The Brain: Task Avoidance and Achievement and Goals


This week’s focus is on the brain and its impact on how we think behave and act, and the longer-ranging effects on our work. The topics will hope to explain reasons for everyday challenges and then how to move through them.

Today’s post will center around the phenomenon of ‘pressure and release’, and how it relates to avoidance and achievement. Has this ever happened to you?

You have a great idea and begin to work on plans to make it happen. You work and work and, finally, it takes off, leaving you feeling high. But, then you gradually seem to lose the momentum, only to pick it up again out of need.

I can reluctantly say that this has happened to me and on more than one occasion. For example, there have been times when I’ve had momentum in my marketing efforts and seeing good results; however, there also have been times when I sit back, thinking that those efforts will bring in tons of clients only to realize that my sitting back was not. And I had to go back and rev up the marketing…again.

This has been called the phenomenon of pressure and release, where you put pressure on when needed but kind of coast when the pressure is off. It’s getting comfortable in a pattern, only picking back up again when it’s a necessity. It’s an up-and-down, never-ending pattern that becomes exhausting.

Approach and avoidance goals, and past research, state that individuals will put forth effort to gain competence, which leads to more persistence and effort in working for the desired goal. However, there is what is called a ‘helpless motivational response,’ in which one would choose easier tasks and withdrawal from them (Rabideau, 2005). Hence, pressure and release.

When one releases the pressure to achieve, perhaps getting in a comfort zone, it ensures that frustration will occur, which can lead to the never-ending, self-blame cycle. This only leads to more frustration, especially if self-blame comes in. Knowing you should be acting but not.

To stop these patterns of stopping and starting, along with negative self-talk, will consist of:

  • understanding what motivates you, especially as it relates to setting and achieving goals. Understanding what drives you is a good start to being successful in reaching them, so write down your motivators and then what it would take to get them met
  • understanding the end-result – you can’t go after something in the dark, so to speak, or you will flounder and eventually give up. Knowing your why, and the benefit you will get once the goal is achieved will keep you going, even during the highs and lows. Write out the end-result, have a picture (or vision board) of it where you can look at it daily. It will activate dopamine, the pleasure chemical and give you the jolt you need.
  • understanding that you are human and will fall off now and then, so stopping any negative thoughts that may arise when you do. So it now becomes about celebrating your wins on the journey so these elevate your ego and accomplishment, i.e. the reward center of the brain. Documenting your wins will go a long way to keeping them in your memory and activating that feeling for the task and the next and the next.
  • understanding time and task management – in order to push through, it’ important to understand the importance of setting goal that are manageable, meaning not too many at one time. Then, it’s about scheduling those tasks; 15 minutes to review, 30 minutes to write, etc. This will give you boundaries to work within, so any unrelated tasks outside of these will not be considered. This means, no reading Facebook posts or emails until the allotted tasks are done.

Our brains are powerful in goal setting and achievement. Using it wisely, of which you have control over, will lead to reaching them, and creating life-long (positive) habits in the long run. Getting control over these will lead to more success over time, to which you can thank your brain. Treat it kindly.

Committed to Your Success Coaching & Consulting focuses on workplace happiness and organizational success, using brain-based principles.  If you, or your organization, is struggling with workplace culture and engagement, we have a program that will work to turn this around. If you need help gaining clarity on your business or career goals, why not get some help – stop the struggle and call today to get started! ! or


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