I came across an interesting article about ‘Supercompensation’ the other day that really struck me.
In sports science theory, supercompensation is the post training period during which the trained function/parameter has a higher performance capacity than it did prior to the training period.
Starting small allows you to get out of your head and start building the momentum necessary to make the habit stick. But once your new behavior is a reliable part of your daily routine, it’s equally important to increase your efforts to get better at what you do. Here is where the idea of ‘supercompensation’ comes.
The idea is that since the human body is an adjustable organism, it will not only recover from the exercise. It will also adapt to the new strain placed on it and get a little bit stronger than it was before. Supercompensation will only occur if you increase your efforts to a level that is higher than your body is already used to. For example, if you do the same exercises over and over again, there’s no new level of strain for your body to adapt to and because of that, no supercompensation will occur. So, if you want your fitness level to improve, you can’t settle for running the same trail at the same intensity week in and week out.
This is not only for Fitness…
The concept of supercompensation isn’t just helpful for fitness. In fact, it’s a very useful concept for any positive change you’re trying to create:
Want to be more mindful? Add one minute to your meditation habit every month.
Want to sleep better? Make one small improvement to your bedroom every week.
Want to clean up your diet? Remove one type of unhealthy food from your diet every week.
Want to become a prolific writer? Add 100 words to your daily writing goal every month.
You get the idea.
Always look for ways to raise the bar just a little bit and push yourself to get better at what you do. If you can do that, your consistent, tiny improvements will lead to massive results over time.
Every four years, we get to see the best of the best of the best compete. The Olympics is so interesting, because the athletes have few chances to win medals in their lifetime. In almost every other sport, you get a new season each year, but in the Olympics, it’s do or die. Lose and wait close to a half-decade for your next opportunity.
Every year I cry with those athletes who break down on the podium while holding their gold medals.
And I also cry with them who were not able to make it this year.
And then I wonder, what sort of training could have possibly made them so emotionally strong, what motivates them to train like crazy for years and shed their last drop of blood in a competition like this. I was determined to find out all about their ‘mind secrets’ and wanted to know if there is any tricks that we could learn and implement in our daily lives. Fortunately, I found ten.
Today I will share those lessons that we can learn from the world’s greatest athletes in the world’s greatest athletic showcase.
Love the work for the sake of the work
For every Michael Phelps, there are hundreds of Olympic athletes who don’t make sizable incomes. Olympic athletes train and compete for love of their sport. It’s why they’re so endearing.
We all want to make a full time living from what we love. But that might not always turn out to be the case. There’s none of the pretentiousness you see with professional athletes. The Olympics represent sport in its purest form. If you want to be a writer, write for joy. Write to make a difference and get ideas you believe in to spread. Don’t write just so you can create a course or get a book deal. People can tell if you’re being sincere or not.
Work, Work, Work
Imagining practicing your craft for 4 long years every day and night. That’s what it’s like to train for the Olympics.
Sure, there’s world championships in between, but reaching the podium is the holy grail Olympic athletes are really shooting for. The medalists get there by incessant practice — shaving milliseconds off their start, jumping a half an inch higher, repeating routines until they’re woven into their muscle memory. Many of these athletes dedicate their entire existence to practice and do little else.
Each time I feel like complaining about my lack of ‘speedy success’ in my craft, I remind myself how much practice and time it takes. I guarantee you there is always room to practice more than you are right now. Make your effort match your aspirations.
Get Obsessed with your goals
We’ve all heard the stories how Olympic athletes literally eat, breathe and sleep their sport. Life is focused on one thing: becoming the world’s best at that sport. Obsession is part of achieving goals. As average performers begin to forget what their goals are because of a lack of exposure to them, the pros are imbedding their goals deep into their subconscious minds daily. Their minds are like guided missiles, always adjusting and correcting to maintain accuracy toward the target.
Have a sense of Emergency
Most of us operate like there is an endless amount of time in a day, week, month, year and life. Olympic athletes are extremely sensitive to time. They have a sense of urgency because they are operating at a level of awareness that constantly reminds them the present moment is all they really have. They’re on a mission to fulfill the dream of winning the medal, and they know the clock is ticking.
An Olympian gets one shot every four years, and can realistically compete for two or three Winter Games. Life is short, and if you’re going to make something happen, now is the time.
