Alison: In any New York work place, you will find some of the most motivated, bright and determined urbanites. They also usually have a similar goal-- to bring their best selves to work. From your young entry level executive to your most successful CEO, we could all use a little check in now and then to see how we're doing and how things might improve. Is being successful at work truly about getting stressed out everyday, eating lunch at your desk and meeting all your deadlines? Or is there an attitude and relationship to work that can be, dare i say it, pleasurable?
“We think, mistakenly, that success is the result of the amount of time we put in at work, instead of the quality of time we put in.”
suggestions for achieving peak performance in the work place
The top three on my list are:
- Know Thyself-- Invest in your Emotional Intelligence
- Work with Your Automatic Stress Response -- the Flight/Flight/Freeze Response
- Don't Underestimate Holistic Self-Care and Making Time For it
1. Know Thyself -- Invest in Your Emotional Intelligence
Listen. I'm pretty sure you're already good at what you do--and if you're in the beginning phases of your career, then of course it's always a great idea to find your mentors, build extra skills by attending workshops and trainings, and work aligned with your personal values, passion and goals as much as possible. However, if you're already mid-career or beyond, then you just might need a little fine tuning at this point. Many are masters and experts of their craft, but one area we might glance over but is equally important on the job is EQ: emotional intelligence. Isn't it the most challenging aspect at work to deal with partners, employees, bosses, colleagues, investors and the myriad of relationships formed in the work place?
If you begin to do some personal work in therapy, coaching or otherwise, you might begin to notice your thoughts, feelings and behaviors -- and of course they always include the relational parts of our lives! Here's an example that i've heard before: "I am at the top of my game performance-wise, but then i start to have doubts about what I'm saying in business meetings. I can feel the two other senior executives in the room are looking at me like I'm not making as much sense about what I'm talking about even though I'm certain that what I'm saying is true and beneficial." If we break this down into parts, we see that some of this thinking pattern is about assumption--assuming that others are thinking and feeling something about you--and these assumptions lead us to feel self-doubt and confusion. When we're swept up in fully believing our thoughts and feelings, this can impact our self-image, performance and even quality of our relationships. So this relates to the truth of the information--that what we are saying is beneficial in the moment, especially given our skills, expertise and prior preparation for these meetings. Did you know that the assumption part is based off of old information-- and that which is true for today is the only information that is real and valid? This is the only information you should be using to judge your success, relationships, expertise and decisions on-- current, true information. After all, what will people remember about you at the end of your life? Not necessarily what you said in business meetings, but what you are contributing overall as well as how you are with others and how you make them feel.
2. Work with Your Automatic Stress Response -- The Fight/Flight/Freeze Response
I don't think most people want to say that they are stressed out all the time and not enjoying themselves-- and yet so many people with high-stress careers say exactly that and feel miserable on the job. A large contributing factor in that equation is an over, or under, active nervous system. How many times a day are you presented with a challenge and go into over-drive to solve it, only to find yourself anxious, irritable, reactive, jumpy, and unable to find equilibrium again? This is because the nervous system thinks it has to go in overdrive at that moment (*think perceiving a threat like a lion in the jungle) and respond with a ton of energy. This eventually can burn us out, make us sleepless and cause us to lack enjoyment in other areas of our lives if we remain in overdrive (fight/flight or anxiety/reactivity)-- and eventually we will collapse into freeze and find ourselves down and unmotivated.
So we must find ways to increase our personal stability of mind and resilience of the nervous system. We work best when we are functioning in a calm alert state: where we are at ease, but ready to take action on the spot and relate to stressors and challenges with the actual (usually non-threatening) information given. The two best ways to work with your mind and nervous system are with meditation and neurofeedback -- better yet, having both a regular sitting practice of at least 10 minutes a day and doing neurofeedback 2-3 times a week can be the penultimate combination in optimizing the functioning of your brain and mind.
Neurofeedback Training with NeurOptimal - "Best Biohack Yet"?
Both neurofeedback and meditation re-trains the nervous system to come into the present into a calm alert state--stressors and challenges can be dealt more more easefully, gracefully and accurately. In this podcast, Dave Asprey, an expert on peak performance and founder of Bulletproof has rated NeurOptimal neurofeedback training as the "best biohack yet.". In his interview with co-founder of NeurOptimal Dr. Valdeane Brown we learn about his own personal story how this advanced technology helped him and what makes Dynamical Neurofeedback different.
3. Don't Underestimate Holistic Self-Care and Making Time For It
Beyond self-understanding and a regulated nervous system, we must all take care of our bodies. If you aren't sleeping well, eating well and exercising, eventually that body that has to take care of these taxing tasks day in and day out will start to feel like it's crashing. I'm not a medical professional, but i think any functional medicine doctor would tell you that the way you take care of your body will impact your performance and mental health--it's a given.
Here is a well-written article by Dr. Mark Hyman on why Glutathione, for example, is really important for overall health and to prevent illness. Honestly, who wants to do all of this work, live a stress-filled life, only to become sick and depleted and turn around saying "I wish I had taken better care of myself?" It's generally not worth it. I often hear, "Well I can't take time for any of these things--like self-care, therapy, neurofeedback -- how do people fit it all in?" Since it's just that important to keep your body and mind in tip-top shape, the most successful, thriving, dedicated, healthy and happy New Yorkers DO make time for all these things even if it means coming on a lunch break or taking an hour early off of work. After all, it would be best to do quality work in a shorter period of time (think making an 80 hour work week now a more reasonable 40 hour one) because we cannot survive running on the hamster wheel for that long--and anyway, that's surviving not thriving in our lives.