How to be the best you can be? That is what “Peak Performance: Elevate Your Game, Avoid Burnout, and Thrive with the New Science of Success” covers. Being intrinsically driven. Covering the pursuit of excellence. Covering the pressure from work and society. Making an increasing number of people in the world miserable, hopeless, suffering, and becoming dangerously unhappy. Nuts is the new normal. Down to some experts expecting workplaces to issue productivity drugs.
There is a dark side to “Coherence”, “Stealing fire” and “Search inside yourself”. Combine that with IoT, quantified self, and you have a corporate big brother on your hand, checking your heart the eat, sleep patterns, food intake, mood and whatever else to make sure you stay productive.
A 2014 survey of over 2,500 companies in 90 countries worldwide found that a pressing challenge for most modern employers is “the overwhelmed employee.” One study found that more than half of white-collar workers believe they’ve reached a breaking point. 53% of American workers report feeling burnt out.
We need to manage ourselves
It seems we have a single reservoir of brain- and willpower. We have a limited reservoir of energy. We have a limited reservoir of decision-making capacity. Once you realise that, it is not that difficult and very simple.
The basic rule
The basic rule is stress + rest = growth.
- Dose your stress. Dose your rest.
- Either pursuing an activity with ferocious intensity or engaging in complete restoration and recovery.
- You learn better from “productive” failure
- Create “just-manageable” challenges.
- Experience does not count. Deliberate practice and deep concentration do. Serious work, with 100% engagement
- Single-task. Don’t multitask. Ever. For 99% of us, effective multitasking is nothing more than delusional thinking. Just imagine if a runner doing intervals on the track came to a complete stop to check her phone after every notification. The constant start-and-stop would certainly impair her performance
- Detox from your smartphone. Read the “End of absence”. 89% of college students suffer from “phantom vibration syndrome.” The most common defence against smartphone distraction is straightforward: turn your phone to silent mode and then place it face down on the table, or perhaps even put it in your pocket.
- Work in alternating between blocks of 50 to 90 minutes of intense work and recovery breaks of 7 to 20 minutes to enables you to sustain the physical, cognitive, and emotional energy required for peak performance.
- Get your mind straight. The lens through which we view the world affects everything from learning to health to longevity. The way we think about the world has a profound effect on what we do in it.
- “I am excited” shifts your demeanour from what they call a threat mindset (stressed out and apprehensive) to an opportunity mindset (revved up and ready to go).
- Meditate. Our most profound ideas often come from the small spaces in between otherwise deliberate thinking: when our brains are at rest.
- Go for a walk. Those who took as brief as a 6-minute walk outdoors increased creativity by more than 60% versus those who had remained seated at their desks.
- Meet your friends and family. The basic biology of feeling connected to others has profound effects on stress physiology,
- Get enough sleep. Read “Move, eat, sleep“.
- Nap, a 25-minute nap improves judgment by 35% and vigilance by 16%.
- Take the weekend off. Studies show that vigour and performance increase following a rest day and the more someone rests on the weekend, the more effort they expend during the week.
- Think happy thoughts (read “Solve for happy”)
- Eliminate distractions
- Limit the number of decisions you have to make in a day (it is called decision fatigue)
- Devote yourself only to things that really matter
- Know your ebb and flow of energy over a 24-hour cycle (it is called chronotype).
- Pick your friends wisely. You are similar to the weakest motivational link in your circle of friends. Motivation, mode and attitude are contagious. The makeup of your social circle has profound implications for your own behaviour.
- Graft. The single greatest skill in any endeavour is doing the work. Not doing the work that is easy for you. Not doing the work that makes you look good. Not doing the work when you feel inspired. Just doing the graft.
We are much more capable
And last, but not least. There are stories unbelievable exhibitions of strength are so common that the scientific community recognises these acts of “superhuman” and “hysterical” strength as being very real. Our brain switches off our body way before its limits. Fear, fatigue, and pain act as protective mechanisms. But we are capable of overriding these defences. Hence, for example, Navy Seal training.
The power of purpose
And what is the main factor there? The power of purpose. Throughout history, when people focus on a self-transcending purpose, or a purpose greater than themselves, they become capable of more than they ever thought was possible. Ego minimisation. In a paradoxical twist, the less we think about ourselves, the better we become. As described in “The great work of your life”.
In a meta-analysis of over 200,000 workers (nonathletes) across numerous industries, researchers found the belief that one’s job had a positive impact on others was associated with better performance. Linking one’s work to a greater purpose enhances everyday performance, even on mundane tasks. The more motivated we are, the greater the perception of effort we are willing to tolerate. Purpose fosters motivation; motivation lets us endure a greater perception of effort, and enduring a greater perception of effort often results in better performance.
When burnout strikes
And here is an interesting one. When burnout strikes, you should focus on helping others. Works wonders.