Our next blog is on Anders Ericsson and Robert Pool’s book, Peak: Secrets from the New Science of Expertise. This book discusses the importance of deliberate practice in gaining skill in any area. Specifically, the authors offer suggestions on goal-setting, feedback, identifying patterns and motivation. Our first blog will discuss the authors’ perspective on goal setting.
Several of our blogs have highlighted the importance of goal-setting to achieving optimal performance and we at UpsideDown Performance created an entire online lesson just on this particular topic, Goal-Setting and Performance Tracking. Ericsson and Pool emphasize that without well-defined goals, you can’t judge whether a training session was a success. It is helpful to clearly define which aspect of performance you are aiming to improve, rather than just aiming for vague, overall improvement. What gets measured, gets managed, and if you don’t know exactly what needs to improve, it’s difficult to create an appropriate plan. In addition to clear, well-defined goals, the authors discuss the importance of short-term goals as being critical to achieving long-term goals. Stacking several small, attainable goals to reach a larger goal and then develop a plan that breaks the goal into behavioral steps at every possible level. These steps allow you the opportunity to obtain feedback, which will be discussed in greater detail in the next blog.
Erissson and Pool suggest that our brain is constantly adapting to new challenges, but this progress is difficult to measure so we may assume no progress is actually being made. The authors highlight that the human body has a natural preference for stability and homeostasis. If you physically push yourself enough, your body responds in a way that makes that level of effort easier to do. If you stay at this level, the rate of change will stop because your body has acclimated to the demand. Similarly, we need to push ourselves mentally by continuing to set goals outside our comfort zone. Our brain learns best in the sweet spot just outside our comfort zone….just far enough to make us continually work hard, but not so hard that it results in burnout and ineffective learning.
The authors emphasize that this type of goal-setting and learning demands maximal effort, which is difficult for people to sustain and is often not enjoyable. For this to work, the performer will have to give full, focused effort and attention to all of their actions. Our course on Focus and Distraction Management addresses why our focus is difficult to sustain and offers clear strategies you can implement to build your focus muscle.
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