Take Care of Your Body
Olympic athletes keep strict diets to keep their body in peak condition for competition. You can’t eat fast food 3 times a week and win a gold medal. Sure, most of us are not athletes, but productivity and health are greatly tied to each other.
In our daily lives we’re consumed with both personal and professional stressors. Time off and life balance are key factors in performance cycles, as are massive influxes of effort. Getting more sleep, eating healthier, working out regularly, taking care of the mind are extremely crucial to produce quality work.
Believe in Yourself
Ask any Olympic athlete from any country competing in the games how they expect to place in their competition, and every one of them will tell you they expect to win the gold. That’s because faith has always been a hallmark of world-class performers – most notably the faith performers have in themselves.
It’s so difficult to see yourself in a place of success when you’re nowhere near reaching it. Mastering your mindset is just as important, if not more, as mastering the craft. Olympians have an extremely high-level of trust even when they are failing or going through a slump. This faith in self may stem from being raised in a positive environment, or from performers talking themselves into it. Muhammad Ali admits he told the world he was the greatest before he truly was as a way to bolster his faith in his own skills.
The difference is champions like Olympic athletes have faith in their goals and dreams while most people are often deathly afraid of believing in something that may or may not happen.
To be successful in any career you need to work hard and practice, but the most important trait anyone can have is patience. Building a career is a marathon, and most of us burn ourselves out (way) before we even succeed.
Multiply the length of time you think it will take you to succeed in your career times ten. It’s hard.
I haven’t yet mastered patience, but I keep trying, because I know there’s no other way. I have to remind myself to stay steady and avoid burning out — every.single.day.
Compete With Yourself Only
I like the fact that the Olympics includes so many individual sports. Individual athletes compete with themselves only. In sports like swimming and track and field, you aren’t trying to penetrate your opponents defense. You’re just doing the best you can, and the best wins. It’s pure.
You’re the solitary athlete. You train constantly to prepare for your next big shot. Each blog post or book you write is an attempt at reaching your “personal record,” for quality, craftsmanship, and excellence.
If you look in the other lanes during the race, it’ll slow you down. Keep your eyes forward and run to the finish line.
Invest and get a Coach
Some people scoff at hiring a coach or taking a paid course because they think it’s just as easy to find helpful information online for free. This comes from a scarcity mindset.
Are we so gifted that we can’t benefit from training or coaching?
Do we know something the world’s most successful people who use coaches don’t?
You can spend endless hours, months, maybe even years of your life trying to figure everything out on your own, or you could get help.
Olympic athletes work with the best trainers.
Internet marketing draws its share of seedy characters, but there are coaches and training programs with honest intentions to help you. I’ve paid for membership websites to help me improve my craft on a regular basis.
You’re smart. Do your due diligence, and invest in yourself.
When you watch the games this week, think of the dedication, time, and energy these athletes put into preparing for their events. Think of the mindset it takes to train four years for a race that lasts ten seconds.
I am sure that If we work even half as hard as an Olympic athlete, we’ll make it till the finish line.
Most personal development books advocate secret shortcuts to success. The 4-Hour Workweek, an extremely popular title from author Tim Ferriss, detailed strategies for “joining the new rich” and traveling the world by working as little as possible. Cal Newport’s latest book entitled Deep Work by contrast is refreshing in its emphasis on extremely cognitively demanding work as the key to success and personal fulfillment.
Deep Work is defined as “Professional activities performed in a state of distraction-free concentration that push your cognitive capabilities to their limit. These efforts create new value, improve your skill, and are hard to replicate.” Deep Work is contrasted with Shallow Work, defined as “Noncognitively demanding, logistical-style tasks, often performed while distracted. These efforts tend to not create much new value in the world and are easy to replicate.” Newport’s thesis is that the ability to actually concentrate on hard stuff is becoming rare due to addictive and distracting technologies from Facebook to Buzzfeed to email. Meanwhile, any job that can be replaced by a computer or someone in a developing nation will be, so deep work is actually more valuable than ever.
