challenges involves examining the simple steps they take that lead to larger victories.
Set smaller, more achievable goals that you can realistically accomplish over a short period. Maybe writing a page a day or just walking for 30 minutes. Writing down these incremental goals will keep you on task and steadily working towards the dream. Checking boxes creates a sense of achievement and returning to continue your practice. Day by day, with reward at each bend, the road will become easier to traverse.
Stay Positive, Even When You Slip Up.
Remember why you started. Don't become discouraged by the occasional slip-up. It's ok to fail! People often give up entirely due to an occasional falter. Give yourself the grace to fall and pick yourself back up. The only actual failure comes when you abandon your goal altogether. If you slip up, just set some smaller goals and return the next day. You'll regain traction and continue taking those tiny steps forward. The key is consistency not absolute dedication from the starting gate, plan for some minor regression, don't fret it.
Be sure to connect with others who share your passion. Find others who have taken this road before, and learn from their success. The world is full of people who have achieved great things, and while we can easily access this achievement, we often forget the difficulty of the process. Study it, and if possible, communicate with those who have taken the same road you're building. Comparison is the thief of joy, so remember you're not looking at the result. You are simply looking at a roadmap for the route they took. The passion within you for the dream you're pushing will ultimately breathe new life into your efforts when you falter.
For SWAE, the passion of the pursuit is the guiding principle, and just as we pursue dreams, we hope to inspire others to do the same. Be bold. You can achieve great things only by taking that courageous first step. The pursuit of dreams is not determined by the speed with which we achieve them, but rather that we never surrender our relentless will to keep moving forward.