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Good morning team. I hope this finds you well rested and ready for the week. I came across this article that I enjoyed and I hope you do to:
By Brian Johnson / October 2012
John Eliot, PhD, is one of the world’s leading authorities on peak performance. He’s also more than willing to challenge conventional wisdom on the subject. Too often, he argues, the focus is put on minimizing stress, when in many cases, learning how to thrive in the face of pressure is a far more effective and rewarding strategy.
Eliot, a professor of management and psychology and a private consultant to top-level executives, athletes, artists and corporations, offers his own alternate stress-modulating philosophies in his book Overachievement: The New Model for Exceptional Performance (Portfolio Trade, 2006). Here is some of the book’s most essential, innovative advice.
Love Your Butterflies
Relaxation techniques have their place, Eliot acknowledges, particularly when tension or overwork becomes debilitating. Central to Eliot’s philosophy, however, is the idea that, in order to succeed, we must learn to embrace and exploit the anxiety inherent in life’s biggest moments. “Great performers welcome pressure,” he writes. “Instead of trying to control or erase pressure, they use it as a kind of energy bar.”
In the heat of a nerve-racking moment, our bodies naturally take energy away from nonessential activities and channel it to those things that the body perceives as absolutely vital. “The physical symptoms of fight-or-flight are what the human body has learned over thousands of years to operate more efficiently and at the highest level,” Eliot says.
“I cannot enhance anybody’s performance without getting them not only to live with the butterflies that come with high-pressure jobs, but to embrace that kind of physical response.” This level of resilience, says Eliot, is an important prerequisite to becoming an exceptional performer.
Act Like a Squirrel
“To be sure, great performers are well trained, experienced, smart and, in some cases, divinely talented,” Eliot observes. “But the way their brains work during a performance is a lot more like a squirrel’s than like Albert Einstein’s.
“Like squirrels, the best in every business do what they have learned to do without questioning their abilities — they flat out trust their skills, which is why we call this high performance state of mind the ‘Trusting Mindset.’”
Admittedly, the idea that humans should channel a squirrel seems a bit goofy. But imagine one of those rascally rodents scurrying across a telephone wire. He’s not up there thinking, Oh my! This wire’s a high one, and it’s a little windy, and if I take a wrong step I could fall. This is so much harder than I thought it would be! The squirrel trusts his abilities completely and just goes for it. And 99 times out of 100 he successfully crosses the wire.
Not convinced? Consider what happens when someone asks you to throw over a set of keys. If you’re like most people, you just turn and toss without a second thought. And, because you have a subconscious confidence in your arm’s ability and don’t think through the motion, you almost always hit the target.
Now imagine that you’re engaged in a key-toss competition in the middle of a filled-to-capacity basketball arena. There is a million-dollar prize on the line and five other contestants, each one a previous key-toss world champion. How do you perform with the same ease and confidence you did in casual company? How do you avoid doubting yourself under the hot lights of expectation?
Eliot says that you’ll do your best if you maintain the same trusting mindset you had when no money was on the line and no one was watching. “Confidence is not a guarantee of success, but a pattern of thinking that will improve your likelihood of success,” he says. “Routine access to the Trusting Mindset is what separates great performers from the rest of the pack.”
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“How beautifully leaves grow old. How full of light and color are their last days.” John Burroughs