Your Brain Needs Cake

In the last few months of running my own business-  I have set myself up for miserable work without realizing it.  Every month, I start fresh with a Post-It note of ideas and goals for the month.  “Hit X subscribers,  Make X in ad revenue,  Complete X challenge,”  in the frame of mind that if I hit the goals, I’ll be happy with my work.

Goal driven people set themselves up for misery when they treat their work like a frantic sprint-  hurridly rushing through the motions only to pass the baton off at one goal marker or another, being fixated on getting the baton to the finish line in as little time as possible.  Instead of basking the glow of achievement, we fixate ourselves on the next leg of the trip. We hit a goal, great…now what’s next?

[highlight]Without immediately rushing to the next milestone, we feel as if we’re cheating ourselves or claiming victory prematurely.  Success driven people typically reward achieved goals with more goals- there is error in this logic.[/highlight]

I was discussing business with a mentor a few weeks ago and she asked me, “What have you done lately to celebrate your success?”  My response was, “I gave myself a mental high five since I know it enables me to do more and aim higher.”  Of course, I thought that was a great answer to pitch to a successful business woman.  She then stopped me and said, “No, you didn’t celebrate your success.  You essentially re-handed yourself the baton without taking a breath and you kept running.  I’m serious, what do you do to celebrate?”

I was baffled by this question, and in fact, I was uncomfortable.  I had hit my target income goals and the other markers of success had vastly improved-  my stats were up, my work had received recognition and I had invites to take on more work (which meant more money and even better stats.)

I was happy with the success I had had thus far, but I was nowhere near my goals.  That was when she told me to go out and order a slice of cake.  Internally, I immediately objected.  “Cake?” I thought.  What was there to celebrate?  I was further along than I had previously been, but nowhere near where I needed to be.

[highlight]She then advised me I needed to train my brain to be happy through small accomplishments. [/highlight]  To train your brain as you would your body-  sprint, cross the finish line, grab a cool drink & recover.

“It’s not enough to do the work, you must cultivate a rewards system in your brain that will create work flow that is truly sustainable.”  Plus, she noted, “I think you did a great job and you really should just have some cake.”   I blushed and begrudgingly agreed to order some cake to celebrate with a friend later in the week.

[highlight]Cake?! Pfft.[/highlight]

A few weeks later though, it hit me-  if you want to be truly successful, you need to be happy.   We are naturally inclined to sell ourselves short and scramble for the next baton, to reach for an ever moving goalpost.  We think the success we’ve had is not enough, and if we’ve had this taste, surely there must be more…we’d be ungrateful/lazy/selfish/wasteful to not immediately rebound from one milestone to springboard to the next set of goals.

[highlight]But again, you need cake.[/highlight]

When you don’t allow yourself time to celebrate or to take a day off to bask in the simple glow of knowing “I did it,” no matter how small the achievement, you train your brain that accomplishments don’t come with rewards but only with more work.  It would be like hitting your target weight goal with exercise and then reacting with, “Great, you lost 15 lbs. with the new exercise routine,  let’s see if we can lose 5 lbs. more by cutting out our favorite foods!”  See?  Ludicrous. (Plus that also means less cake.)

Sometimes hitting our goals are highly motivating, you feel invigorated and ready to charge onto the next platform.  Hitting one goal enables you to reach another that was previously untouchable.  If hitting goals fires you up for round two, great- but seriously, give yourself a reward system (even if it means ordering an appetizer or taking the evening off).

[highlight]If you want your brain to work smarter, not harder- you need to train yourself with cake.[/highlight]

Of course, you can replace cake with family time, reading a good book, taking a staycation or acknowledging your success with a friend without downplaying your acheivement. Take a minute to savor a bite of celebratory confection before you leap into the next set and your mental pathways will accommodate and strengthen, not weaken, with a bit of rest and synapse sugar.


Don’t believe me?  Check this out:


  1. May 2, 2012
  2. May 4, 2012
  3. May 5, 2012
  4. May 27, 2012
  5. June 22, 2012

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