The Health and Wellbeing Journey

The Health and Wellbeing Journey

The STEM 1.0 Academic Program Home Page

KEY POINTS:

1.  A key to living a world class life is to become a student of human performance. This means taking an interest in what makes you tick so you can continue to build your knowledge long after this program ends.

2. Being 1% better every day isn’t about big, dramatic changes. All you can do is give this day, or this moment, your full attention.

3. Remember to always think and focus on your dream and then weave it into everything you do.

As our Perform Better module comes to an end, I want to make a suggestion about how you proceed from here.

I believe that a key to living a world class life is to become a student of human performance. By that, I don’t mean you have to become a self-proclaimed exercise science geek like me. I just mean you should take an interest in what makes you tick so you can continue to build your knowledge long after this program ends.

The reason this is important has to do with the power of curiosity and learning. When we go through life with an interest in something, we are constantly looking for information about that subject.

Whatever interests you, you will follow it. That’s how desire works – we act on it. And if you develop a curiosity about how human beings perform, you can create an engine that will drive your improvement forever.

My advice is similar to what Walt Disney said about curiosity:

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So take all of this learning and use it as a catalyst for becoming, at some level, a student of a healthy mind-body. It’s one way to ensure you live a long and successful life.

Everything in these components has been about your personal journey. Being 1% better every day isn’t about big, dramatic changes. You can’t leap ten miles at a time. You can’t move ahead to next week or next month or next year. All you can do is give this moment – this day – your full attention.

With one exception: your dream.

Remember what Robin Sharma said? As you live your days, you live your life. Make sure you are always thinking about your dream. Focus on it at all times. And then weave it into everything you do. That’s how it will become a reality, whether you are an Olympic athlete, an artist, a writer, an educator, or a business leader. 

It has been a pleasure spending this time with you. I’ve enjoyed your questions and comments and stories about your journey. I’ve heard a lot about your dreams and your challenges, and I’m grateful for that. One way of being 1% better every day is to learn from others, and I’m lucky to have learned so much from you. Thank you for participating and striving and sharing.

I wish you the very best on your journey!

Today's POWER-UP: Take the first step

The journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step. 

Everyone – from the most decorated athlete to the simplest of folks – takes one step at a time to achieve their dream.

Practice Daily Gratitude

Practice Daily Gratitude

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KEY POINTS:

1. Practicing gratitude, or noticing and appreciating the positive aspects of the world, has been shown to reduce mental health disorders such as depression, anxiety and PTSD. 

2. Adopting a “gratitude attitude” has also been shown to reduce stress, lower blood pressure, decrease inflammation in the body, improve sleep, strengthen relationships, reduce conflict, and trigger reciprocally helpful behaviour.

In the past two decades, researchers have learned that gratitude is strongly related to all aspects of wellbeing. It has been shown to reduce mental health disorders such as depression, anxiety and PTSD. A person who has suffered a traumatic experience, for example, is able to recover better and even achieve a higher level of emotional wellbeing afterward if they are oriented toward noticing and appreciating the positive in the world.

Adopting a “gratitude attitude” has also been shown to reduce stress, lower blood pressure, decrease inflammation in the body, improve sleep, strengthen relationships, reduce conflict and trigger reciprocally helpful behavior. This last finding means that a person who shows gratitude – for a friend’s input, a home-cooked meal, a parent's help with homework – increases the likelihood that the recipient will show more care and compassion toward others. Gratitude generates kind-hearted acts, like the ripples of a pebble dropped in water.
 
Some of us are “sunny sky” people who notice and appreciate the positive in the world. Others dwell a bit more on the negative with a “dark cloud” outlook. Either way, we can all increase the positive mental, emotional and physical outcomes of gratitude.
 
Two things can help: 1) breaking gratitude down into its parts so you can see what it actually means, and 2) knowing that you can develop a stronger habit through practice.
 