Deep Work is the knowledge workers’ version of “deliberate practice,” the sort of which leads to expertise as found by K. Anders Ericsson in studies of violin players, golfers, chess grandmasters, and so on. Sheer number of hours of very challenging practice with the aim to deliberately improve one’s skills correlates with the greatest expertise, hence the “10,000 hours rule” popularized by Malcolm Gladwell. Expert violin players practice 3-4 hours a day, whereas mediocre players practice only 1 hour a day or less. Similarly, knowledge workers who spend 30-50% of their work day in completely focused concentration on important, difficult projects produce more value than knowledge workers who spend most of the time checking email, sitting in meetings, and distractedly trying to get a few things done each day.
While Newport emphasizes the benefits in productivity and job security from Deep Work, I think the real benefits are in meaningfulness and life satisfaction. Newport has given a name to something vague I’ve felt was missing in my life. Now I not only have the vocabulary to talk about it, but also a model of how to live a deeply meaningful life in a sustainable manner.
I’ve had a belief that to do a high volume of good quality work, it was necessary to be a workaholic. Not wanting to experience the obvious negative effects of workaholism, I’ve instead chosen to be a slacker. Newport presents a golden mean between the extremes of workaholism and slacking, activity and rest; that of spending 3 or 4 hours a day sequestered in highly concentrated periods of challenging mental labor, 90-120 minutes at a stretch, never working after 5:30pm, and managing all this by ruthlessly eliminating the inessential. Newport advocates hard, hard work for which there is no shortcut.
Ultimately Newport’s Deep Work is not simply about doing better work, it’s about living a better life, balancing many competing priorities, determining which technologies aid your most important labor, and valuing your energy and your time as the precious and non-renewable resources they are.
This book a must-read for anyone who does knowledge work of any kind and wants to live a meaningful life in our age of distraction.
Studying Successful men and women is one of my fondly cherished hobbies. I have studied over 100 of successful people through biographies,autobiographies,blogs,diaries and many more just to find out what it takes to be successful. I have always been very intrigued with the thought that why there are so few people on this planet who become successful in what they do while we all have the same 24 hours of time every day?
Scientifically, it has already been proven that talent is overrated. There are probably millions of unknown people on this earth who are way more talented than some of our famous ones but unfortunately, we never get to know them. Hardwork definitely plays a key role. In fact, in one of my previous posts “10,000 Hours of Practice“, I have already pointed out there is no substitute for hardwork if you want to be successful in life. But even then, that is not all it takes. There is one more characteristic of successful people that popped up repeatedly in my study of Successful people. Therefore, today I am going to talk about that missing element that will make you successful in whatever you do and the name of that element is “Self-Descipline”.
What is ‘Self-Descipline’?
Self-Descipline is a habit, a practice, a philosophy and a way of living. Contrary to common belief, self-discipline does not mean being harsh toward yourself, or living a limited, restrictive lifestyle. Self discipline means self control, which is a sign of inner strength and control of yourself, your actions, and your reactions.All successful men and women are highly disciplined in the important work that they do. All great success in life is preceded by long, sustained periods of focused effort on a single goal, the most important goal, with the determination to stay with it until it is complete. Throughout history, we find that every man or woman who achieved anything lasting and worthwhile, had engaged in long, often unappreciated hours, weeks, months and even years of concentrated, disciplined work, in a particular direction. Fortunately the quality of self discipline is something that you can learn by continuous practice, over and over, until you master it. Once you have mastered the ability to delay gratification, the ability to discipline yourself to keep your attention focused on the most important task in front of you, there is virtually no goal that you cannot accomplish and no task that you cannot complete.
How do we build it?
Now that we know what it is, the next obvious question is how can we build it?
Lets imagine for a second that there was a switch in your brain that would allow you to efficiently smash through your daily to-do list, eat only foods that are good for you, and never skip a workout again. Ever wonder How would our life be different then? Well, I have a certain vision of my future-self in my mind and every morning when I wake up, I always try to put my best effort to move one more step forward towards my goal. Life is always hard and I am still not there yet, but I am NEVER STOP researching and trying new ways to get there and one day I know, I will.
There are plenty of ways you can teach yourself on becoming self-disciplined. Below are the one that are my top priorities right now. Research shows that these are the most influential areas of your mind that can lead you to success.
