It’s a new year and most of us are looking forward to starting the year on solid and strong footing. Just about everyone is focusing on a new set of quota targets and performance metrics, and 12 months in which to achieve them. As we start 2018, I’d like to review some old wisdom on best practice basics and share some new thinking on creating and maintaining your peak performance.
I recently read the book Peak Performance: Elevate Your Game, Avoid Burnout, and Thrive with the New Science of Success,1 by Brad Stulberg and Steve Magness. I have been using several of their observations in my coaching sessions. The book is a wonderful summary that outlines the practices, rituals and thought processes of elite athletes and intellectual thought leaders that enable them to consistently raise the bar on their performance. Here are some of the most effective insights I’ve begun to practice. I hope you find them useful in your daily routine.
Growth only comes at the very tip of resistance. You learn by pushing yourself to the outer reaches of your abilities.
THE GROWTH EQUATION
Conventional wisdom has most of society believing that stress is bad. In the context of setting goals and striving for your maximum potential, stress means that you are putting your mind and body into situations at the outer boundaries of what you currently view as possible. In this case, stress is
exactly what we are aiming to create, and it helps us push our personal boundaries and pursue goals that might otherwise be viewed as unattainable. Essentially, growth only comes at the very tip of resistance. You learn by pushing yourself to the outer reaches of your abilities.
I coach people who are under considerable pressure to perform, and many of them brag that they only need 4 to 5 hours of sleep per night. There is a mountain of evidence that supports the need for 8 hours per night. Think about it — almost all living things grow the most at night. If you are not getting the deep sleep that allows your body and brain to recover, you eventually burn out or, worse, get hurt. When clients push back or protest that they simply don’t have the time to sleep 8 hours, I point out that rest is not exclusively sleep. Rest can include other activities that allow our brains and bodies to ”take a break and rejuvenate.” This might include massage, yoga, meditation, walking, journaling, singing, fishing, gardening, etc. And no, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram do not count; in many cases, social media actually increases stress for people. Regardless of how you choose to rest, it is imperative that you balance the right amount of stressful activities and pursuits with the right amount of rest to achieve your peak performance.
THE MULTITASKING MYTH
Most of us strive to manage several activities at the same time. In fact, we often point to people who appear to handle unrelated tasks all at the same time as multitasking champions. I’ve been a multitasker almost all of my life and struggle to take big strides when attacking important projects. However, I am very good at maintaining equilibrium with my day-to-day tasks. Once I began putting down real compartmentalized, tangible outcomes within a block of time, I began to see large projects come closer to fruition.
A recent example: I set aside three 1-hour blocks with a measurable outcome for each — then I silenced my phone and stopped all email and text reminders. Here were my goals:
- Hour 1: Research 10 of my colleagues LinkedIn networks to identify 10 potential coaching prospects, and then compose and send an email to each colleague to see if he or she might provide an introduction.
- Hour 2: Rewrite the “About Me” section on my website.
- Hour 3: Read a recently downloaded e-book on powerful questions, and then compose 10 new questions for my “question quiver.”
These compartmentalized blocks paved the way for some real traction in my practice. I am a big believer in uninterrupted and focused singletasking time.
NATURE GENERATES CREATIVITY
Did you know that being in nature, or even just looking at pictures of nature, fosters a faster transition from stress to rest and significantly promotes creative thinking? Taking a walk can be the single most effective way to shed the anxiety or pressure we encounter every day. Take time, every day, to be in nature. You’ll notice increased creativity, lower stress levels and greater focus on the things that matter most. As we begin 2018, I urge you to incorporate these practices into your life. Take the time to reset your goals, increase your rest, stop multitasking, and spend more time in nature. If you can commit to these mindful practices, then prepare yourself for a year of peak performance.
- Stulberg B, Magness S. Peak Performance: Elevate Your Game, Avoid Burnout, and Thrive with the New Science of Success. Harlan, Iowa: Rodale Books; 2017.
From MENTOR. January 2018;9(1):6-7.