In this episode, Alex Hutchinson shares what he learned from ten years of researching human performance. He explains that whether you are running a marathon, building a career, or raising a family, you will have fundamental struggles. And even though the situations are very different, the struggles are similar. “Human achievement relies upon the ability to endure—and your ability to push forward in any circumstance will separate the very successful times from the less successful times,” explains Hutchinson. Here are a few of the fascinating concepts he shares:
Although some limits we experience feel physical, many are dictated by the brain. That doesn’t mean we can ignore those limits, but we need to realize they are more changeable than we think. If, for example, you are struggling to win a race or fighting to stay awake during a presentation, you are hitting a limit. Being able to recognize the difference between apparent and actual limits is at the heart of understanding what endurance is all about.
Your beliefs could be the most powerful asset you have for improving performance. Believing you can do something is part of the trick. The method of creating belief doesn’t happen overnight—it takes time and effort to build confidence. And confidence improves performance. Tricking yourself that you are performing better than you actually are can bridge the gap between what your brain thinks you can do and what your body really can do. Deception is useful to show you what is possible to achieve; however, it isn’t a great method for sustaining performance.
Understand that mental fatigue is as real and as tiring as physical fatigue. Research shows that looking at a computer screen for a few hours can cause changes in your brain chemistry that result in mental fatigue—and that can damage your physical performance. So, if you are in the office powering through a project on your computer, maybe the best thing you can do is get up and take a walk outside to refresh your mental state and then get back to your project with renewed energy.
Pain causes discomfort that slows us down. An athlete experiences physical pain, but someone making a presentation or speech can also feel pain. The good news is that pain tolerance can be developed. To push the limits of your endurance, you need to get comfortable being uncomfortable.
Nutrition plays a huge role in your performance. It’s obvious that physical endurance depends on food and water, but a nutritious diet is also important for brain function. There is no silver bullet diet—you must find what works best for you.
Finally, Hutchinson explains the importance of optimism and believing in yourself. He reminds us that “The experience of a limit is a sensation in the brain. It isn’t easy to change, but it isn’t as absolute as it feels. Don’t take the feeling of hitting a limit as a signal of failure, but as a signal to look for another way to accomplish your goal.”
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