What’s the real difference between you and a pro football coach? Or an Olympic gold medalist, or a Microsoft CFO? According to psychologist Michael Gervais, it really comes down to programming. All human brains contain enormous potential. But not everyone’s brain has been programmed to full capacity. And that’s where Dr. Gervais comes in.
He believes that if we learn and practice certain tactics, we can acquire a high performance mindset. Or new mental software, if you will. He discusses different methods for building that software with high achievers. These include Seattle Seahawks coach Pete Caroll and Pixar CFO Lawrence Levy. Having compared notes with many high achievers like them, Michael Gervais then teaches the most common methods for creating a high performance mindset. His clients include Amazon, Microsoft, and AT&T. A lot of people with a lot of money believe that his methods work. So let’s check out his Top 7 Teachings for a High Performance Mindset–but we’ll give you the gist for free.
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6. Let Pain Motivate
You If you broke an arm, would you sit around the house? No, because the pain wouldn’t let you. It would drive you to see a doctor, get medication, and possibly go to physical therapy. The nice thing about physical pain is that there’s usually an obvious cause. It points us to the obvious solution. Michael Geravis points out that 2. Created using Celtx emotional pain tells us equally important messages, but we don’t always acknowledge it, much less follow its direction.
For example, let’s say you’ve been feeling depressed or unfulfilled. You could block it out by drinking or watching more TV. But that’s not escaping the problem. It’s more like a siren is going off and you’re sitting in the middle of a burning building while wearing heavy duty earplugs. If you don’t acknowledge the pain in the first place, then how can you move forward?
The pain of feeling depressed, unfulfilled, or bored is a clear call to action. But will you pick up the phone, or put emotional notifications on mute?
Gervais says to take the call and have a conversation with yourself. Sometimes it might even feel good, which brings to the next lesson.
5. Practice Gratitude
Imagine having a deluxe mattress but going to bed angry every night. If you fall asleep preoccupied with negativity, you’re not really getting full value out of bedtime. Waking up less recharged makes you less productive, which probably increases the negative feelings. But if you take a minute to appreciate how soft and comfortable the bed is, you’ll probably sleep and therefore perform better.
If pain is the stick that drives us, then gratitude is the carrot that reminds us where we are. It’s a lot harder to perform well if you don’t appreciate the good things around you. Otherwise, life becomes an endless tunnel of trying and no feeling of reward. Without a carrot, you’re going 3. Created using Celtx to get tired and slow down.
So try this: Every day, write down three things that you’re grateful for. They can be small, like having running water. Or big, like a loving family. Studies show that people who do this every day are much less susceptible to anxiety and depression. Because gratitude helps to put them in a better headspace, their brains are freer to perform top notch.
Of course, gratitude reminds us to look outward for good things. Dr. Gervais’ next lesson reminds us to look inward.
4. Practice Self Confidence
It’s counterintuitive, but successful people often suffer from imposter syndrome. Despite their skill and achievement, they sincerely believe that it’s not good enough. They have the competence, but not the confidence. It’s kind of like having a full tank of gas but no car key.
So how do you go about becoming more confident? Well, actions speak louder than words. If you act, through body language, like a confident person, eventually the message will seep into your brain. Basically: Fake it till you make it.
Dr. Gervais points out that high performance relies on your brain’s programming. By habitually acting confident, you’re basically establishing that pattern for your brain. Eventually the act of confidence will become a normal part of your makeup, not just something you put on like a new sweater.
Of course, that being said, pride goes before a fall. Be confident, but don’t get cocky for the next lesson.
3. Be Open to Being Coached
Kids are naturally much better learners than adults. Part of this comes from simple biology–their brains are developing more quickly. But part of it also comes from healthy humility. They’re willing to be taught because they acknowledge others’ expertise.
So in order to succeed, you need to be receptive to others’ teachings. Self study is great, but ultimately humans are tribal creatures. Dr. Gervais believes that being taught mindset by another human is more effective than reading. Certain attitudes and life skills come more thoroughly to us when we witness another person demonstrating them. This may be because, deep down, we trust a real person’s authority over theory. So watch videos like ours all you want. It’ll teach you the basics. But be open to live humans’ input–it’s deeper and longer lasting. There’s nothing like taking in the reality around us. Which brings us to lesson number two.
2. Harness Your Mind
Keep in mind that your brain doesn’t just produce original or abstract thought. It’s the commander of your entire nervous system. It can process up to 100 nerve signals per second. That’s a lot of information coming in from your eyes, nose, ears, and every inch of skin. But we often ignore our immediate surroundings in favor of anxiety, uncertainty, or other inner distractions. That’s not a very efficient use of the brain, really. Dr. Gervais explains that when high performers do an activity, whether it be shooting hoops or hosting a meeting, they put maximum power into it. And what’s more powerful than the brain? By shutting down distracting thoughts and being in the moment, we’re truly harnessing our mind’s power. Athletes often say that time slows down when they’re really concentrating. But that’s not literally true. Because their brains are working more efficiently and without internal interruption, everything else seems slower by comparison.
So in short: Harness your mind to maximize the moment. You can’t put on the highest performance if your brain is off the stage. Simplicity is often powerful, as the next lesson proves.
1. Find Your Philosophy
Jesus. Love Others. Buddha. Follow the Middle Path. MLK. Equality. What do these people in have in common? According to Dr. Gervais, it’s this: They each had a philosophy that’s pretty easy to understand and repeat back. Because their paths are crystal clear, millions of people try to follow them. And in theory, at least, they have a roadmap for pursuing that philosophy.
And that’s how it should be with you. Your mindset should be at the tip of your tongue. Here’s another way of thinking about it: your philosophy is the target for how you want to live. BY putting it into words, you’re making it visible. And that makes it easier to keep your inner eye on it. Defining your path makes it that much easier, even automatic, to follow it. A high performer knows where they’re going, both literally and mentally.
It’s tempting to read about high achievers in the news and assume they’re just more talented, smarter, or luckier. And maybe those things play a role in their success. But it’s not a coincidence that Michael Gervais has worked with such a variety of high performers and identified these six lessons. If most of those high achievers think and act this way, then aren’t you at least curious to see what happens when you try it out? The brain you were born with has a lot of untapped potential. You just have to add some new software in it. A high performance starts with setting your mental stage.
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