I’ve just completed the third book in The Next Big Idea Club. That means it’s time for the third installment of my learning from ENDURE – Mind, Body, and the Curiously Elastic Limits of Human Performance, by Alex Hutchinson. I think the ideal target audience for this book is endurance athletes, which I am not. There were many stories about athletes and explorers who endured extreme experiences, testing the limits of their physical capacities. It’s full of details about scientific tests that push the boundaries of the human body and offer insights into the minds of those athletes and adventurers.
For me, it offered a validation of what I thought to be true. Our minds are quite powerful and influence our ultimate performance.
Our bodies are capable of doing much more than we might think. If we have the mindset to dig deeper, our bodies have the reserves of energy to push harder.
Given that my world is not that of an elite athlete, I was looking for the connections that apply to leaders in their work environments. These are the connections I found:
- Discover the source of your pain – In physical challenges, the brain sends “pain” messages that signal the body to stop or back off. In our working world, those “pain” messages are not about physical pain. However, they could be signaling a fear or some other factor that holds us back from pursuing an idea or suggesting a bold innovation. Stop to consider how your thinking is limiting your progress. Are you making assumptions about how others will respond? What are your fears?
- Mindfulness matters – As with athletes being keenly aware of what is going on within their bodies and around them. Being fully present in training and competitions is vital. Same should be true for us at work. Being fully engaged and present during meetings, personal interactions, and while concentrating on your own work directly impacts the quality of that interaction or work product. Stop multitasking and focus on the work at hand.
- Monitor and manage mental fatigue – We all recognize when we are physically fatigued, but may not appreciate the impact of mental fatigue. Just staring at a computer screen for a few hours can cause changes in the brain’s chemistry. It’s important to take breaks every 45-60 minutes to ensure we stay mentally fresh. Get up and walk or stretch (without your phone in hand), take deep breaths, and get a change in your environment. Ideally, it’s best if you can get outside or have some light conversation with a colleague to take a “brain-break”. You and your work product will be better for it! Want an additional boost? Caffeine shuts down receptors in the brain that detect adenosine, a neurotransmitter associated with mental fatigue. While you’re up and moving, grab a caffeinated beverage for that afternoon slump.
- Positivity creates a boost in performance – Self-confidence enables people to try harder. Getting positive feedback and other uplifting messages boosts that confidence. Envisioning a positive outcome becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. When leading others, make sure to talk about what people are doing RIGHT, vs. focusing only on what they need to do to improve. Smile, offer encouraging words, and let team members know you have confidence in their abilities. If you don’t get that from others, stop beating yourself up and offer some self-motivational grace instead.
- Believe in yourself – The brain rules the body. Having belief in yourself gives you an advantage from the beginning. You may be faced with a complex problem or an overwhelming project. Regardless of the situation, when you have a mindset believing you will be successful, you’ve doubled your chances of accomplishing that objective. Don’t give up – Dig in!
Your perception of effort during a difficult task or situation is critical. Remember, you are capable of much more than you think!