Published January 2022 on YouTube

The Science of Setting & Achieving Goals | Huberman Lab Podcast #55

1. The Neuroscience of Goals

Andrew discusses the neuroscience behind goal setting and achieving goals. He explains that there is one neural circuit responsible for pursuing all goals and shares four specific protocols for goal setting, assessment, and execution.

2. Optimal Learning Rate

Optimal Learning Rate:Andrew discusses recent scientific findings on neuroplasticity and the importance of making errors when learning new skills. He highlights a recent paper that suggests an optimal learning rate of getting things right about 85% of the time and making errors about 15% of the time.
Optimal Learning Difficulty:Andrew discusses the 85% rule for optimal learning difficulty, stating that the difficulty level should be set such that errors occur about 15% of the time. This rule can be useful for both learners and teachers to achieve higher levels of proficiency.

3. LMNT, Athletic Greens, ROKA

The Importance of Salt:Andrew emphasizes the importance of salt and electrolytes for our body's proper functioning, including the role of salt in neuron function and blood volume. He shares his personal experience of improving his health and performance by increasing his salt intake, challenging the common perception of salt as something to avoid.
Electrolyte Needs:Andrew Huberman discusses the importance of electrolytes and hydration for those following a low carb or paleo diet. He recommends LMNT, a science-backed electrolyte drink that contains the best forms of salt, potassium, and magnesium. He also mentions Athletic Greens, an all-in-one vitamin mineral probiotic drink that covers all foundational needs. Listeners can claim a free sample pack of LMNT at drinklmnt.com/huberman.
Gut-Brain Axis:Andrew discusses the importance of a healthy gut microbiome and how it communicates with the brain through the gut-brain axis. He recommends Athletic Greens for vitamins, minerals, and probiotics to support a healthy gut microbiome.

4. Goal-Directed Behavior

Goal Setting:Andrew discusses how goal setting is a common process among animals, including humans, and how the human brain is unique in its ability to have multiple goals at once. He also talks about the challenges of pursuing goals and how to work with interleaving goals.
Neural Circuits:Andrew explains that neural circuits in the brain are responsible for generating behaviors and perceptions, rather than a single brain area. He introduces the amygdala and ventral striatum as two brain areas involved in goal seeking and motivation to pursue goals.
Neural Circuits:Andrew explains the different neural circuits involved in goal-directed behavior, including the basal ganglia and cortex. These circuits are responsible for initiating and preventing action, planning, and assessing progress towards goals.

5. Determining the Value of Goals

Andrew explains the neuroscience behind goal setting and how dopamine plays a crucial role in assessing the value of our pursuits. He also provides four practices that can help us set, assess, and execute goals more effectively.

6. Goal Pursuit Psychology

Psychology of Goal Pursuit:Andrew discusses the history of goal setting and pursuit in psychology, and how acronyms are often used to describe these concepts. He distills the common themes from the literature and explains the basic elements that are common to all goals.
Goal Setting Basics:Andrew discusses the basics of goal setting and how it involves different neural circuits in the brain and body. He also talks about the importance of assessing progress towards goals and the practical applications of this information.

7. Goal Seeking Mastery

Peripersonal and Extra Personal Space:Andrew explains the difference between peripersonal and extra personal space and how they are governed by different neurochemicals. Understanding this concept is important for setting and achieving goals.
Goal Seeking Mastery:Andrew shares a neuroscience-based tool that allows listeners to transition between the peripersonal space and the extra personal space to better execute their goal seeking. He explains how humans can modulate timescales and bias their behavior toward particular goals over long periods of time. Additionally, he debunks common misconceptions about achieving goals, such as the belief that visualization of a big goal is the best approach.

