Peak Performance – Setting Yourself Up for a Great 2017!

Happy New Month!  Happy New Day! ‘Congratulations! Today is your day. You’re off to Great Places! You’re off and away!’ Oh, The Places You’ll Go!
— Dr. Seuss

As the dust begins to settle on your New Year’s Resolutions, it is the perfect time to resolve that being at your best, operating at your peak, really is something you train for every day, moment to moment. Succeeding at achieving your resolutions this year cannot simply be to state an intention. Achieving a new and better YOU will take discipline, dedication and deliberate action all year.

When we begin looking at peak performance research is often found in the areas of elite sports, business, education and within the defence forces. It makes sense that when we try to unlock the secrets of optimal performance we look to learn from the best of the best. From reviewing studies from many domains, the evidence suggests that to perform at your peak involves your brain and your body, your whole-self needs to be on board with your goals. Along with this holistic approach you need to be prepared to work hard, repeatedly and frequently to achieve the outcomes you desire. From the beginning of anyone’s journey toward peak performance, whether you an athlete or an artist, it helps to keep in mind a clear and inspiring vision of how great you will be when all of your your hard-work pays off…

You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose.’ Oh, The Places You’ll Go!
— Dr. Seuss

Let’s think a little more about how many times we need to repeat something to perform our best… An elite athlete may repeat the same task hundreds of times a month, from the time they are in primary school until they win gold at the Olympics in their 20’s. The amount of repetition required for this level of peak performance really rings home when you start thinking in numbers. The superb individual standing on the highest tier of the podium, with a gold medal around their neck, may have sprinted the 100 metres more than 60,000 times before that moment. They will not have just run the 100m with their body, they will have run same 100m as a visualisation exercise over and over to ‘know’ themselves and every feeling that arises within them as they run, they will have trained to calm their nerves under intense pressure so their mind and body could perform without the constraints of the stress response.

Mastery takes a long time. The 10,000 hour rule from Malcolm Gladwell (2008) is referenced in The Creative Thinkers Toolkit (Puccio, 2014) when discussing the time taken to master an instrument or other art form. Achieving the skill that great masters possess takes dedication, hard work and years of practice. The outstanding composer Mozart may have composed his first opera at the age of 12, but he had been training under the guidance of his Father Leopold (a talented composer, teacher and violinist) from the time he was born. Phil Grabsky, director of a documentary ‘In Search of Mozart’ was quoted in a London newspaper saying ‘What the characters we sometimes call geniuses have in common is drive and determination, often good parenting, and the fact that they are products of the social conditions of their time,’ he said. ‘All of this was true for Mozart. His talent wasn’t simply a gift from God, it was the result of tremendously hard work.‘ (O’Keefe, 2006).

The leaders of The Australian Defence Forces understand the importance of the brains and bodies of their soldiers working cohesively to achieve the best and safest outcomes. Major Andrew Moss, Senior Psychologist with the Australian Defence Force, describes an area of peak performance that has been ‘overlooked in defence training: the importance of learning and integrating problem solving and internal coping strategies with other fundamental skills’ (Moss, 2016). Indeed this is an area of our own lives that can be underdeveloped and under-utilised, sometimes we know exactly how to do something but we can’t manage our emotions effectively to do the job well every time. Major Moss developed the BattleSMART program based on self-management and resilience training. Part of this program utilises biofeedback (like the HeartMath Program offered at The Perth Brain Centre) and mental fitness training to ‘bring it all together’. Components of this program that is designed to facilitate peak performance in defence force personnel may also be the key for you to unlock your potential too.

The work of Sherlin and Ford (2016) discusses the efficacy of mindfulness, biofeedback and neurofeedback for performance enhancement. The Team at The Perth Brain Centre value the importance of each of these performance-enhancing tools and welcome the opportunity to share our excitement about these modalities with all who are interested. We embrace the energy and philosophy of the co-founder of Posit Science (Brain HQ) Dr. Michael Merzenich, understanding that ‘brain plasticity is the stuff of life. As long as you’re alive, it’s with you as a precious and exploitable asset’. We want to assist those who visit us in clinic to take full advantage of brain plasticity.

In the chapter entitled ‘This is the first day of the rest of your life’ in Dr. Michael Merzenich’s book ‘Soft Wired’ (2013) it is acknowledged that brain fitness will require substantial and regular effort and perhaps some significant lifestyle changes. But, the payoffs from this dedicated work can be enormous. Dr. Merzenich says brain fitness is about ‘retaining your vitality and your zest for life’. It is not just about remembering names better, it is about ‘growing more confident, more capable and more interesting next week and next year’.

So start today. Become more interesting! Become your best YOU!

Dust off your new year’s resolutions and transform them into SMART goals or GROW goals. Create an action plan to guide your achievement of them. Realise that to keep working hard this year is going to take motivation. Real motivation is internal. It is about inspiration and passion (Strack, Linden & Wilson, 2011). Talk to your Team at The Perth Brain Centre for information about brain-based treatments and other resources that can help you on this path. We are motivated by what inspires and drives you, and we are excited to talk with you about your passions and goals.

Resolve to put some effort in every day to achieving your goals and ultimately living your dreams. Make passion, persistence, practice and patience your partners on your journey to your best self.

Make 2017 be the year you reach your peak!

And will you succeed? Yes! You will, indeed! (98 and ¾ per cent guaranteed.)’ Oh, The Places You’ll Go!
— Dr Seuss

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