Let’s start with understanding the parts of gratitude. Researchers have identified a handful of aspects of gratitude, which include:

  • Appreciation of other people: “I’m lucky to have David as a friend/teammate/brother.”
  • A focus on what you currently have: “I’m thankful for my family/for the healthy food available/for a safe and warm home.”
  • Feelings of awe when encountering beauty: “This waterfall is a wonder!”
  • Focusing on the positive in the present moment: “I’m going to sit here on this park bench for a moment and take in the autumn colors.”
  • Appreciation arising from understanding that life is short: “I will die and people I know will die, so this day matters so much.”
  • Positive social comparisons: “There are so many people who have less than I do.”

Considering this list, you can see that gratitude is not naïve, immature or disconnected from reality. In fact, it’s mostly generated from the very real, sometimes even serious, features of our lives.

Today's POWER-UP: Practice Daily Gratitude

1. EXPRESSING GRATITUDE: WHEN I WAS WORKING WITH THE NATIONAL SWIM TEAM, WE SPENT A LOT OF TIME ON THE ROAD AT TRAINING CAMPS AND COMPETITIONS. THESE SITUATIONS CAN BECOME STRESSFUL. A KEY HABIT WE DEVELOPED IN DAILY MEETINGS WAS TO HAVE EACH TEAM MEMBER SAY WHAT SOMEONE ELSE HAD DONE TO HELP THEM THAT DAY. EXPRESSING GRATITUDE HELPED TO BRING THE TEAM TOGETHER AND MAKE EVERYONE HAPPIER. SCIENCE NOW BACKS THIS UP. PRACTICING DAILY GRATITUDE FOR ANYTHING HELPS YOU RECOGNIZE THE GOOD PARTS OF LIFE AND APPRECIATE THEM EVEN MORE.

2. GRATITUDE JOURNAL: THE IDEA IS THAT AT THE END OF EVERY DAY WE WRITE DOWN 3-5 THINGS THAT WE ARE GRATEFUL FOR THAT DAY. LIKE GRATITUDE ITSELF, THIS IS NOT A "FLAKEY" IDEA. RESEARCHERS HAVE IDENTIFIED KEEPING A JOURNAL AS ONE OF THE MOST POWERFUL GRATITUDE INTERVENTIONS. IT'S EASY TO DO, IT TAKES LITTLE TIME, AND IT REALLY WORKS. THE ONLY TRICK IS TO KEEP IT UP. IT CAN BE HELPFUL TO MAKE A PACT WITH A FRIEND OR TO BELONG TO A GROUP THAT ENGAGES IN THE ACTIVITY. 

Decision Fatigue

Decision Fatigue

The STEM 1.0 Academic Program Home Page

KEY POINTS:

1. Decision Fatigue is when you run out of the mental energy required to make decisions that are important for moving you towards your dreams.

2. You can avoid the negative effect of Decision Fatigue by developing good habits in the areas we've already discussed: sleeping soundly, eating smarter, and moving more. 

3. By making these daily habits, you will be able to make decisions that help you towards your dreams, without expending a lot of mental energy after a tough day at work or after a fight with your spouse.

Knowing how to avoid the pitfalls of mental and emotional life can be as important as knowing how to get into good habits and techniques. And that’s exactly the case with a phenomenon called Decision Fatigue, which occurs when you run out of the mental energy required to make decisions that will get you to your dream.

Every one of us has a limited amount of mental energy. As we make our way through a day of hard choices, we start to run down because our energy decreases every time we have to make a decision: “Am I going to sit down and get this project done?” “Am I going to the gym?” “Am I going to eat that treat?” Choices take energy.

Decision Fatigue is a problem because when you have burned through your mental toughness for the day, your habits take over and you become a slave to whatever you do normally. If your habits aren’t ideal, your food, sleep and exercise can derail in a hurry and take your ability to think clearly with them.

