We are all on a path to elevate our game. But what separates those who are average from those who are world class at what they do? How can we apply some of those principles to how we approach our goals? We might not want to compete in the Olympics, but learning how they train can help us just chase a better version of ourselves. The book Peak Performance is a fascinating read on this topic. Here are some key learnings:
Set a goal on the outer boundaries of what you think is possible, then systematically pursue it. Growth comes at the point of resistance. You learn by pushing yourself to the outer reaches of your abilities.
Balance the right amount of stress with the right amount of rest. Stress + rest = growth. Challenge is followed by a slight dip in function. But after you rest and recover, you adapt and become stronger, to push a little harder in the future. Figure out the right balance, so you don’t either get hurt or burn out (too much stress, not enough rest) or become complacent and plateau (not enough stress, too much rest). Stress demands rest, and rest supports stress. This is true in all aspects of your life - your job, how you train, etc.
To be productive and successful, almost all great intellectual and creative performers do the following:
1. Immersion: deep focus on work
2. Incubation: rest, not thinking about work
3. Insight: “aha”: new ideas and growth
Link key activities to the same context (e.g., time of day, physical environment).
We have the power to choose how to look at hard work. Elite runners feel pain and discomfort during their hard workouts, but they react differently than everyone else. Rather than panicking, they have a calm conversation: “This is starting to hurt now. It should. I’m running hard. But I am separate from this pain. It is going to be okay.” Like meditation, choose how to respond to the stress of a workout. The brain comes in and creates a perception of failure before we actually harm ourselves. The same principle can be applied to a stressful situation at work.
We constantly weigh how hard something feels against our motivation to do it. When perception of effort is unbalanced with the motivation, we slow down or ease up until the two are balanced. The more motivated we are, the greater the effort we are willing to tolerate.
You can improve your performance by either decreasing your perception of effort (training so that it feels easier) or by increasing your motivation.
Decision fatigue is real. Judges granted prisoners parole 65 percent of the time at the beginning of the day, but nearly zero percent of the time at the end of the day. Physicians make significantly more prescribing errors as the day wears on. Do your difficult decision making in the morning. Figure out how to make less decisions during your day - i.e. systematize your meal prep, planning for kids activities, what you’ll wear, etc.
No matter where we are in our fitness journey, our career, or just our lives, there is always opportunity to elevate our game. Getting specific on how to do that is the magic in making it happen.