When the stakes are high -especially when our well-being, health, and physical health are at stake-, is it essential to listen to your intuition. I remember watching an Ironman in South Africa collapse on the side of the road. A few hours later he passed away in the hospital because of a hole in his heart. He overtrained and didn’t give his body the rest it needed. More so, he didn’t listen to the warning signs. A 28 year old strong and healthy looking men.
For high achievers pushing boundaries, dismantling ideas of what is possible, and making the impossible happen is the ultimate goal. Training the body and mind, developing relentless grit and ambition, and focusing with all ones’ energy on one task are common characteristics of people like Simone Bile, Jolanda Neff, Usain Bolt, the Obamas, Angela Merkel, and many other impactful leaders.
As a society, we need people that inspire us, show us that it is possible to grow, do more, become a different person, and break through against all odds. But we don’t want to see them step down or fall apart because it makes them human. And while we want to be inspired and believe that humans can do the impossible, we also want to continue believing that they have something that we don’t. But when they fall apart, set boundaries, and show how similar they are to us, we shame them. We criticize them, and do you know why? Because it indicates that we are all human beings and that there is no difference between us. So, if there is no difference, how come we are not all extraordinary?
What does it mean to be extraordinary?
And by extraordinary, I mean famous inspiring politicians, superhuman athletes, rockstars, actors, or billion-dollar company owners? Now the next thing that sets in is jealousy. That sweet little emotion shows us which dreams haven’t turned into reality. But too often misunderstood as weakness. Submerged by shame, and turned into anger against others. Too many deflect rather than reflect and badmouth others. Simone Biles taking a stand for mental health is not just a way of setting boundaries. It is about taking care of her mental health, and ensuring that she doesn’t jeopardize her well-being. She showed us that no matter what it is possible to make a decision based on more than logical thinking. And that is extraordinary.
Rationally, actions such as these can’t be fully understood. Emotionally they might not make sense either. But when you bring in the level of motivation, intuition, creative thinking, and physical experience of your body, we know that this person isn’t just an incredible athlete. She is a great human being that has mastered understanding all levels of humanity. She doesn’t just know her body in and out but also her mental and emotional capacities.
Can we prevent a crisis by developing self-awareness?
Now imagine 2008 when everyone that was involved in creating a bigger bubble and bursting it would have listened to the six levels of the human decision-making process. Emotionally sensitive people would have realized that the adrenaline wasn’t pumping because of excitement at the stock market. Instead, understand that their actions were fear-driven. As a result, the crisis could have been lessened with people more emotionally intelligent and sensitive to their emotional understanding.
When emotional intelligence becomes the new hard skills.
Especially when it comes to emotions, many of us fall short. Simplified because of the way we grew up. Emotions were banned in most places—especially strong or ‘so-called’ negative emotions. As a result, most of us never got the opportunity to learn how to experience, evaluate and express our emotions. Somewhere along the path of growing up, you picked up that certain emotions are reserved for a certain gender or even certain cultures. Therefore, if you feel one of these emotions, it can’t be right. Either there is something wrong with you, or you must suppress it immediately.
Being connected to your emotions and feelings gives you the ability to understand when you need to set boundaries. Simone Biles showed incredible strength and a deep-seated understanding of how her thoughts and emotions are connected to her performance. Super athletes are as human as we are. Their astonishing ability to connect to their bodies and develop them into extraordinary machines is what spectators see.
What many of us don’t see is the incredible mental work these athletes accomplish—the power of visualization, control over fear and flight, and fusion between mind and body. The result is extraordinary abilities. The difference between a super athlete and a talent is that the super athlete has mastered their mind.
Why do we have to prioritize our mind over success?
Keeping mental health needs to be prioritized because the mind is what keeps everything else going. For example, healthy minds have proven to be the number one thing that allows people to recover from terrible accidents. And even return to high-performance athletes or start walking after a significant spinal injury. The more we learn about our abilities to heal, rise above average, and become high-achievers, the more we know that the main driver for it is our mind and thoughts and positive emotions that move as biochemical reactions through our body.
To create these extraordinary performances, athletes and other high-achievers know that their minds must work sharply to avoid mistakes.
Lack of sleep, emotional stress, disagreements between partners, inadequate or unbalanced diet, disadvantageous thoughts, lack of downtime, and other influences impact the way our mind works. Being connected to your emotions and feelings allows you to understand what healthy boundaries are and when you need to step back vs. when you need to push through.
Am I afraid because I don’t feel like myself, or am I afraid to push the boundary because I fear the unknown? Unfortunately, it is this thin line that many high-achievers have to walk.
Prioritizing self-care can quickly feel like selfishness. That’s why it is so difficult for many to draw the proper boundaries. But everyone needs to understand that our mind and body need a break to process, learn and clean out unnecessary information. As well as detox our body and brain for our mind to function fully.
But what can we do to create a balance between pushing our boundaries, flexing our mental capacities while ensuring that we are not overstretching ourselves?
For many high-achievers, type a people, and anyone that wants to create an impact in life and leave a dent in the universe, this question sounds very luxurious. Because who has the time to take care of their mental health? Too often, mental health is being ridiculed and seen as a weakness. But our cognitive abilities are what keeps us going and what makes the impossible possible.
These are the top 5 practices that have proven effective in gain energy and allowing your mind to rest:
1. Turn off your phone and laptop on weekends. Allow yourself to focus on the moment, go for a walk, cook fresh food, and spend quality time with your family. Taking every weekend off to rest was a common practice till the early 90s and still is in some countries. Unfortunately, Retail started pushing more for open hours out of fear of losing business to the virtual marketplaces and creating a culture of permanent work.
2. Replace your to-do list with a detailed calendar. Place each task into your calendar. This gives you more control over time, stops overwhelm, and gives you the ability to see how much time you have.
3. Stop judging yourself. This is a tough one but one of the most crucial aspects of self-care. Self-care doesn’t just mean taking a bath or going for a walk. It also means developing a healthy understanding and ability to acknowledge your achievements instead of focusing on what else needs to be done. It is the difference between an abundance mindset and a lack mindset.
4. Become an essentialist. An excellent, inspiring read on that topic is the book Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less. Essentialism allows you to focus on what will bring the most significant impact and ensure that you focus your energy on that. This includes setting boundaries. Without boundaries, you won’t be able to be the high-achiever you want to be.
5. Say no more often and plan self-care time into your calendar. This allows you to say: I am sorry, I already have plans that weekend. Or sorry, I won’t join you on a Tuesday because I am enrolled in a mediation/yoga class. Plan your week according to your energy levels and stick to it. For many, that means learning to say no and letting go of the fear of missing out or being judged by others.
The latter one usually diminishes when you stop judging yourself 😉
Remember your mental abilities are what makes you extraordinary. The more you take care of it, the more you can see beyond the horizon.