You can avoid the negative effect of Decision Fatigue by managing your energy levels and taking the thinking out of your basic routines.

1.    Sleep Soundly
Avoid ending your day crashed on the couch watching TV to “relax.” The flashing lights from your TV activate your brain and make it hard to fall asleep. And poor sleep quality leads to less mental energy. Make a sleep plan. Get some books on the nightstand. Have a pre-sleep routine that supports your success.

2.    Eat Smarter
Plan your food. Typically, people reach for poor food choices when they are tired or busy. Just look at the lineups at Tim’s or Starbucks in the late afternoon! Take lunch with you from home. Have healthy snacks at work like nuts and berries.

3.    Move More
Plan to work out when there is very little possibility of something else getting in the way. After awhile, you’ll find that heading out to exercise is easier and easier because you have developed the habit.

World-class performers know that the “mental game” is everything. They build routines and follow them religiously to protect against decision fatigue. Workouts are scheduled, nutrition is planned, and sleep is a priority. As a result, they Think Clearly despite the exhaustion that comes with training full time, managing a high-pressure job, or juggling family commitments.

Today's POWER-UP:  Plan ahead to avoid decision fatigue

The key to avoiding decision fatigue is to have a plan in place for when you will be at risk for doing things that go against your dreams, goals and objectives.

For example, when I was cutting calories to lose %body fat before doing Ironman, I wanted to avoid the evening snack. But after training all day I was always hungry at that time of the day. I had to have a plan in place. So right after dinner I'd set out herbal tea with ginger so that when i walked into the kitchen later on I'd have an easy, healthy option laid out. It made a huge difference.

Therefore today's call to action is for you to develop your plan to help you prevent decision fatigue. Answer these questions and you're well on your way to success.

What is it that you are looking to accomplish?

Where do you have difficulties in staying consistent with your objectives?

What can you do - ahead of time - to avoid problems that crop up?

IF YOU'D LIKE FEEDBACK, YOU CAN FILL OUT THIS FORM AND WE'LL BACK TO YOU WITH SPECIFIC SUGGESTIONS.

Power Words

Power Words

KEY POINTS:

1. Power Words remind you of who you are and what you should be doing in a challenging situation. They help you to focus specifically on what you need to do to help you succeed.

2. Think about what you need to do to have a great performance and then see if you can describe those actions in one or two words. Then say those words to yourself right before the performance begins to remind yourself of what you need to do to be successful.

At the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver, Skier Alexandre Bilodeau used a technique sport psychologists call cue words to help him win a gold medal. I've renamed cue words as Power Words - I think they're super impactful so the new name works better for me. I hope you agree. Let me explain. As Alexandre stood looking down on the moguls run, the potential for distraction was massive, including 10,000 cheering fans. So he focused on the two things that he and his coach had decided were key to victory: letting his knees go forward over the bumps and being soft and relaxed during his second air.

To do so, he stood in the starting gates and said softly to himself “forward” and “soft” – pre-arranged Power Words he used to focus on the most important elements of his run. The result? Pure gold.

But Power Words aren’t just a technique for athletes – they work in almost any situation, even for leaders of massive social and political movements.

When I rode across Africa in 2003, I had time at night in my tent to avoid the malaria-carrying mosquitos. With no Internet, all I could do was read. So I took in a few autobiographies – Mahatma Ghandi’s, Nelson Mandela’s – and a biography of Mother Teresa.

All three books were profound. Especially the way they illustrated that each figure had single words that represented their beliefs and guided their decision-making in the face of threats to their life, imprisonment and regular contact with the worst possible conditions of life.

Ghandi liberated India from the British Empire using “Truth.” Mandela endured 25 years in jail and forced the South African government to abandon apartheid using “Equality.” And Mother Teresa became a saint for her work tending the poor and the sick using “Love.”

We can all apply this technique at peak performance moments. Think about what you need to do to have a great performance and then see if you can describe those actions in one or two words. Then say those words to yourself right before the performance begins to remind yourself of what you need to do to be successful.

