What’s Your M.O. — Crash and Burn, or Rest and Recover?

Are you operating at your maximum or your optimum?

Nido Qubein, president of High Point University, asked this question and it highlighted one of the behavioral mysteries I’ve long observed in the business world: So many people operate in maximum mode, running as fast as they can, barely keeping their head above water.

Crash and Burn

They rush around in reactive mode, relying on external pressures and sheer willpower to create adrenaline-driven motivation. Pushing as hard as they can for as long as they can – and sacrificing their health and wellbeing in the meantime – inevitably, they crash and burn.

On the other side of the fence are those who are operating at their optimum, setting a pace that’s sustainable for the long term and most favorable to achieving the results they want. Yes, they sprint full out when necessary but they do it on a full tank of gas and then take the time to rest and recover.

Which way sounds better to you? If you’re interested in a saner, healthier way to thrive and succeed, here are three ways to move toward optimum performance:

1. Know your why.

Let’s start with a little brain science. In his book, Start With Why, Simon Sinek points out that the oldest part of our brain, the limbic system, is where our emotions and behavior originate.

The best way to access our emotions – which are what drive our actions — is by understanding our fundamental “why.” Is it to grow, to inspire, to teach? Rather than focusing solely on the “what” — the different career path or major promotion, say — digging deep to excavate a true sense of purpose is what will ignite your motivation and give you clarity.

2. Fortify your mindset.

The more information we have access to – on TV, in the newspapers and in conversations overheard — the more negativity we’re likely to encounter. Unless, that is, we proactively create a shield against it.

Before you dive into your day, take 15 minutes to feed your mind inspiring content that shifts your default setting toward the positive and expands your idea of what’s possible – biographies of people you admire, personal development books, inspiring quotes — clear your mind with meditation or journaling, and mentally rehearse how you want the key events of the day to go. Your day will start off smoother and, when you do encounter a setback, you’ll handle it with greater ease and aplomb.

3. Create positive rituals for energy recovery.

Sports psychologist Jim Loehr says:

“Time, by itself, is fundamentally valueless unless it intersects with our best energy. That’s because it’s our best energy that enables us to be extraordinary.”

People in maximum mode burn through their energy sources until there’s nothing left. Energy, however, is a renewable resource, if we take measures to recover. One way to replenish our mental, emotional and spiritual energy is to create positive rituals. More than a routine, these are precise, consciously acquired behaviors that become automatic, fueled by a deep sense of meaning and purpose: date night on Fridays with your significant other, reading a chapter of a novel at lunchtime, or going to yoga class on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

No question, with the hyped-up expectations of the modern world breathing down your neck, choosing a sustainable pace requires discipline and conviction. But which would you rather be: ahead at the 25th mile of the marathon, or the first to run across the finish line?

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