that time of year again. The turn of the calendar over to day 1 of 365 days
of opportunity to do better, be better and feel better. If you’re
like the millions of Americans who make New Year’s resolutions each
year, you probably have something in mind that you’d like to improve
upon during the next several hundred days of your life. But what if I
told you that eliminating some of the most punishing saboteurs of your
performance at ANY new (or existing) action you would like to accomplish
might be where you need to start?
The statistics say most people will give up on their New Year’s resolution
by the second month of the year. There are plenty of reasons a person
decides to push eject on those January 1 goals. Sometimes, the aim is
too lofty, or you can’t take the appropriate time to achieve the
goal. However, one crucial consideration is how well the individual planned
to succeed at their goal – including removing obstacles that stand
in their way.
When it comes to
peak neurological performance, of which I am a diligent student and proponent, you can take plenty of
actions to help your brain make you better – at anything. So, it
stands to reason that if your brain can help you perform well, it can
also contribute to poor performance based on the fuel and care it receives.
Alcohol Consumption – Whether you’re an elite athlete or a business executive,
the consumption of alcohol in American culture is a celebratory and relaxation
ritual. Unless it’s done to excess, occasionally drinking alcohol
is a pastime many adults believe is harmless. But I am here to tell you,
your brain keeps score of your drinking habits, whether you get “drunk”
or not. The neurological research literature consistently points to a
reduction in physical balance, reaction time, visual acuity, fine motor
skills, and more regarding acute alcohol consumption. The neurological
impact evidence may lead people to reason that their performance is
only inhibited while they’re under the influence of alcohol. Though the
impact of alcohol consumption after the “buzz” has worn off
is unique to the individual, plenty of research indicates that the effects
do linger and negatively impact our sleep, mood regulation, cognitive
function, memory, and learning.
Inadequate and Low-Quality Sleep – How
well do you sleep? How you answer that question depends not only on the number
of hours you sleep each night but also on how restful that sleep is. If
you’re like most adults, you’re lacking in both sleep quality
and quantity. Health issues, nighttime distractions such as screens in
the bedroom, a lack of exercise in the daytime, and, as mentioned above,
alcohol consumption all play a role in how well we sleep. I’ve written
how sleep impacts performance, especially for athletes. But you don’t have to be an athlete to
understand that if you want to get better at just about anything in life,
you’ve got to be sure that your sleep hygiene is on point. In other
words: you can train, practice, or strive until the cows come home, but
if your sleep life is dismal, you won’t achieve peak performance
anything you try to do.
Unaddressed Stress – To be clear – sometimes life is stressful. In my practice, I have
come to understand that no two people process stress in the same way.
We’re all unique. We arrive at this life with various generational,
hereditary, and socioeconomic backgrounds and experiences. But I can say
for sure that stress that doesn’t have an outlet (exercise, mindfulness
meditation, or psychotherapy, for example) has a negative impact on performance.
When stress is elevated and ill-managed in an individual, it can impede
performance on tasks or activities that require attention, memory, decision-making,
reaction time, and an accelerated rate of fatigue.
Now that you’ve read through these three punishing impacts on peak
performance, where do you stand? Do you notice any areas that you can
address so that the performance goals you want to achieve are set up for
success from the jump? Getting better at anything takes time and diligence,
to be sure, but if you’ve found yourself running up against walls
on your goals, year after year, it might be time to address these issues
as the potential bricks stacked against your efforts. Once you do that,
you might be surprised at how much easier (not faster, necessarily) it
is to attain those goals. It will be well worth the effort, I promise.