Today's POWER-UP: Build your Power Words to supercharge your performance

Follow these steps to establish your own Power Words.

1. List a skill, technique, strategy or other element that is critical to your execution of your dream / goal performance.

2. List the key elements of that skill, technique or strategy that will result in a successful performance.

3. Is there one word or phrase that could summarize the response that you should have? That is your Power Word.

4. When is it most important to remember to use your Power Word?

Power Words remind you of who you are and what you should be doing in a challenging situation. Figure yours out and use them to power through tough challenges.

If you'd like feedback on your own Power Words, you can fill out this form and we'll back to you with specific suggestions.

The Media Psychology Effect

The Media Psychology Effect

KEY POINTS:

1. “The Media Psychology Effect” is the role that pictures, graphics, sounds, the Internet, and what you read plays in your psychology.

2. Choosing the right media exposure can make new neural connections that will make you better at thinking, problem solving, concentrating, and learning.

3. Drop media from your life that isn’t positive and swap it for media that will move you toward your dreams and goals.

Using the pervasive power of media to move you toward your dream can help make success inevitable.

While training for the Ironman triathlon after being hospitalized with a heart infection, I needed to train early before my family woke up. Some mornings were tough – like heading out to run in the dark in February. One thing that helped me was a YouTube clip of the NBC Ironman show. I watched it all the time. It was motivating, exciting and effective when I just plain didn’t want to go.

Scientists and psychologists call it “The Media Psychology Effect,” which is the role that pictures, graphics, sounds, the Internet and what you read plays in your psychology. The effect can be good and bad, but if we are careful, we can capitalize on our brain’s tendency to change based on what we are exposed to. Choose the right media exposure and you can make new neural connections that will make you better at thinking, problem solving, concentrating and learning.

What media do you consume? What magazines do you subscribe to? What TV shows do you watch? What blogs do you read? What podcasts do you listen to? Every one of these choices will influence your health and performance. Consider dropping media from your list – dropping a media habit – that isn’t positive and doesn’t move you forward. Do you really want to put stuff in your head that’s negative or deflating?

I’m into training and building a great business, so I subscribe to Runner’s World, Triathlete, Entrepreneur and Fast Company. Do an audit of what’s in your media environment and see if you can make some changes that will help you achieve your dreams!

Today's POWER-UP: Align your media with your goals and dreams

Today I'd like you to do a full media audit. What media do you consume? Think of who you follow on social media. What magazines do you subscribe to? What blogs do you read? What websites do you visit?

Then identify the media that you don’t think is helping you achieve your dreams and swap it for one content will inspire and inform you – like a new magazine subscription, a new blog or a new podcast.

For those that you don't think are moving your forward, cancel your subscriptions, unfollow on social and clean out your web-browser bookmarks. Get rid of any and all negative influences on your mindset, healthset, and soulset.

This is a big project and takes time. One strategy that I have used this year is to note any time I see a post that I don't like on social, I've unfollowed that person or media source. I've ended up with a small list of powerful influencers that I trust. That way I can dive deeper into their content rather than skimming the surface of the media stream that was coming at me before.

The Locus of Control

The Locus of Control

KEY POINTS:

1. The locus of control is a technique you can learn to direct your attention toward the tasks or issues in your life that you can change and control.

2. You will also be less anxious because you aren’t worrying about things that are beyond your control.

3. By concentrating on the things that you can have an impact on, and not getting worked up about those you can’t, you are far more likely to get into the Zone and succeed.

At the Atlanta Summer Olympics, American swimmer Gary Hall Jr. faced off against Russian swimmer Aleksandr Popov in the final of the 100-meter freestyle event – the 100m dash of swimming. The best in the world. America vs. Russia. Hall on home turf. Intense.

