For my training, I have a specific warm-up routine I go through religiously every single day. It has become second nature to me, to the point where if I don’t do it, I don’t feel right and don’t perform as well as I know I can. It takes me about 20 mins to work through all the movements, and by the time I’m done I’m warm enough to train physically, but more importantly, I’m prepared mentally for the tasks I’m about to perform.
It’s actually the same for when I get ready for work each day. I’m sure when you think about it, you probably have a “pre-game” habit in place to start your day also. I wake, head to the bathroom, have a shower, do my hair and make-up, dress, pack my food for the day and then head out the door for my walk to the train station. By the time I get to the city, I’m mentally prepared for the day ahead.
Motivation not required
Both of these scenarios are creating the same outcome – preparing me for the tasks I’m about to perform, regardless of how motivated I feel. This is the key point here. Motivation is fickle. It pretends to be your friend when you’re feeling all energised and positive about things, but as soon as that energy dies down and your positivity starts to get tested by the little negativity devil on your shoulder, your habits are the only thing that will save you. That is, if they’re wired that way.
We’ve spoken about this before – our brains are wired for defence. Its role is to keep us safe, so the habits we’ve created over the years are wired to get us from point A to point B as safely as possible. That includes convincing us not to do certain things it deems threatening. The problem is, it doesn’t differentiate between the threat of a sabre toothed tiger attacking us, or a deadline to complete a task. When we are faced with a task, activity, problem etc that we lack motivation to complete, the natural wiring in our brain shows us all the reasons why we are right not to want to complete it. It’s like a subconscious slideshow of all the times in the past why it felt better, was safer etc not to do what we were faced with doing.
“Help me, Obi-Wan Kenobi – you’re my only hope”
The good news is, we can rewire our brain to create new habits so that when we lack motivation to do something, we can fall back on this new wiring to support us and enable us to succeed regardless of our motivational levels. And the even better news is it doesn’t have to be hard or laborious. Think of my examples in the beginning – in the morning I simply get up and get in the shower. I’m instantly awake then and have time to clear my thoughts and prepare them for the day ahead. Likewise, my warm-up routine at the gym is so simple that I could do it anywhere. Stretches that lengthen my limbs and loosen up tension, movements which are easily done in the loungeroom if need be but increase my heart rate just that little bit higher, so my brain gets the signal that we’re about to move. All of a sudden, my positivity hormone oxytocin kicks in and the little devil’s voice on my shoulder starts to fade away. Even if I don’t actually decide to train, I still feel better than if I didn’t do it…more evidence to reinforce the new wiring.
Creating easily completed steps as your pre-game habit to any task you’re faced with puts you in the lead from the beginning. It makes it so easy for you to complete things, you don’t need motivation, it’s just how you’re wired and are meant to work. The point being, every time you complete these steps, you’re telling your brain this is what happens before I do X, Y or Z and preparing it to do so.
Make these steps things that you just can’t fail at:
- Get a glass of water and bring it back to your desk before tackling a big strategy document. Can’t fail at that.
- Go for a brisk walk around the office/block to clear your thoughts and generate some oxytocin before heading into a long meeting. Can’t fail at that.
- Put your workout gear on in preparation for your workout. Can’t fail at that.
- Put your phone on charge before you spend time with family, kids, friends etc. Can’t fail at that.
Excellence comes down to habits and routine. The better habits you have, the more routine you create and the better outcomes you drive. Excellence isn’t hard work or impossibilities, it’s simply steps put into action to create a desired outcome.
We would love to hear some of your pre-game habits across all facets of your life – share them with us today. And if you would like to know more about how you can create this new wiring, please contact us.