8. Effective Multitasking

Effective Multitasking:Andrew discusses how multitasking can be effective when placed at a particular time within your goal seeking behavior. Studies show that people can only hold their attention for about three minutes at a time before shifting their attention off. This reflects a basic state of brain function and hearkens back to a time when we were hunter-gatherers.
Multitasking and Focus:Andrew explains the physiological effects of multitasking and how it can be useful in generating adrenaline for action. However, he emphasizes the importance of visual focus and narrowing your visual window to increase clarity and cognitive attention for goal-seeking behavior.
Visual Perception:Andrew Huberman explains how most of our cognition follows our visual perception, while those with low or no vision tend to use their auditory system to anchor their attention. He also discusses the difference between peripersonal and extra personal space and how focusing on external points places the brain into goal pursuit mode.
Goal Line Focus:Andrew explains how focusing on a goal line can improve performance with less perceived effort. This is due to changes in the autonomic nervous system. The study found that those who visually focused on the goal line were able to achieve reaching that goal with 17% less effort and 23% quicker.

9. Visual Pathways & Blood Pressure

Two Visual Pathways:Andrew explains that our visual system has two pathways: one for fine detail and one for global information. Focusing on a point engages the fine detail pathway, while relaxing the neural circuits associated with alertness and attention engages the global information pathway. The visual system communicates with the circulatory system to increase alertness, which allows people to move more effectively toward a goal when focusing on it.
Blood Pressure Basics:Andrew explains the basics of blood pressure, including how it's measured, what the two numbers mean, and how it relates to heart health. Understanding blood pressure is important for anyone looking to improve their cardiovascular health.
Goal Pursuit Physiology:Andrew explains how our visual system and focusing on a particular point can increase systolic blood pressure and adrenaline, preparing our brain and body for action. He discusses the importance of coupling imagining a goal with physical pursuit and how our mental frame and attention can be positioned towards our immediate possessions or towards things outside of us. Andrew also introduces a protocol he has developed to help listeners identify and achieve their goals.

10. Visual Attention for Goals

Andrew discusses the importance of harnessing your visual attention to a particular point in order to enhance the effectiveness of pursuing goals. He shares a recent study that supports this claim and provides a simple process for applying this visual tool to any type of goal. He also emphasizes the contrast between this practice and multitasking, highlighting the former as the most effective way to bring your system into a state of readiness and action for goal pursuit.

11. Visual System and Motivation

Leveraging the Visual System:Andrew discusses how our visual system can be used to achieve long-term goals, and how delay discounting affects our ability to save money. He shares an experiment conducted by the Balcetis Lab that looked at people's tendency to save money for later in life and how imagining oneself in the future can help motivate behavior towards achieving long-term goals.
Visual Perception and Motivation:Andrew discusses how our visual perception of the present and future can impact our motivation to achieve our goals. He shares studies that show how viewing images of our future selves can motivate us to invest in later life and make healthier choices in the present.

12. Visualizing Failure

Andrew discusses how visualizing success is effective in getting the goal pursuit process started, but it is not a good way of maintaining pursuit of that goal. Instead, visualizing failure is a much better way to maintain ongoing action toward a goal.

13. Foreshadowing Failure

Foreshadowing Failure:Andrew discusses the benefits of routinely focusing on the ways in which things could fail while pursuing a goal. Scientific literature shows that there is a near-doubling in the probability of reaching one's goal if you focus on foreshadowing failure. He uses the example of a fitness goal to explain how to apply this technique.
Foreshadow Failure:Andrew explains that visualizing negative outcomes is more effective than positive outcomes in motivating towards goal pursuit. By focusing on avoiding failure and being clear about what those failures would look and feel like, people are almost twice as likely to reach their goals.

14. Optimal Goal Setting

Goal Setting Insights:Andrew Huberman discusses the science behind goal setting and how to make them achievable. Contrary to popular belief, setting impossible goals does not increase the chances of achieving them. Instead, goals should be significant, inspirational, and realistic to increase the probability of success.
Optimal Goal Setting:Andrew explains the importance of setting realistic but challenging goals. Goals that are too easy or too difficult do not engage the autonomic nervous system and are less likely to be pursued. Moderate goals are the most effective for achieving success.

15. Goal Pursuit

Andrew discusses the importance of limiting the number of goals we pursue at once and the impact of visual sparseness on our ability to focus. He suggests setting one to three major goals for the year and designing a workspace that optimizes our visual environment to align towards each goal sequentially.