As they were introduced, Gary played to the crowd, shadowboxed, and looked up into the stands while Aleksandr stared calmly at Gary. As they prepared for the race, Aleksandr stared at Gary more while Gary looked aroud. And when they were racing, Aleksandr breathed so that he could see Gary alone.

Throughout, the attention of the two athletes was very different – and when they arrived at the wall to end the race, Alexsandr out-touched Gary to become Olympic Champion.

A key factor that led to Aleksandr’s win was his belief that, if he focused on Gary, he could control the outcome of the event. In the scientific literature, this is often referred to as the locus of control.

Dr. Philip Zimbardo describes the locus of control as “a belief about whether the outcomes of our actions are contingent on what we do (internal control orientation) or on events outside our personal control (external control orientation)."

If you can learn to direct your attention toward the tasks or issues in your life that you can change and control, you will be more able to get into the Zone and succeed. You will also be less anxious because you aren’t worrying about things that are beyond your control, such as your boss’s mood or whether that snow storm is going to arrive tomorrow. They are things to hold in mind but you cannot change them.  

Being clear about our locus of control allows us to focus on the right things at the right time. By concentrating on the things that you can have an impact on, and not getting worked up about those you can’t, you are far more likely to achieve an ideal state and excel.

Today's POWER-UP: Clarify your locus of control

Look at this image of a green circle inside a red circle:

Now write down a list of things in the white space all around the two circles that stress you out or that require your attention and energy. Brainstorm for as many stressors as possible. Then draw a line to the green area from each stressor that you can actually control and a line to the red area from each stressor you cannot control.

Act on the items in green (green means GO!) and let go of the ones in the red area (red = STOP!).

By doing this exercise a few times, you’ll quickly discover how you can control your attention and direct your efforts and energies toward things that you can affect and improve. This will make a huge difference in your life. Your mindset will be simply, “I can’t control that, move on.” Or, “I can make a difference here, let’s get to work.” Try it out and see how that helps you to direct your focus and energy.

Use Stress to Your Advantage!

Use Stress to Your Advantage!

The STEM 1.0 Academic Program Home Page

KEY POINTS:

1. When you're stressed, adrenaline and cortisol increase the activity of various organs like your heart, lungs, and muscles. This increases your capacity to function at a high level, both mentally and physically.

2. However, chronic stress damages your body, threatens your mental health, puts strain on relationships, and takes the joy out of life. Not to mention it contributes to high blood pressure, increases your risk of having a heart attack, can lead to weight gain/obesity, and causes brain changes that contribute to anxiety, depression, and addiction.

3. The good news is you can learn to deal with chronic stress by moving your body, getting into nature, practicing yoga/meditation/tai chi, having perspective, and changing the nature of your response.

You know what acute stress feels like: you hit a patch of ice, your car starts sliding off the road, and then you recover control just before you hit the ditch. Within seconds, your heart feels like it’s going to pound out of your chest. Your adrenal glands have just dumped hormones like epinephrine (also known as adrenaline) and cortisol into your blood. Adrenaline and cortisol increase the activity of various organs like the heart, the lungs and your muscles. You feel like you’re buzzing.

The benefit of hormones like adrenaline and cortisol is that they increase our capacity to function at a high level, both mentally and physically. This is a good thing in short bursts. But it’s a bad thing to be flooded with those hormones for long periods. If they remain in our systems over time, or are dumped into our bloodstream day after day, they can cause problems. That’s what chronic stress is – not just a short burst but a prolonged period.

Short bursts of stress (called acute) are essential for helping us to perform at a higher level. But elevated stress over long periods of time (called chronic) can make us sick. 

So, acute stress can improve your performance during short periods. It’s not something to worry about when sporadic and it’s fairly easy to recover from: close your eyes, empty your mind, relax your body, and take some deep breaths. No harm done to your health, and a good boost to your performance while you were riding the wave.

Chronic stress is a different story. It’s really hard to live a high-performance life when stress is a daily reality. Chronic stress damages your body, threatens your mental health, puts strain on relationships and takes the joy out of life.

