“Desire is the key to motivation, but it’s determination and commitment to an unrelenting pursuit of your goal — a commitment to excellence — that will enable you to attain the success you seek.“
Mario Andretti (Professional Race Car Driver)
“Difficult times disrupt your conventional ways of thinking and push you to forge better habits of thought, performance, and being.”
Robin S. Sharma (Leadership Expert/Author, The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari)
”With regard to excellence, it is not enough to know, but we must try to have and use it.”
Aristotle (Greek Philosopher)
I recently started training and competing in Tough Mudder competitions.
This was something I wanted to do for a long time and now do once a year.
For years, I wanted to do one of these obstacle course races.
And never got around to doing it.
And, I never thought that I had time to do it.
I started digging in and started researching on how to make space for these things that I really wanted to do in my life.
What I found out was that elite performers use a few things to their advantage.
They use selective focus at a high intensity, they protect their mental energy, and the don’t mistake busy-ness for productivity.
The difference between elite and average is the strategic manipulation of time, energy, and resources to get their best and most for the least expenditure possible.
They are more efficient.
And, in leveraging that efficiency against their goals, they are able to outreach and outlast everyone else that’s just clocking hours in a day.
Using these strategies, I was able to do more, in less time, and free up time in my schedule to train for and compete in these Tough Mudder challenges, or anything else I have wanted to do that I used to lean on the excuse, “I’m just too busy” for.
How Elite Performers Outperform The Average
The Journal of Sport Sciences reported that one factor that separated average from elite performers was mental toughness.
Mental toughness or resilience within an environment that incorporated a “motivational climate (e.g. enjoyment, mastery)”, an internal desire to succeed, supportive relationships, and psychological skills and strategies all geared for success.
Elite performers have an elite mindset.
Talent can be trained… so can mindset.
The Personality and Individual Differences journal reported that there was no difference in the measured intensity of cognitive and somatic anxiety symptoms between elite and non-elite competitive swimmers.
What separated the elite from the non-elite was in their reported perception of stress.
Elite athletes reported the stress as being advantageous, and forecasted that it would increase their performance, whereas non-elite athletes rated the same level of stress/anxiety as “debilitating”.
Elite swimmers in this study also reported higher levels of self-confidence and belief in themselves.
The Journal of Excellence found similar results in high risk sports, reporting freestyle ski jumpers who exhibited the ability to reframe stress and stay calm were able to self-regulate, separating the elite from the average.
Managing your internal environment and protecting your external environment go hand-in-hand.
Rejecting focus-stealing emotional vampires with firm, confident boundaries, along with rejecting focus-stealing thoughts from your own mind, give you an elite mindset.
The last part of the elite formula is to then use this mindset with practical performance strategies to optimize your focus.
You can have an elite mindset and still waste your time in busy-ness.
How strategic you are with your time will determine how much you get out of your focus.
It looked at people in these 2 groups, their days, and how they divided up their time, and found that elite performers actually practiced less than average performers.
Using a practice called deliberate focus, elite performers use greater intensity of focus during shorter bursts of time to make bigger gains in less time.
This combination of elite mindset with elite practices yield a formula of efficiency where you maximize your time, energy, and resources not just to reach your chosen goals, but to free up time in your schedule to do all the things you want.
How Elite Performers Use Efficiency To Win
Mastering your mind and your focus means you win.
At whatever goals you set.
Including all the fun things on your bucket list that you’ve said you don’t have time for.
This means you can’t use the excuse that you’re too busy to train for an athletic event you want to do, or pursue a significant other relationship, or plan a vacation, or have a social life.
Mastering these skills and applying them to every area of goal attainment sets you up to not just plod along in the daily grind slowly inching toward your goals, but acts like an accelerant that allows you to achieve more without burning yourself out.
Elite performers master these 3 areas…
1. Master your mindset.
Call it mental toughness, or pure resilience.
Elite performers know how to take a hit and bounce back.
If you’re playing in the big leagues — for athletics, music, or business — you need to expect the hits to come.
You can’t go for big goals and expect it to be easy.
Success is never linear.
It’s a mess.
So anticipate the stress.
Don’t let the setbacks crush your self-confidence.
Don’t let failures paralyze you with embarrassment.
Whatever comes against you, whatever knocks you down… get up.
It’s not the stress that will give you anxiety and impair your performance, it’s your perception of the stress.
It’s your own faulty perception of the experience of anxiety.
