1. Mental health is just as important as physical health in your journey towards a high performance life.
2. This month, we're going to learn techniques that will help you deal with stress, stay focused, overcome setbacks, and ultimately reach your health and performance potential.
“I learned this, at least, by my experiment: that if one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected.” – Henry David Thoreau, Walden: Or, Life in the Woods
On October 2012 Felix Baumgartner stepped out of a small capsule that was attached to a balloon that had climbed to an altitude of 127,852 feet – the edge of space. During the fall, Felix claimed the title of the fastest man ever in freefall having reached a speed in excess of 1300 km/hr. His heart rate ranged from 143-185 beats per minute (the same level as would be achieved in a maximal effort running race). During the fall he managed to maintain control and to get out of a 13-second-long flat spin where his body was rotating a rate of one full spin every second. It was without question one of the most incredible human achievements and is a perfect example of peak performance that required precise preparation, elite execution, and clear thinking under pressure. But the mission almost failed, because Felix was afraid of the suit he had to wear.
In the months leading up to the jump, Felix developed paralyzing claustrophobia. The suit that he had to wear was a space suit that was sealed and pressurized. It was not comfortable. Felix began to panic when he had to deal with the suit. Keep in mind that prior to this even Felix had completed 2500 jumps and had jumped off of skyscrapers as well as out of airplanes. So he was no stranger to fear and managing his psychology.
To overcome this challenge, Felix enlisted the assistance of a sport psychologist, Dr. Michael Gervais. Dr. Gervais went to work with Felix to provide him with the tools and techniques that he needed to be able to execute his performance while under tremendous pressure – in this case while his life was on the line. He began his work with Felix by checking that Felix was in fact committed to the mission and not just using the suit as an excuse not to jump. The second step was to determine where Felix was focusing his thoughts and attention. They figured out that Felix was fixated on the suit, and had lost his connection with the overall vision of the mission. He had lost the dream, and was focused on the urgent issue of the day, not the important work that would lead to achievement.
Dr. Gervais and Felix Baumgartner began to work together to do a few key things. The first item that they worked on was to reconnect Felix with the most powerful element of the mission, which was the dream to do something that no human had ever done before. Then they slowly began to desensitize Felix to the suit, getting him used to small parts of the suit one step at a time. For example, they would put on the boots, and just leave them on for the day, while doing other tasks. Slowly Felix began to get used to the parts of the suit and was able, incrementally, to tolerate the suit. This mirrors our principle of the aggregate of 1% gains, which I've talked about throughout this Program. Dr. Gervais taught Felix how to control his breathing to calm himself, and how to speak to himself positively to stay focused. Finally, they worked on staying in the present so that Felix could manage his mind.
The message that you can take from this is that everyone, even the most highly trained and experienced specialists, encounter mental challenges that affect their performance and health. However, by applying principles from sport psychology, positive psychology, and eastern philosophies we can learn to perform to our potential and to achieve better health at the same time. That’s the foundation of what I call Think Clearly.
This month we will work together to build the foundation for better mental health and performance.
If you didn't have a chance to complete The Ripple Effect Questionnaire at the beginning of the Program, please take five minutes to fill it out now. It is entirely up to you, but if you do fill out the audit, we will get back to you with specific recommendations regarding your stress and mental health.
Today's New Habit: Practice short bursts of happiness
Researchers suggest that happiness is a combination of how satisfied you are with your life as well as how good you feel on a day-to-day basis.
So for the next 2 weeks, take 5 minutes to boost your happiness each day. Here are a few ideas: email someone to thank them for something they did for you, have a meaningful conversation with a friend, take 30 seconds to help someone who needs it, or recall a great past experience.
We’ll check back in with you next week. Enjoy!