Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Optimal Humans


If you’re a long-time reader of this blog, you’ll recognize the term ‘Peak Performance’. We wrote a book about it and talked to people all over the world about how to keep winning in business and in life.

All this started way back in the 90s before the study of optimal performance became a mainstream phenomenon. Today, there’s a whole industry dedicated to teaching people how to be the best they can be. It ranges from the very general, like how to set goals and think positively, to scientifically analysing the microbiomes in your digestive system to improve your emotional wellbeing. Let’s just say the field has become really broad.

When there’s a flood of material on any topic, it’s nice to have the basics delivered in way that is simple to read and easy to understand. In this instance, the article is called “How to Be an Optimal Human”. It’s published on the New Scientist and is a summary of a book titled Optimal Human Being written by Ken Sheldon, a psychologist at the University of Missouri who specializes in the study of motivation.

I’ve picked a few key ideas from the article and paraphrased them here:
  1.  Balance the basics - Having our basic needs met is the first step towards becoming the best version of ourselves. Naturally, some areas of our lives will be more developed than others. We may feel safe, but our self-esteem may suffer. Or we may have great relationships, but are physically unhealthy. Identify which of your basic needs require more attention and focus on building them up.
  2.  Create goals that resonate with who you are - The meaning behind achievement comes when our accomplishments resonate with our identity. Edward de Bono: "There’s no point being brilliant at the wrong thing”. When your goals reflect who you are, being motivated to do the work also comes a lot easier. It never feels like you’re being forced to put in the hard yards.
  3.  Take care of the 'outside' and 'inside' - Sometimes people are mistaken about what makes them happy. They only focus on changing the things around them, thinking that it is the ultimate show of success. They want a bigger pay cheque, a more prestigious title. However, it must be warned that the happiness quotient on these extrinsic goals are not as strong as intrinsic goals (i.e. better relationships, building a community). Set goals in both camps.
  4.  Work on the tough stuff – “Just be yourself” may not be the right advice to give a person who is trying to reach their goals. The challenges that stop us from being our best are external, but more often, within us. It’s always the hardest to start with the “I”. But if there’s something in your character, be honest about what may be holding you back and work through it.
  5.  It’s okay to change your goals – When you’re on a journey, on occasion your final destination may change. If you discover that your initial goals were not really reflective of who you want to be and who you are, it’s okay to alter the course along the way.

Image source: Brian Joseph

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