According to research conducted at the Harvard Medical School, it contributes to high blood pressure, promotes the formation of artery-clogging deposits, and causes brain changes that contribute to anxiety, depression and addiction. When epinephrine (adrenaline) damages your blood vessels, making them stiff, that elevated blood pressure increases your risk for heart attacks and strokes. And constant increased cortisol levels result in depleted energy and an increase your appetite, which can lead to weight gain and obesity.

Why is chronic stress so bad? Because you have no time to recover. So it runs you down and makes you sick.

You may be interested in some of the top ten life stressors according to The American Institute of Stress:

·      Death of spouse or family member

·      Divorce

·      Major personal injury or illness

·      Marriage

·      Being fired at work

·      Retirement from work

Many of us will experience one or more of these life events. So how can we reduce the ongoing flow of damaging stress hormones – and even find peace? Here are some proven techniques:

Today's POWER-UP: Rest, Recover and Regenerate

Move your body: rhythmic, repeated motion is particularly soothing to our minds and bodies, such as a long walk, cycling, swimming or running. But any kind of movement will relieve tension, improve circulation and clear your mind. I call this muscular meditation.

Get into nature: head outside to the park, the woods or the garden to lower blood pressure, strengthen your immune system, reduce tension and depression, and boost your mood. It’s stunning how good it is for your health to be in nature. Leave the cell phone and ear buds at home.

Practice yoga, mediation or Tai Chi: like nature therapy, yoga and Tai Chi decrease stress and anxiety, increase energy, and boost your immune system. They also give you more stamina – needed in stressful times – and improve the quality of your sleep.

Have perspective: don’t be so quick to conclude that you “can’t handle” a stressful situation. This is truly a mind over matter opportunity. Believing that you are strong and resourceful actually makes you stronger and more resourceful. Don’t give into negative self-talk about not having what it takes to manage life. 

Change the nature of your response: research indicates that taking an active, problem-solving approach to life’s challenges relieves stress and can also transform it into something positive. If you withdraw, deny the problem or spend all your time venting, you’ll feel helpless. Instead, be determined to make a change, put effort into it, and plan for better results. Pivot from threat to challenge.

Welcome to Perform Better!

Welcome to Perform Better!

The STEM 1.0 Academic Program Home Page

KEY POINTS:

1. If you can rise to the challenges that you are faced with, then recover and regenerate optimally, you will ultimately reach your potential.

2. There are benefits to stress, and in small bouts stress can increase your ability to perform physically and mentally. However, stress over long periods of time (chronic stress) causes you to be run down and can even make you sick.

3. The first step is to recognize the presence of stress in your lives. Then you can learn how to use stress to your advantage and minimize its negative effects so you can perform better.

Welcome to our final module - Perform Better! I think it’s a good idea to launch this module by recognizing the presence of stress in our lives and making choices about how to respond. The reason for this is that if we can rise to the challenges that we are faced with, perform to our potential, then recover and regenerate optimally we will ultimately reach our potential.

So in this post, I want to share with you how to use stress to your advantage and minimize its negative effects so you can perform better.

Surprised that there are advantages to stress? Many people are. But stress is a lot like food: none at all is bad for us and too much can make us sick. We can learn to lower stress levels and help our bodies and minds to recover after periods of high stress.

Each of us has different stresses in our lives, and what bothers one person may not even register for another. But here’s what we have in common: our brains perceive a stressful situation as a threat. We respond to threats in our environment (sabre-tooth tiger or competition for food) by increasing our ability to perform physically and mentally (run faster or fight better). We activate a cascade of events that involve the brain, the spinal cord and a number of endocrine glands that release hormones.

The activation of the nervous system and the powerful effect of hormones improves our brain function and the strength and power of our muscles. The upside is that we are built to improve our performance. The problem is that running and fighting are not acceptable responses when your team leader announces a new project with a tight deadline.