Meditation – The Zen Way
“Practicing mindfulness meditation for a few minutes each day can actually boost willpower by building up gray matter in areas of the brain that regulate emotions and govern decision making.”
Exercise- Magic for your body
This is already a well-discussed topic. Not only does it increase our fitness and mental performance, improve our mood and sleep quality, reduce our body fat percentage, anxiety levels and likelihood of becoming sick. It’s also been shown to improve our willpower.
Harness the power of Accountability
Admittedly, accountability isn’t the sexiest word in the English language. But the concept it represents is extremely powerful.The idea behind it is that when we’re left to our own devices, it’s easy to come up with excuses not to do something.
“I’m tired, I don’t feel like it, it’s too much work, it’s too hard.”
The solution is simple: build structures in your life that will hold you to a higher standard and that will prevent you from coming up. If you do not like to go to gym, hire a trainer, if you do not feel motivated to work, have a co-worker or partner to whom you report every day, if you do not have anyone, use website like stickK. Whatever specific system you use, the most important thing is that it takes away your ability to procrastinate and make excuses, and that it makes you stick to your plan and highest values.
Set SMART goals
When someone asks me how they could have more discipline and willpower, my first question to them is always, “do you have clear goals for yourself?” 90+% of the time, the answer is no. Oops.Why is it so important to have defined goals?Because they give you a clear direction in life and help you connect your daily actions to a greater purpose. I have worked really hard to define my goals. Trust me, it is not easy. But once you have that, its easier to take control on rest of your life.
When you create your goals, make sure they are SMART: Specific, Measurable Attainable, Relevant and Timely
For instance, don’t set a goal of “I want to lose weight” or “I want to make more money”. Instead, it should look more like “I want to lose 10 lbs of body fat by March 1s” or “I want to increase my monthly income by $5000 by June 10”. Once you do that, taking action and staying disciplined every day will be infinitely easier. You’ll be “pulled” towards the achievement of your goals, and you’ll feel a great sense of purpose and fulfilment.
Remove Temptations and Distractions
We all are subject to temptation—it’s just in our nature. And in today’s world we’re surrounded by more temptations than ever.Google gives us access to all the information in the world within a few seconds. YouTube is filled with funny, entertaining, and interesting videos. Our Facebook newsfeed gets updated every few seconds. Our smart phones are full of apps and other cool things. Knowing this, it’s imperative to figure out a system to bulletproof ourselves against all these distractions.
Some of the ideas along this line would be putting our phones away when you are working, use apps like Freedom to block internet for a certain period of time, block hours in your daily routine when you do not want to be disturbed by others, keep only those foods in the fridge that is good for your health etc.
Eliminate Unnecessary Decisions
Our brain is our the most important resource and we need it protect it.As Baumeiseter found, every single decision we make during the day dips into our willpower reserves. Therefore, we need to cut down the number of decision we make to a minimum, and focus on the ones that truly matters. President Obama once said, “I don’t want to make decisions about what I’m eating or wearing because I have too many other decisions to make.”
This is why all the famous people like Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg and many othe prefer to wear the the same outfit, eat the same breakfast and lunch every single day.
Create Power Habits, Rituals, Routines
Creating rituals is a great way to remove needless decision-making from your day. Once something has been turned into a habit, you don’t even have to think about it. You do it without using any of your willpower. Each step of the ritual is carefully choreographed for optimal results, yet it requires no willpower on my part because it’s engrained in my ritual. You can read my other post on this related topic here.
Hack your Mind- 5 Minute Rule
One of our mind’s greatest flaws is that it often struggles to get things started. But once we’re in flow, it’s easy to keep going.
If you’re struggling to get started on some work you have to do, or to start your daily meditation/workout, make the following deal with yourself: you’ll do it for just 5 minutes.
Answer one email. Run 1 time around your block. Meditate for 5 minutes.
From personal experience and discussing it with others, I’ve found that 80 to 90% of the time, once we’re in motion, we end up continuing well past the 5-minute mark we had decided on.
Go for 100% Commitment
Jack Canfield, author of the book Chicken Soup for the Soul famously said “99% is a bitch, 100% is a breeze.”
If you really want to do something, commit to it 100%.
If you’re just sorta-committed, there’ll always be a little voice in your head saying “aahh, maybe today I’ll take the day off“. You’ll waste a lot of willpower fighting off that little voice.
