Peak Performance: Elevate Your Game, Avoid Burnout, and Thrive with the New Science of Success by Brad Stulberg & Steve Magness

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The scientific cycle behind growth and development.  Suggests principles which are time-tested, safe, ethical, and legal have been used by great performers for centuries from all disciplines tries to outline these.

Starts off with a powerful story about a runner and consultant who shined extremely bright, only to see their performance plateau, their health suffer, their satisfaction wane then them burnout.

The power of purpose as a performance enhance – many great performers often thank and attribute their success to forces beyond themselves: be it family, God, or some other transcendent power.  Motivation is contagious spreads through tight-knit groups.

To prime for peak performance and daily productivity you’ve got to find the Goldilocks weight: an amount you can barely manage, that will leave you exhausted and fatigued, but not injured when you have finished your work out. Discovering such an ideal weight is only half the battle.

The key to strengthening any muscle, be it physical, cognitive, or emotional is balancing the right amount of stress with the right amount of rest. Stress + rest = growth is the main equation from this book.

Common process across almost all great intellectual and creative performers, regardless of their field:

1. Immersion: total engagement in their work with deep, unremitting focus

2. Incubation: a period of rest and recovery when they are not at all thinking about their work

3. Insight: the occurrence of “aha” or “eureka” moments—the emergence of new ideas and growth in their thinking

The manner in which great intellectual and creative performers continually grow their minds mirrors the manner in which great physical performers continually grow their bodies.

Failure provides an opportunity to analyse a problem from different angles, pushing us to understand its deep underlying structure and to hone the transferable skill of problem-solving itself.

Mentions research that shows people who are “chronic” multitaskers are worse at filtering out irrelevant information, slower at identifying patterns, and have worse long-term memories. In other words, multitasking not only makes the work we do today suffer, but it also makes the work we’ll do tomorrow suffer.

MINDSET MATTERS to emphasise this an experiment was mentioned in which after exercise people were given an ice-cold milkshake. Some were given a healthy, low-calorie blend of organic fruits and vegetables with almond milk and whey protein? Others a calorie bomb of full-fat chocolate ice cream, whole milk, and sugary syrup?

Science (and common sense) tells us that our bodies would react differently to each of these drinks. The calorie bomb would, at first, make us feel more satiated. A few hours later, however, thanks to all the sugar, we’d crave more sweets. The healthy version, on the other hand, would refresh and energize us, leaving us feeling lighter on our feet.

When researchers from Yale compared how people responded to the two shakes just described, they confirmed all of these assumptions. Study participants who received the unhealthy shake reported feeling greater immediate satisfaction but craved more sweets later. They also experienced a steeper decline in ghrelin. Ghrelin is the hormone associated with hunger, and its decline told their brains that “I’m full.” These findings are not surprising as they are precisely what you’d expect to happen. With one small exception: The contents of the milkshakes given to each group were exactly the same. The only thing that differed was the description.

This experiment suggests that it was the participants’ minds—not the sugar, fat, fruits, vegetables, or protein—that controlled not only how they subjectively felt after drinking the shakes, but also their deep hormonal response.

During our waking hours we expose ourselves to all kinds of psychological stimulus (stress), and during our sleep (rest) we make sense of it all. As a result, we’re literally more evolved when we wake up the next morning. In our sleep, we grow. And we grow not just our cognitive and emotional muscles but our physical ones, too. Research shows that breaks lasting 7 to 10 days have positive effects on motivation, well-being, and health that last up to a month. Other studies have shown that a week-long vacation can diminish or even completely eliminate burnout. But here’s the catch: If the conditions that led to burnout in the first place aren’t resolved, the symptoms of burnout inevitably return just a few weeks later. It means that contrary to common belief, extended breaks are not a saving grace that allow people with unsustainable workloads to magically bounce back.

Rather than viewing vacations as a last-ditch tool to save someone on the edge, it’s better to think of extended breaks as part of a broader “rest” strategy that includes mini-breaks, sound sleep, and off-days.

PERFORMANCE PRACTICES

Regardless of the work you do, take at least 1 off-day every week.

Time your off-days strategically to follow periods of accumulated stress.

The more stress, the more rest that is needed.

To the extent that you can, time your vacations strategically to follow longer periods of stress.

On both single off-days and extended vacations, truly disconnect from work. Unplug both physically and mentally and engage in activities that you find relaxing and restorative.

To be a maximalist it is necessary to be a minimalist. Many great performers have diverse interests that work together to feed their success, it is not required to focus on one narrow aspect. However, you should identify and strive to cut out all the superficial things in your life. You should be fully intentional with how you spend your most precious resource of all: time.

Each time we make a deliberate decision, however inconsequential it may seem, our brain is processing different scenarios and evaluating all the options. As the decisions we make add up, so, too, does the amount of processing required by our brain. Just like any other muscle would, our mental muscle gets tired.  In addition to fatiguing us over the course of a day, making decisions, even small ones, interrupts our acute train of thought. The more decisions you make automatic, the more energy you’ll have for the work you deem important.

The most essential part about adopting the minimalist-to-be-a-maximalist lifestyle is figuring out what really matters to you and what is actually worth expending energy on and then devoting minimal energy to everything else.

Figure out when you are alert and focused, and design your day accordingly. Optimise your work around your respective chronotypes.

While we perform best on work that demands deep focus and attention during our peak hours, the opposite holds true for generating creative ideas. Creativity often requires stepping away from whatever it is we are working on and letting our minds wander. In doing so, we unleash the creative power of our subconscious (our brain’s default-mode network).

During our peak hours, when we are hyper-alert and focused, our conscious mind is dominant. Whilst during our off-peak hours, as we become fatigued and struggle to maintain focus, our more creative mind has a better opportunity to shine.

Perhaps the real secret of world-class performers is not the daily routines that they develop, but that they stick to them. That they show up, even when they don’t feel like it. Great performers don’t show up for themselves, they show up for something greater than themselves.

Ego minimization is harnessing the power of purpose to overcome your fears and doubts. Our “ego” or “self” or “central governor” serves as a protective mechanism that holds us back from reaching our true limits.  When faced with great challenges, our ego is biologically programmed to shut us down, telling us to turn in the other direction. By focusing on a self-transcending purpose, or a reason for doing something beyond our “self,” we can override our ego and break through our self-imposed limits.

When you are faced with formidable challenges and your mind is telling you to quit, you can ask yourself why you are undertaking them. If the answer is “for someone or something greater than myself,” you’ll be more likely to push onward. Thinking less about your “self” is one of the best ways to improve yourself.

Protect against burnout:

Find opportunities to give back in the context of your work; these can be more intensive, such as coaching and mentoring, or less intensive, such as posting sincere advice in online forums.

The only criteria is that your “giving” is closely linked to your work and that you give without the expectation of getting anything back.

While “giving” is especially powerful for preventing and reversing burnout, you should still aim to avoid burnout by supporting stress with appropriate rest.

Develop your purpose, select and personalise your core values. Consider ranking your core values and writing your purpose statement. Strategically call upon your purpose, use visual cues to remind yourself of your purpose when you are most likely to need a boost. Develop a mantra based on your purpose and use it for self-talk when the going gets tough. Reflect on your purpose nightly, you may wish to try using expressive writing. Think about how closely you lived in alignment with your purpose, striving to move closer to consistent alignment over time.

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