And, it can actually improve your performance.
If you reframed every stressor into an opportunity, the negative impact on your mindset would be minimized.
You’d be able to use it to harness creative problem-solving and move forward.
Without missing a beat or wasting time.
If you took the sensation of anxiety and reframed it into excited energy that could refuel your reason “why” for your goals… you’d effectively replace fear with anticipation.
And keep moving forward.
If, instead of losing your mind and raging on every hiccup, you learned strategies to stay calm, you’d move forward feeling in control and powerful.
All of these mindset shifts result in increased mental toughness and grit to help you get back up and keep going.
The alternative is you become average… or you become a failure because you’re crippled by an inability to take a step back and get a grip on the current reality and realize you can take control at any time and change it.
2. Master your environment.
Elite athletes thrive in an environment where they have a supportive coach and positive network of influence.
Anything less compromises their performance.
They allow no room in their lives for anyone or anything that is going to impact their self-esteem, distract them from their purpose, or steal their focus with meaningless drama.
Elite performers are surgical with their environment.
If you want to be elite, you’ll start protecting your focus by protecting your environment from manipulative people, drama kings and queens, toxic people, and codependent fools.
These people are classic time-wasters.
They’re either out there to sabotage your success, or use you to get to their own.
If you aren’t on their team, attending to their every crisis, call for help, or talking them off of one emotional cliff or another, they’re actively trying to stop you from getting what you want in life.
They’ll use guilt trips and your history with them as ways to make your life hitched to theirs.
They’ll drag you down like an anchor you can’t untether from.
These people start out acting helpful, complementary, and with your best interests at heart.
They might even say they want to help you.
They might make you feel important by saying they need your help.
The message is codependent… “I need you, you need me”.
This is a recipe for going nowhere.
You’ll be so distracted by other people’s wants, needs, and false emergencies that you won’t have time or energy to manage your own life.
Elite performers are selective with their network.
Average people let anyone in.
If you want to reach the goals you have for your life, personally and professionally, you’ll start thinking like an elite athlete.
You’ll only allow positive, healthy people in your circle of influence.
You’ll actively select a supportive team, coach/mentor, and group of other elite performers to be in your life.
You’ll cut everyone else out.
3. Master selective focus.
Elite performers aren’t workaholics.
Workaholics are average.
Their focus is scattered and their days are long.
Most of their time is spent trying to regain focus for the real priorities on their list.
Instead, they’re at the mercy of everyone else’s agenda.
To be elite, you have to use elite strategies to protect your focus.
That doesn’t mean working longer… that means working at high intensity for time-limited portions of your day.
When your energy and focus are at their highest.
Elite performers use selective focus at a high intensity to maximize the best of their mental energy.
If you’re average… well then you’re just busy.
And, you mistake busy-ness for productivity.
But, you’re wrong.
The difference between elite and average is the strategic manipulation of time, energy, and resources to get your best and most for the least expenditure possible.
Usually in short bursts — early morning and then again in the afternoon after a break.
When elite performers work strategically like this, the total time that they spend working is only, on average, 3 and a half hours a day.
The average performer spends more time working spread out across the entire day, usually more than 8 hours a day.
With no reward for their these efforts.
In other words, being a workaholic will make you average and keep you average.
A hamster on a wheel.
The key to making room in your life for the things that you really want to do is to have this selective focus — and deliberate practice.
Start by saying “no” to things that don’t matter and start focusing on one thing at a time with short bursts of intense, and selective, focus.
You’ll be able to achieve high level productivity in 3 and a half hours instead of 8+ hours a day.
So the question is, what are you using your peak hours on?
What are you choosing to focus on, or use your highest levels of focus on?
Are you even being selective at all, or are you just spreading things out and being really busy?
The problem with just being really busy and spreading out your work, is that you just have this constant sense of urgency.
And when you’re pushed around by urgency, it makes you really easy to be pushed around by other people’s agendas.
You’re not really paying attention.
You’re not able to be selective.
The idea that elite performance is only available to a select few isn’t true. While only 2% of the population actually achieve elite performance, it’s not because of special talents and abilities as much as it is their ability to protect their focus, master their mindset, and selectively focus to block out distractions. Elite performers protect their environment from negative people, surround themselves with winners, avoid multitasking, and use models of efficiency to accomplish what they need to for success, in less time, without burnout. This leaves them more time to pursue other activities that they have otherwise put on the backburner in favor of being “too busy”.
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