But the moment have you that 100% commitment, the game becomes easy. You don’t have to think about it… you just do it!
From many of my earlier posts, you might have already figured out atleast one fact about me, that is, I am addicted to productivity and in order to achieve the highest level of productivity, I read a lot about cognitive science. Learning about how our brain and mind work together as a team has become one of my hobbies since many days now.
So this post is about a book that I just finished reading. The title of the book is Why Don’t Students Like School? The author Daniel Willingham is a Harvard educated cognitive scientist who writes books and articles about how to learn and teach better. The book is divided into principles of learning and I highly recommend getting a copy for yourself as Willingham explains many of the details and implications of each of these principles. I wanted to discuss each principle briefly, to share the implications it has for learning better.
Note: The book lists nine principles, but two were more related to teaching, so I omitted them here.
1. Factual knowledge precedes skill
Einstein was wrong. Knowledge is more important than imagination, because knowledge is what allows us to imagine. There is considerable research showing the importance of background knowledge to how well we learn. Without background knowledge, the kinds of insights Einstein praised are impossible.
Careful studies show that having more background knowledge on a topic means we can read faster, understand more when we do and remember more of it later. You cannot teach someone “how” to think, without first teaching them a considerable amount of “what” to think. Thinking well first requires knowing a lot of stuff, and there’s no way around it.
2. Memory is the residue of thought
You remember what you think about. Whatever aspect of what you’re learning your mind dwells on, will be the part that it is likely to be retained. If you, inadvertently, spend your studying time thinking about the wrong aspects of your studies you won’t remember much of use.
The problem with this principle is that knowing about it is not enough. We can’t constantly self-monitor our own cognition, noticing what we’re noticing. So even if you try to pay attention to the right things, it can be easy to accidentally focus on less important details which will take precedence in memory. There are many techniques like taking side notes, highlighting, using analogies that you can follow to avoid this trap.
3. We understand new things in the context of what we already know
Abstract subjects like math, physics, finance or law, can often be hard for people to learn. The reason why is that the we learn things by their relation to other things we already know. Willingham here suggests using many examples to ground a particular abstraction in concrete terms before moving on.
4. Proficiency requires practice
The only way to become good at skills is to practice them. Additionally, some basic skills require thorough practice in order to be successful at more complicated skills.
I cant stress enough on this point. Practice can be the one gap you have to close between yourself and your goals (Choose to close it). It can be the one impediment that can hold you back and leave you wondering why others are so much better at that something for which you pine (Don’t allow it). It can make the difference between good and great, mediocre and magnificent(Go for the latter).
5. Cognition is fundamentally different early and late in training
Should you learn science like a scientist, making hypothesis, testing experiments, revising your theory to fit the data? Willingham offers substantial evidence that the answer is no.
I think there’s merit in understanding how scientists perform their work, but it’s also clear that knowledge creation and knowledge acquisition are very different. Because they are different, the learner needs to weigh them against each other. For most disciplines, understanding scientific facts is more important than scientific process, for the simple reason that scientific facts will inform our lives, but few of us will ever do scientific research. The same applies to history, philosophy and nearly any other discipline of knowledge.
6. People are more alike than different in how we learn
Learning styles are bunk. There is no such thing as visual, auditory or kinesthetic learners. This is also true for every serious theory of different cognitive styles for learning.
This suggests that the ways we learn are more similar than different. Some people might be better at learning certain types of things than others, but given a particular subject, science hasn’t different ways of learning it that are consistently better for some people but not others.
7. Intelligence can be changed through sustained hard work
This was probably my favorite part of the entire book because it validates much of how I think. Intelligence is partially genetic and partially environmental. Innate differences do matter and some people are born with more talent than others.
However, Willingham argues that intelligence is malleable. Psychologists used to believe that intelligence was mostly genes. Twin studies and other natural experiments seemed to bear that out. Adopted children turn out more like their biological parents than their adoptive parents in many dimensions.
However, now the consensus has turned far more towards nurture, rather than nature. One of the biggest pieces of evidence is the Flynn Effect, which is the observation that people, over the last century, have gotten smarter (and the effect is too large to be from natural selection). Genes may have an important role in intelligence, but most of that role is played out through the environment, not independent of it.
