The Neuroscience Behind Perseverance

April 16, 2018

 

     One of the core components of Angela Duckworth's model of GRIT (the other being passion), perseverance is the behaviour that engenders motivation, discipline and resilience; it's what keeps us going when things get difficult, during moments of setback and when we're experiencing self-doubt. Some of us have more of it than others and it turns out that we can increase the fuel that drives it.

 

     The neurotransmitter dopamine is the fuel for perseverance and it serves as both a reinforcer for positive behaviours and as a link for the formation of good (and bad) habits. Dopamine is part of our internal reward system and has been 'programmed' to release whenever we succeed at achieving something necessary for survival, but scientists have found that we can actually trigger the release of dopamine 'on demand' to reinforce other behaviours such as perseverance.

 

    One of the differentiating factors between individuals who persevere and those who don't was found to be higher levels of dopamine. Our attitudes and behaviours can increase the amount of dopamine our brain releases and according to Dr. Joe Z. Tsien, Co-Director of the Brain and Behaviour Discovery Institute, we can control this in the moment.

 

STEPS TO INCREASE DOPAMINE
  1. Visualise in the moment following achieving a task or goal that you are receiving a hit of dopamine.

  2. Consider perseverance as an opportunity to boost your self-efficacy and make you feel good. Too often perseverance is associated with pain when we should be associating it with pleasure.

  3. Set daily goals and associate task achievement with winning at life. These could be as simple as making your bed or having a healthy breakfast. Any type of achievement should be considered a win and will subsequently motivate you to achieve more each day.

  4. Have high expectations of yourself and believe that you can achieve whatever you set your mind to. This actually changes your brain chemistry and can consequently boost dopamine.

  5. Set self-imposed deadlines and timelines for your goals ~ the pressure of time actually increases your dopamine.

  6. Break your goals down into small tasks, each time you accomplish a small task you'll receive a hit of dopamine which will encourage you to keep going!

 
One Last Tip
 

     Associate Professor of Exercise and Health Sciences at U Mass Boston Dr. Jean Wiecha has also demonstrated that regular physical activity is one of the most effective ways to hardwire perseverance. Dr. Wiecha found that through exercise goals, you are setting a mindset of perseverance, which directly influences every other aspect of your life!

Perseverance is like a muscle, the more you use it the stronger it gets. Develop those daily rituals, set those SMART goals and get moving.

 

 

 

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