The Path to Becoming a Peak Performer

The road to peak performance does not lie in a few grand decisions, it hinges on the small day to day choices we make. High performers have a strong reason why they’re doing what they’re doing. They’re motivation and strong desire are the backbone that gets them through tough times in order to achieve a defined purpose.

The following is a collection of excerpts along with my own commentary from the book Peak Performance by Brad Stulberg. After reading this post, I encourage you to pick up a copy of the book from Amazon or your local library. It’s a great read. Enjoy!

What Really Matters

A purpose fosters motivation; motivation lets us endure a greater perception of effort; and enduring a greater perception of effort often results in better performance. This equation holds true in every field – from the track to the workplace.

We are constantly balancing perception of effort, or how hard something feels, with motivation. More motivation leads to a lower perceived effort. The best way to increase motivation is to link our work to a greater purpose or cause. When we are tired or worn out, think about why we are doing what we are doing.

In short, by focusing on something beyond ourselves and reflecting on our core values, we can all more courageously confront challenges and improve performance.

As we go about our daily lives, we are confronted with hundreds of small decisions that can either bring us closer, or push us farther from our goals. Let’s take a look at what goes on in our brains during the course of these decisions and lay out a process to develop into a peak performer.

The Chance

Dopamine is the neurochemical that excites and arouses us. Under the influence of dopamine, we feel alive. Unlike other neurochemicals that are released when we’ve achieved something, the far more potent dopamine is released prior to the payoff of an event, when we are longing or desire something deeply. In other words, we don’t become addicted to winning; we become addicted to the chase.

In uncertain situations, when there is a mere chance of winning, are far more irresistible than situations in which we know we’ll win every time. Our brain rewards us with more dopamine for the act of seeking a reward than for the act of receiving one.

Even if you don’t have a specific achievement in mind, you can use a process of periodization to grow at a rapid rate and develop sound ideas.

This concept of periodization is the same as in sports. Stress + Rest = Growth.

Periodization
  1. Isolate the muscle or capability you want to grow
  2. Stress it
  3. Rest and recover, allowing for adaptation to occur
  4. Repeat – this time stressing the muscle or capability a bit more than the last time
The Process
  1. Immersion – Total engagement in your work with deep, unremitting focus
  2. Incubation – A period of rest and recovery when not at all thinking about the work
  3. Insight – The occurrence of “aha” moments emergence of new ideas and growth in thinking

Rest is really the key here. We can engage all we want, become super focused, work hard & smart, but if we don’t allow our brains time to rest then we won’t reap the benefits of our efforts.

Our Creative Brain Needs Rest

Our most profound ideas often come when our brains are at rest. Researchers have found that over 40% of our creative ideas manifest during breaks.

Think of it like this… We first throw ourselves into the work, intensely studying and working on solving a problem. While our conscious mind gets us pretty far, there’s often a missing piece that we just can’t figure out no matter how hard we try. When you reach this point, though it might seem counterintuitive, stepping away from intentional active thinking and letting our minds rest is when the missing piece appears.

Our conscious mind runs in a logical and linear fashion. Our subconscious mind functions in an entirely different manner than our conscious mind. It breaks form the pattern of linear thinking and works much more randomly, pulling information from parts of our brain that are inaccessible when we’re consciously working on something. It’s in these parts of the brain where our creative ideas lie.

It’s only when we turn off the conscious mind, shifting into “rest” those insights from the subconscious mind surface.

Getting away from your work and turning off your brain by doing mindless tasks like going for a walk, listening to music, or doing the laundry that we open the door to those “aha” moments. Even if you don’t have an “aha” moment, when you return to what you were doing, you’ll be more likely to make progress.

When we sleep, we not only give our bodies the opportunity to grow, we also grow our minds and process the day.

Rejuvenate Your Mind

Training is only the potential for growth Just like intense training, one needs rest to grow. Short walks or exercise can do wonders, even just a couple minutes at a time. As a trade it’s super important to use the weekend to recharge and refresh your mind, body, and spirit.

The Power of a Positive Mindset

  • Positive energy, motivation, and drive are all contagious. Surround yourself with high performers.
  • By being positive and showing motivation you are not only helping yourself, but you are also helping everyone else in your life.
  • Negativity and pessimism are also contagious. A chain is only as strong as its weakest link so be leery of Debbie downers.

The best performers design their days strategically, they minimize to maximize, they ensure their work is in harmony with their core beliefs and values, and they surround themselves with supportive, like-minded people.

The best are not consistently great, they are great at being consistent.

The real secret of world-class performers is not the specific daily routines that they develop, but that they stick to them. They show up every day even when they don’t feel like it. Whatever you want to call it, drive, passion, grit, it comes from deep within.

In an interested twist, this strength that comes from deep within is often rooted in something “without.” When the going gets tough, great performers don’t show up for themselves they show up for something greater than themselves, a purpose.

A Few Tips to Become a Peak Performer

  • Your mind is a muscle that needs exercise
  • Set a singular focus
  • Work in smaller chunks 25-mis or 90-mins followed by periods of rest.
  • Browsing social media or watching tv isn’t nearly as effective as taking a walk.
  • Minimize & Simplify
  • Determine the time of day that you do your best work and work on your most challenging tasks during that time
  • Determine the most important thing that needs to get done tomorrow. Strive to complete it by 11 AM.
  • Get the fundamentals right and then add to you base skills before trying to make the trick shot – Mark Cuban

About Tim Racette

Tim is a full-time trader in the futures and stock markets and founder of EminiMind.com. He is also a Chicago-land native, competitive mountain biker, adventurer, and ASU Sun Devil.

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