Definitely go and read this book. Its a very easy read, full of scientific data and research and it will answer a lot of questions about learning that you might have. I was happy that most of the principles discussed in the book reflected my own thinking. It’s comforting to see when the experience I’ve gained from my own learning challenges converges on the serious work scientists are doing to understand the brain and how we learn.
No matter what you do in your life to get success, FOCUS is indeed your key. Anyone can force themselves to sit in a library and study all day. The hard part is sustaining focus. It matters more than raw effort. The sun can’t burn paper without a lens to concentrate its rays. Similarly, you can burn yourself out working on a project, but if that effort isn’t concentrated, you won’t make any progress. Focus is essential, but it is also incredibly hard to do.
I just wrote a guest post on how to focus here. Please do have a look.
First of all, I would like to apologize for the delay in writing a new post (was really busy with some other important tasks). But anyway, I am back and today I am going to write about a very interesting topic called ‘Habit Change’. Do you have a habit you want to change? Maybe you want to quit smoking,
stop eating unhealthy foods or turn around negative thoughts. Do you have a habit
you want to create? Changing our habits to improve what we are can be a painful process. It must be motivated by a higher purpose, and by the willingness to subordinate what you think you want now for
what you know you want later.
“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence then, is not an act, but a habit.” -Aristotle
In the past few days, I was reading some articles and books about habit changes and was really surprised to see that simple habits that we are so used to perform in our day-to-day lives determine not only our characters but also our success level as well. No matter how small the habits are, how insignificant those might look, we need to have a closer look on the things we repeatedly do and on the words we frequently say. Habit changing is nothing but a skill and like every other skill, it can be learned with sufficient practice and enough determination. Here I am going to discuss two tactics that I found in common among all the success stories that I have read so far.
1. The famous ’30 day trial’:
The first push, which makes up 99% of the total energy you will put into creating a permanent habit takes place in the first month. If done successfully, after the first month the new habit will be a reflex, requiring only a little bit of energy to handle changes in situations. Even if you eventually let the habit slip after several months, the real source of the problem usually occurred somewhere in the first month.
The first thirty days are much like an hour when an axeman is sharpening his blade before actually cutting down the trees. They may seem insignificant when you keep a habit for months or years, but they account for most of your results. Doing same thing repeatedly for 30 days creates new neural pathways in our brains which eventually forms a new habit. There would definitely be some uncomfortable or restless feelings in this period but trust me, those are normal and would go away after a certain period.
I have had difficulties in working out regularly and discarding some of the junk/unhealthy foods from my daily diet in the past, but following this trial and also by showing a strong determination, I was able to overcome those to a great extent and offcourse, I feel GREAT about that.
Trigger is simply understanding and reinforcing the cue that starts your habit. It is nothing more than the first link in the chain of a habit. By controlling the first few links in the chain we can eventually control the entire output.
The cue is a piece of stimulus that precedes your habit, like the bell for Pavlov’s dogs.The best cues are external (time of day, alarm clock, after tasks, work, etc.) but when there aren’t any consistent external cues for when you should perform your habit, you need to look for internal cues. Internal cues are harder to make triggers,but they will work.
The most important part of your trigger is your ritual. This should be a concise set of actions no more than fifteen minutes long, and often it can be as little as a few seconds. Your ritual needs to be strongly associated with your habit, so it should be done every time in the same fashion.The most important part of your ritual is that it is consistent. If you don’t use your ritual every time you run your habit it loses power. The benefit of using a ritual is that you use it every time.
Finally, in a more cognitive way, creating a new neural pathway is never easy. This is because old neural pathways are very greedy, and don’t like to give up any of their brain real estate. They fight to keep that real estate from other intruding neurons. New activities that are trying to create new neural pathways have to compete for this brain real estate with old neural pathways (old activities).This is why breaking an old habit is so hard. and the sight of a simple piece of chocolate can break all your healthy routine.There is a brain real estate war waging inside our heads when we introduce new habits. Each habit you add to your life has a cumulative effect. They are like an investment in your success. Over time these success habits move you closer and closer to achieving success in life. The more good daily success habits you add over time, the closer you get to success. And wealth will eventually follow.