16. Concrete Action Steps

Andrew discusses the importance of having concrete action steps when setting goals. Studies show that having a specific plan with detailed action steps leads to a higher probability of achieving the goal. Progress should be assessed weekly and action steps should be updated accordingly.

17. The Motivating Molecule

Andrew explains how dopamine is the molecule of motivation, not pleasure, and how it sits at the heart of our motivational state to seek out goals and pleasure. He also describes the fundamental feature of how our brain releases and uses dopamine called reward prediction error.

18. Understanding Dopamine

Understanding Dopamine:Andrew explains the different ways dopamine is released in response to rewards and how our anticipation of rewards affects the amount of dopamine released. He also discusses how understanding reward prediction error can help us set better goals and milestones.
Voluntary vs Forced Exercise:Andrew discusses a study on rats and humans that shows the importance of our subjective understanding of why we are doing something. The physiological effects of voluntary exercise are positive while forced exercise has negative effects. This has important implications for the effects of behavior on our health.
Reward Schedules:Andrew discusses how to set up a reward schedule to maintain motivation and track progress towards a goal. He suggests picking an interval to assess progress consistently, such as weekly, and rewarding oneself mentally for making regular progress.
Motivation and Dopamine:Andrew explains how the dopamine system is critical to generating motivation and how we can leverage it to pursue our goals effectively. He emphasizes the importance of predicting and visualizing failure, but not thinking about ourselves as failing. He also talks about the importance of rewarding ourselves cognitively for the correct and successful pursuit of our goals.
Dopamine and Motivation:Andrew explains how dopamine affects motivation and discusses ways to increase dopamine levels without causing crashes. He emphasizes the importance of achieving personal milestones to maintain ongoing motivational states.

19. Dopamine and Visual Attention

Andrew discusses how dopamine interacts with the visual system and how it affects our ability to focus and achieve goals. He explains how dopamine-depleted individuals lack visual movement and how dopamine restoration can enhance visual focus. Andrew suggests using behavioral tools first to engage neuroplasticity before advancing to nutritional and supplementation tools.

20. Achieving Goals

Andrew Huberman shares insights on achieving goals, emphasizing the importance of setting moderately challenging goals and planning concretely. He also discusses the power of foreshadowing failure and focusing on particular visual points to harness attention and remove distractors.

21. Tool 9: Space-Time Bridging

Visual System Tool:Andrew shares a powerful tool grounded in neuroscience and psychology research that helps shift focus from interoception to exteroception. The tool involves using the visual system to gradually move from focusing on the peripersonal space to the extra personal space and back, giving more control over daily life. The tool can be done indoors or outdoors, and involves focusing on the inner landscape and eliminating perception of the outside world.
Attention Switching:Andrew Huberman explains a technique to switch focus between internal and external stimuli. By focusing on different stations, one can move from interoception to exteroception and back, with varying degrees of attention on each. This technique can help improve cognitive control and perception.
Bridging Space and Time:Andrew explains how focusing on our internal landscape and then shifting our visual attention outside of our body can help us batch time differently and engage the dopamine system, making it useful for goal setting.
Space-Time Bridging:Andrew discusses the concept of space-time bridging and how it can be used to effectively set and achieve goals. By using our visual system to orient ourselves in different locations in space and time, we can break down our goals into milestones and reinforce behavior through intermittent rewards. Andrew shares his personal practice of space-time bridging and how it can be beneficial in allowing one to constantly update their pursuit and reward in reaching their goals.

22. Summary

Andrew discusses the neuroscience and psychology behind goal-seeking behavior, including the importance of setting concrete plans and assessing progress at specific intervals. He also introduces a daily practice of using the visual system to build up systems that link vision, space, time, and reward. Ultimately, he hopes listeners can incorporate these tools in pursuit of their own goals.

23. Supporting the Huberman Lab

Andrew shares ways to support the Huberman Lab podcast, including subscribing, leaving feedback, checking out sponsors, and becoming a Patreon supporter. He also discusses the importance of high-quality supplements and shares a discount code for Thorne supplements.