So hold in mind as we explore stress that the classic signs of stress – anxiousness, difficulty sleeping, irritability, headaches, chest pain, brain fog, and so on – arise in us when we feel threatened and afraid. We might fear the end of a relationship, bombing a big presentation at work, or being tested during a job interview. For some of us, even just the prospect of being late for work fills us with anxiety.

So while we’re surrounded by many stress triggers, the answer isn’t to eliminate stress. There is upside and downside. We’re going to look at both, so you can perform better than ever.

Today's POWER-UP: Micro-Breaks

1. THE KEY TO MANAGING CHRONIC STRESS IS TO BREAK IT UP AND TO TAKE BREAKS. BUILD MICRO BREAKS INTO YOUR DAYS.

2. SO THIS WEEK SEE IF YOU CAN ADD A FEW BREAKS TO YOUR ROUTINE. GO FOR A WALK, DRINK SOME WATER, MEDITATE, OR TALK TO A FRIEND.

Dive Deeper

Check out this TED talk by Kelly McGonigal on how to make stress your friend.

The Fab Five of Healthy High-Performance Teams: #5 - Impact

The Fab Five of Healthy High-Performance Teams: #5 - Impact

KEY POINTS:

1. Impact is about making a difference, offering an outcome that matters. 

2. Healthy high-performance teams understand how their work contributes to larger organizational goals.

3. As you work to power up every team you’re on, be sure to help everyone involved understand their impact, their place in the system, and their power to make a difference on something bigger than themselves. 

We’ve arrived at the final piece of the puzzle when it comes to healthy high-performance teams. That piece is impact, which is all about the results of your work. Impact is about making a difference, offering an outcome that matters.

Teams need to understand how their work contributes to larger organizational goals. It’s incredibly inspiring to be able to see in advance where the part (project) fits into the whole (mission of the organization). And it’s personally motivating to take steps that have an impact on a cause larger than the self. It’s similar to aligning your daily habits and choices with your dreams. That’s living with impact.

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When I think of Gord Downie of The Tragically Hip, I think of impact. Gord was always very private, but he was very public about his diagnosis of terminal brain cancer. And he decided to do a final tour with the Hip all across the country. In the encore of the final concert, he really unleashed his emotions. He went right into his pain, right into his suffering, and expressed it all on stage. He went to a place he’s never been before in order to capture the entire country’s attention, with 13 million people watching that final concert on television.

But it wasn’t all about him or the music or the band. He wanted to say something in that stadium at the final concert with Prime Minister Trudeau in attendance and a huge audience across the country. He wanted people to tune in and pay attention for a reason. Standing on the stage between encores, he talked about our painful history as a nation that we need to address. He talked about the genocide we’ve perpetuated on our First Nations and Indigenous people. He wanted the country to understand the consequences of the past, and he laid the responsibility of addressing it at the feet of the Prime Minister, who nodded in that moment. Then he went on to finish the concert. You can see on Gord’s face how much it mattered him to finish his life as a musician in this way.

To have an impact on something that matters is a powerful motivator in life and on teams. As you work to power up every team you’re on, be sure to help everyone involved understand their impact, their place in the system, their power to make a difference.

Here, again, are the fab five elements of a healthy high-performance team: clarity, psychological safety, dependability, meaning and impact.

Remember the finding of Google’s Project Aristotle: it’s not who you have on a team, it’s how the team functions. It’s the team’s “communal health,” not its talent, credentials or experience. It’s how they view their task and one another. Those five elements can be alive and well on any team. If they are, great things are possible.

Finally, keep in mind that the five elements build mental health. If they drive us at work and in our personal lives, we’ll have more joy and greater psychological and emotional wellbeing. Our teams win, and so do we.

Today's POWER UP: Identify your Potential Impact

This final piece of the puzzle of how to create healthy high-performance teams is being aware of the impact that success will have. This impact can be on you, your family, your teammates, your clients, your students, the country, or even the world.

