Oprah Winfrey on Career, Life and Leadership
Oprah Winfrey is interviewed by students at Stanford’s University’s School of Business
about her career.
Inside the Mind of Champion Athletes
Martin Hagger, Professor of Psychology at Curtin University gives an overview of the mental techniques top sportsmen and women use to prepare themselves for peak performance.
Are You Fit For Success?
In order to maintain high performance in whichever area of life you excel at, it’s important to be able to sustain a high level of mental performance. But unless your chosen area is sport, it’s all too easy to forget that one of the keys to sustained mental performance is the physical state of your body.
The Romans had a phrase for it: Mens sana in corpore sano which translates as only a healthy body can sustain a healthy mind. Lifestyle, diet and fitness regimen all contribute to how good we feel and how well we are able to resist the stresses and strains of every days life so we can bring our best selves to our most important tasks.
The will to win is not nearly as important as the will to prepare to win. So what can we do to make sure that we operate on top form the majority of the time.
The first place to start is by staying fit. Being overweight, flabby and carrying excess pounds saps our energy, so it becomes harder to concentrate for long periods. Unless it’s something you really enjoy it can be difficult to fit in long sessions of cardio or visits to the gym, so it’s important to find a fitness program or workout plan which you feel can fit seamlessly into your life.
Diet is hugely important. Too much sugar, coffee and other stimulants give you that artificial high which can only be sustained by topping up the stimulant levels, the alternative crash leaves us feeling tired, sluggish and performing below par. A diet high in fresh meat, vegetables and fruit, low in simple carbohydrates (pasta, rice and products made of flour) and moderate dairy consumption seems to be the optimum for enhancing vitality.
Alcohol is an controversial question; for decades we’ve been warned about it, but in some countries it’s “prescribed” in moderation by doctors as both a preventative measure and a cure. And as one of the other keys to success is appropriate relaxation, a glass or two of wine with dinner probably enhances rather than depresses performance. However, beware the beer, it contains the sugar maltose which the body treats like pure glucose, so leads to fat deposits and a sugar high. A problem that wine and spirits avoid.
So many of life’s stresses contribute to increasing the tension stored in our muscles and as the tension increases we often don’t notice until something causes us actual pain – often a headache or pain in the jaw.
Active relaxation helps disperse the tension and is also one of they keys to optimum mental sharpness. It’s an antidote to stress and helps boost our immune systems and stay healthy. Active relaxation doesn’t mean slumping in front of the TV, it’s process where you intentionally relax the mind and body. Meditation, yoga and stretching are good examples of active relaxation, or for a really enjoyable experience you could try a massage!
Some people find it easier to relax after muscle activity, so one of the best known and most widely practiced active relaxation techniques is Progressive Muscular Relaxation (PMR). This is easy to learn and practice almost anywhere. It involves the systematic tensing and then relaxing of each of the different muscle groups in the body. As an example shrug your shoulders up towards your ears, really squeeze as tight as you can. Hold for 5 seconds then relax and notice the difference. Some people notice straight away, others require practice, but it is worth giving it a go. More details about how to do PMR here.
Having a fit and healthy body, good diet and adequate relaxation should help improve the quality of your sleep. And they during your waking hours you will be ready to face every challenge you want to set yourself with enthusiasm, persistence and laser like focus.
Getting Out Of The Zone
High performance may be all about getting in “the zone”, but real high performance is only achieved once you get out of a different zone.
Leaving your Comfort Zone
Our comfort zones tend to be habits. And like all habits, they become routine. We do things without thinking, without exploring to find a better, more efficient and successful way. Especially if exploring involves risk. The risk that we might fail, or come up short. It all too easy to fall back into our old, safe ways of being.
To quote a former England team manager:
The greatest barrier to success is the fear of failure.
Sven Goran Eriksson
So we need to be alert and start to notice when our comfort zone begins to have negative, stagnating, effect. So how do you know when the boundaries of your comfort zone are holding you back? Some people say their excitement and drive has diminished others notice a certain lack of focus or challenge. When progress towards our goals seems to be resting on a plateau that’s a sign that it’s time for some thought.
Getting Off The Plateau
Plateaus, of course, are not in themselves bad things. It is important to have time for reflection, consolidation and planning. So this is a great time to to plan to leave your comfort zone and head for new heights. Make for the next plateau on your journey to ultimate success.
By stepping outside your comfort zone repeatedly, it expands to become your new norm. Things that were previously scary become old hat and you are able to do so much more without having to brace yourself for the ordeal.
So when it’s time to explore new options and do something differently, you might like to pause and work out in what ways you want to expand your comfort zone. Where the next plateau will be.
The Next Step to Success
And then you’ll have some ideas as to what the first step outside your comfort zone will be, and some strategies to help stop you falling back into a rut. Always remembering that you can only fail if you put a time limit on a goal. Otherwise you’re just gathering information…
It’s better to have tried and failed than to live life wondering what would’ve happened if I had tried
Alfred Lord Tennyson