Either we all live in a decent world, or nobody does.
I am continually wrapping my head around the tremendous levels of dedication, motivation, and desire evident in everyone in the ExO community to strive for greatness. Particularly with the base desire to deliver massive transformation for the planet and its inhabitants. This community is truly unique.
And yet, we have to ask at what cost this unrelenting pursuit of never-before-attempted Moonshot or Sprint goals can take on the human body and mind. I wonder and sometimes worry about the targets people in this community set for themselves to achieve greatness. At what cost to their physical and mental health? Can we drive ourselves relentlessly as long as our desires are pure? Can we drive our engines at the red line indefinitely, or are we better off ‘pulling into the pits’ to ensure our engine performs at its best? Is there value in pulling back to get ahead? Because if the engine stops running, we aren’t going anywhere…
I am reminded of the research by Brummelhuis & Rothbard, (2018) that shows working long hours at a frenetic pace was not directly related to health issues. But mindset and mentality were associated with burnout, cynicism, digestive and sleep problems, and difficulty switching off, being typical examples of the downsides. So, worrying about work, increased anxiety, elevated blood pressure, and cortisol levels are dangerous.
There seems to be a difference between the behavior (working long hours) and the mentality (compulsion to work or not to stop). Feeling guilty when not working or working to extreme, self-imposed deadlines has different results. I am not a fan of the phrase, but ‘workaholics’ struggle to psychologically detach from work. However, workaholics who loved their jobs were somewhat protected. Mindset is the key.
It got me thinking about the different approaches to health and mental health. Classic psychology looks to the disease model and seeks to address what is slowing us down in the hope that tackling this will bring us to a state of homeostasis, or base-level. We are hard-wired to seek out the problem, that which is negative, as a way of maintaining our equilibrium, despite the external forces we are experiencing.
On the other hand, the positive psychology school of thought promotes leaning on our strengths to continue to propel us forward. This approach focuses on what is essential, increases our self-awareness, provides insight into what makes us distinctive and identifies where we can improve.
Neither approach is exclusively right or wrong. But, as with most things in life, we can take what is useful and apply that, as long as we are not procrastinating or avoiding uncomfortable stuff. And in that way, we can know that we are applying part science and part art to becoming the best version of ourselves and striving for peak performance.
There is much to learn about how elite athletes and others approach their peak performance levels. Athletes and sports people at the top of their game will not only train those areas that offer them their advantage (sprinters will train specifically to sprint, and swimmers also to swim faster), but they will also focus on those body parts that may succumb to injury and let them down if they don’t.
This strategy is known as prehab training. We all know what rehab (or rehabilitation) training is about; recovering those areas that have been compromised or injured. Prehab training is about doing all we can to prevent this from occurring. In the same way, as entrepreneurs seeking to perform at peak levels, you may need to focus on both your strengths and growth areas in terms of personal health.
Consider the team player continually reviewing previous performances, scanning the actions of the opposition to second-guess their strategy, and being ready to take advantage of any opportunity that presents itself. This is a mindset version of prehab training.
It is an integral element of winning performance strategy, whether you're an athlete or an ExO entrepreneur. It is about being prepared and ready to move beyond the "familiar stress" of typical performance in order to achieve the lofty targets and moonshots you have set yourself.
Perhaps, even more importantly, as an ExO entrepreneur leading your own company, consider the analogy of the team captain, who leads the team to the pitch or arena. You need to be able to spot when one of your team is perhaps limping or carrying an injury that may prevent them from being able to deliver their best performance.
Staying with this analogy for a minute, think about the level of mental health challenges in the workforce today (one in four already is, or will this year, be dealing with a mental health challenge). The team captain/business leader could be looking at three or four of their team delivering sub-standard performances. This team cannot be at peak performance. Knowing what to say to lift your team is one thing but learning how to gently inquire about someone’s struggle needs an entirely different skill set. And yet are integral leadership traits.
It is no longer enough to target just one area, hoping this will lift all areas of our "game." We need to recognize and pay attention to all areas of our performance and mindset.
For the ExO leader, or any entrepreneur, this recognition requires a deep and consistent focus on both prehab and rehab areas of their own performance. Attention to the fundamental concepts such as sleep, diet, and exercise is of utmost importance. Accordingly, our mindset, mental health, resilience, and attitude are necessary for peak performance and a winning mindset.
ten Brummelhuis, L., & Rothbard, N. P. (2018). How being a workaholic differs from working long hours—And why that matters for your health. Harvard Business Review. Retrieved from https://hbr. org/2018/03/how-being-a-workaholic-differs-from-working-long-hours-and-why-that-matters-for-your-health.
About the Author
Mark Butler, MAddBeh, MGestTher, CReC, and MPACFA, is a clinical specialist and mental health strategist in mental health in the workplace, with over 25 years of corporate experience and 15 years of clinical psychotherapy experience.
Described as a risk specialist, Mark helps individuals, teams, and organizations to get in front of potential mindset and mental health issues and deal effectively with stress and burnout to optimize resilience, promote growth mindset and wellbeing, and create the conditions to deliver peak performance.
Mark combines his clinical expertise and commercial acumen in a compassionate, personable approach that normalizes the conversation around mental health, putting everyone at ease and delivering results. He is a regular guest speaker on webinars, podcasts, and keynote speeches, he is an international best-selling co-author, coach, and mentor, and he continues to write about his thought leadership.
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