I have discovered that my mission in my professional life is to help 1 billion people be healthier and to reach their potential. In my family life I seek to have a positive impact on the lives of my children. 

Knowing what the potential impact of your team work is can be powerfully motivating for the members of your team. More importantly it can make people happy and content despite the challenges that often accompany trying to make a difference in the world.

Knowing what your desired impact is can also help you keep going despite obstacles and failures. 

So what is the impact that you seek to make in the world? Make sure that you get this written down and share it at every opportunity.

The Fab Five of Healthy High-Performance Teams: #4 - Meaning

The Fab Five of Healthy High-Performance Teams: #4 - Meaning

KEY POINTS:

1. Meaning is understanding not what you’re doing but why you’re doing it.

2. Motivation is much more powerful when it comes from the inside (why do you care about what you do, what are you passionate about, what is the significance), versus outside motivation (rewards, fame, money).  

We’re on the fourth element of building a healthy high-performance team. We’ve arrived at meaning.

What is meaning? It’s not what you’re doing but why you’re doing it: not what your job is, for example, but what drives you. A teacher might ask herself, why do I work as an educator of young people?

Of course, a healthy high-performance team needs to understand the “what” of their work. It’s the task, problem or issue. But the why is much more powerful: it’s the meaning of the work, the larger purpose. What is the significance? How does it fit into the bigger picture? Why does it matter at all?

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Most important of all, what is driving each member of the team? Is it the hope of a bonus, a promotion, some sort of reward? It’s an important question, because one thing we have learned about motivation is that when it comes from the outside (rewards), it is far less powerful and far more likely to die off than when it comes from the inside (a deep desire to do one’s best, to advance a cause).

Here’s a story to illustrate how powerful meaning and “why” can be.

Michael Phelps is the most successful Olympian of all time. Yet in 2014, he ended up in a very dark place. He was photographed smoking marijuana, acquired two driving under the influence charges, and had a series of bad relationships. He was very troubled, despite having 14 gold medals and unlimited money. He ended up checking himself into rehab and had thoughts of suicide.

Gold medals are amazing achievements, but they are also external rewards. They don’t fill the meaning gap.

While in rehab, a friend asked him a simple but surprising question: “Is that the best that you can do?” Imagine asking the most successful Olympian ever, really, is that all you’ve got? But Michael listened. And he realized, he wasn’t even close to his best. Not because he needed more wins, though he would indeed earn more. But because he was living “what” (earning medals) and not “why” (his meaning and passion).

He changed his diet. He committed to physical therapy. He added yoga, stretching, massage and functional training to his swimming. He repaired a number of relationships. And possibly the clearest illustration of his shift: he stopped reading things like ESPN magazine and started reading biographies of people like Mahatma Ghandi and Steve Jobs. Talk about two individuals driven by inner purpose!

Michael’s overall shift was away from money and medals (external rewards) and toward meaning (trying his hardest, doing his best, rediscovering his love of training). By the Rio Olympics in 2016, he was truly happy.

That’s the power of why. And it lies at the heart of healthy high-performance teams. A great team is driven by some deeper than praise or trophies: it is fueled by meaning. External rewards are fine, but they are not the meaning of our lives.

Today's POWER-UP: Know your Why

Google’s Project Aristotle revealed that high-performing teams were clear on the fact that their projects had meaning and were designed to accomplish very specific objectives or to create new opportunities.

Just think about the team that created Google Voice - a piece of free software that allows you to talk, for free, to anyone else in the world. That project was not about creating software, it was about connecting people.

So why are you doing what you’re doing? What is the purpose of your team? Why are you working on a project? Or training for an event? Or practicing a new piece of music?

Knowing your why and being aware of the real meaning of the work that you’re doing is absolutely critical to ensuring that you reach your potential as a human being.