Updated: Oct 19
While everyone is not an elite athlete, you are a pro at what you do. Whether you are a student, high school athlete, parent, performing artist, doctor, teacher, sales clerk, etc., it's good to bring your “A-Game” everyday. This is what we refer to as developing your high performance mindset.
One element of developing your high performance mindset is to find a daily balance. This includes how to schedule breaks throughout the day to rest, recharge, and to gain perspective. For most people, the habit is to move from one task to the next without stopping. As a result, they tend to do things till they become mentally and/or physically exhausted. Meaning, they do things till they can’t do it anymore or work till their body forces them to stop. Habits like this lead to burnout. Side effects can include mood swings, procrastination, loss of motivation, fatigue, insomnia, stress, and frequently getting sick.
Many moons ago when I worked at a non-profit, I would overwork myself to the point of exhaustion on a daily basis. It was during this time that I was promoted to a position as a director, I became consumed by work and the need to prove myself. As a result, I would work long hours and hardly ever take time for myself. I remember experiencing emotional highs and lows that would include snapping at co-workers. I would also avoid spending time with family and friends because I was either working or too tired.
Then one day it happened, I hit my breaking point. As I was leaving my office for a meeting, I exited the building and walked by a few co-workers who smoked. In that fleeting moment, I resented them. I felt as though they were always leaving the office to go outside to take a break. Even worse, I hated the fact that there were always two or three of them that would leave together to smoke and chat throughout the work day.
As I drove to my meeting, I had an epiphany. I wasn’t mad or resentful of them, I was jealous because they chose to make time throughout the day to take a break. While I had no desire to start smoking, I decided it was time to take more breaks throughout the day, aka “Smoke Breaks” to blow off steam, relax, and to just take a moment to stop.
I did this by scheduling daily breaks throughout the day, stressing the importance of leaving my desk to take my version of a "Smoke Break." This routine included things like going for a walk, chat with the smokers, or to take a moment to sit in solitude. This quiet place ended up being my car. I'd just sit, sometimes I'd close my eyes to meditate, take a power nap, or I'd just listen to music to relax and take a break. I also made sure to take a lunch break that was a minimum of 20 minutes to eat some food, and to talk to colleagues about anything but work. I will admit, forcing myself to take a lunch break and timeouts throughout the day were extremely challenging, at first. Once I made it a daily routine, I started to feel less stressed and more energetic, happier, creative, and efficient.
In the end, I realized that making small changes to my day helped me to find more balance in my life, and to take the first step toward developing a high performance lifestyle. So remember, schedule little breaks to stop, reflect, and to just recharge. It can be as little as 5 minutes. Just take a moment to be present and to be mindful.
Take a moment to recalibrate by practicing mindfulness. This involves a singular focus of being present and embracing the present moment.
Practice mindfulness, using the “Three R’s” of mindfulness by Robert Brumet (2016):
a. Recognize a particular moment in time, specifically, the present moment. Identify thoughts that are going through your head (think), what feelings you are experiencing (feel), and where do you feel it on your body (sense).
Brumet states “Mindfulness means that I am aware; that I am aware that I am aware; and that I recognize the object of my awareness.”
b. Refrain from reacting with emotions. Identify moments when you tend to react emotionally. When you lose awareness you slip into unconscious reactions that are better known as the fight, flight, and freeze responses. Remember to think, feel, and sense so that you can act versus react. Moments of reaction tend to occur when we are faced with uncertainty and/or when we don’t know what is going to happen. For example, when I was a teenager, my mind would race with thoughts of rejection when I wanted to ask a girl out on a date. It’s moments like this that the mind wants to create answers or create the outcome.
Brumet states that "To refrain is to be willing to live in the unknown and to allow the self to feel vulnerable.”
c. Relax, is a means to take a moment to stop and take things in. This can be accomplished by centering your mind, body, and spirit. This involves physically relaxing the body, mentally quieting the thoughts racing through your mind, and opening your heart.
Brumet states: To relax means not clinging to pleasure, but simply accepting it when it is here and letting it leave when it does. To relax the mind means not clinging to our views and opinions and not grasping for desired outcomes. It means to hold our judgements lightly and to be willing to live with uncertainty.
d. Repeat, Repeat this process. The more you do it, the more it becomes second nature, or what we refer to as building your muscle memory.
In the end, Brumet closes by saying:
Mindfulness is an ongoing process—we never do it “perfectly” (according to the ego’s definition of “perfect”). Our ego conditioning is to strive to “always get it right.” In mindfulness practice there is no absolute “right,” there is only what is right for this moment. We are never “finished” because we are not trying to get somewhere; the starting block and the finish line are always right here and right now. We simply seek to live this present moment with as much wisdom and compassion as we can… and that is our practice!