Excerpt from Chapter 2 The Clarity State - Mental Focus Redefined
Death Habits to Achieving Clarity
Death Habit #1: Multitask
In the current business environment, where there is more work in each job position than can be handled, we are taught to multitask. Conventional wisdom says "Never lose a moment-if you are talking on the phone, scan your e-mails at the same time." The result is that we never have time to focus!
This habit is in sharp contrast to the behavior that peak performers in sports train to achieve. Successful athletes know that when every physical and mental resource is focused, your power to perform multiplies tremendously.
In order to outperform others, you have to learn to focus your resources!
Public awareness of the power of mental training started at the 1976 Olympics, when Russia won more gold medals than any other country. The East German team placed second, its women swimmers taking 11 of the 13 medals. The United States placed third.
These results were so extraordinary that, initially, the use of steroids was widely suspected. Slowly, the truth began to trickle through the Iron Curtain-Soviet athletes were utilizing mental training. Results from studies started to become available in the late '70s. Charles Garfield, a world-renowned expert on mental athlete training, recounts one study in which four carefully matched groups of athletes trained for several weeks, with the following regiments:
- Group I-100% physical training
- Group II-75% physical training and 25% mental training
- Group III-50% physical training and 50% mental training
- Group IV-25% physical training and 75% mental training
Group IV had shown significantly greater improvement than Group III, with Groups II and I following, in that order. These studies showed unequivocally that mental training is paramount for peak performance.
This mental training includes developing the ability to quickly relax one's body. It also includes developing the ability to quickly shift negative emotions into positive ones and to be in a positive emotional state. And, most importantly, it includes developing the ability to maintain this state of physical relaxation, emotional control, and mental focus that athletes call "athletic poise." This is a state of psychological readiness and mental preparedness that is known to be a prerequisite for peak performance.
Training programs for peak performance, such as the one developed by Garfield based on his work with Soviet trainers and athletes around the world, are now the norm in the training regimen of serious athletes.
The habit of multitasking splinters our resources and prevents us from developing and executing at peak performance levels.
Death Habit #2: Be Competitive
Do not misunderstand me. Competing with yourself is a great habit-pushing yourself to excel at your job, learn new skills faster, develop new competencies, or whatever challenges you want to conquer is a habit worth nurturing. Few people during their lifetime exhaust the resources hidden within them. There are deep wells of strength in each of us that are never used. Learning to tap into this inner power is a worthy pursuit.
But the way people understand the conventional wisdom is "Be competitive with others." In such an interpretation, the measures of progress become outside metrics-assessment of your performance by others, comparing your status with the status of your coworkers, and so on. The problem is that these outside measures are usually outside of your control. Striving to measure your progress by outside metrics undoubtedly creates stress and negative emotions, such as anxiety and worry. The more you strive to deliver results according to outside metrics, the more stress and pain you create in your life.
Recent research in the field of neuroscience tells us that under the spell of stress and negative emotions, the human brain gets into a state of "cortical inhibition"-a desynchronization or reduction of cortical activity during which several areas of the brain are effectively shut down. Neuroscientists warn, "This condition can manifest in less efficient decision-making capabilities, leading to poor or shortsighted decisions, ineffective or impulsive communication, and reduced physical coordination."
The habit of being competitive with others leads us to accumulate stress in our lives and perform at less than optimal capacity.
Death Habit #3: Work All the Time and Do More
We are becoming a nation of workaholics. With the advances of cell phones and the Internet, our work is with us all the time-at the dinner table, at the outing with the kids on the beach, and so on. If we let it, our workload can consume us, proliferate stress, and, as a result, lead to continuous operation at a lower brain capacity. You need to save some mental, physical, and emotional resources to regenerate, think, and strategize for the future.
Neuroscience researchers have shown that when a certain level of physical and emotional coherence is reached, the areas of the brain that are usually shut down under stress become available to us. This extra "mental power" can be harnessed at will and utilized to solve problems and address difficult situations.
Physiologically, the state of coherence is a phenomenon whereby systems exhibiting periodic behavior synchronize and oscillate at the same frequency and phase. Neuroscientists explain, "This state represents a highly efficient mode of bodily function and is associated with heightened clarity, buoyancy, and inner peace."
Researchers have also proven that in this state of "entrainment" or "coherence," cognitive ability improves.
Our workaholic tendency prevents us from taking time to contemplate, focus our minds on critical issues, and utilize our full brain capacity and cognitive ability for developing creative solutions.