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Planning, Practice and Dopamine

Planning, Practice and Dopamine

We’re all familiar with the way we feel after accomplishing a task, that settled feeling of “there, that’s done!”  Our brains are hardwired to manufacture happy chemicals like dopamine and serotonin to reward us for checking something off the list.  Farming is the rise and fall of this process, like waves on the ocean.  As days tick off the calendar we add jobs to the list and check them off as we go along.

       For us it works well to break bigger jobs into their smaller components on the list so that we can check in with clarity about where in the process the work is, and have the validation of knocking off each clear step in the direction we want to go.  It feels good to finish a project, to set a goal and follow it through to completion.  It also feels good to pick our heads up from the day-to-day and see how far we come in a year, in 5 years, in 10 years.  It is by assessing progression towards larger goals that we remain aware of each of the steps along the way.

       Work can’t be defined just by inputs and outputs.  It is necessary to tether what we do to why we do it.  Without the “why”, what’s the point?  Life goals and personal values are the foundation for any successful personal planning process.  It is imperative to be clear about what we want out of life within the spheres in which we have personal agency.  There are things we can’t do anything about, but for the things that we can change, we need to know where we would like to go.

       Setting goals based in well-thought-out personal values provides us with personal metrics against which to measure progress and actuation.  Some goals aren’t about how we use our time or how we respond to stress and so aren’t things that can be checked off a list.  Being aware of individual guiding principles is important for holding standards about action or decision.

       Like building a house, building a foundation of clear personal values and life goals sets the measurements for the rest of the house of life.  When we work together on shared life projects like a household or farm, it is important for each member to understand the values and life goals of each person involved.

       By bringing clarity to goals and values of each team or family member, we can make informed decisions that best access strengths and avoid weaknesses.  We can mesh individuals into a shared process that best encapsulates where we are all trying to go together.  This process takes effort and time, on both a personal and collective level.

       Planning takes time and energy and it also takes practice.  Learning to plan is one of the most important skills that we can develop, building the foundation of personal values and goals that carry through the construction of the rest of the work or life plan.  It is by understanding the goals and values of each person involved that we come to the best method for helping each member become the most activated and inspired.

      When we are aware of the strengths, weaknesses and inspiration points that we each bring to a process, we have the best shot at defining what the shared goals are and then accomplishing them.  This type of clear communication and process takes time and effort to achieve, but the more that it happens the more effective each human becomes in their roles.  Too often we find ourselves without clear roles and in uncertain relation to the tasks that need to be accomplished.  Clear and focused planning can help to define the roles and identify what will need to be done to arrive at the desired goal.

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       It sounds cheesy to have everyone sit down and write out a personal mission statement that encapsulates clear, guiding values, but it is through this process that we each become more aware of what we want and where we are trying to go.  And sometimes we realize that the desired directions are incompatible, and having realized this before embarking on a path, we are stronger for being able to make a different decision.

      It is hard to be reflexive and look within to define life goals and metrics for achieving them.  Life flows so fast that carving out the time for self-checkins is difficult but like all things planning and preparation,  taking the time yields results.  As with any other skill in life, learning to plan takes practice and effort over time.  It is a thing we get better at each year, slowly but surely.  As always, much love and great success to you on your journey!

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