Last week, while traveling across 9 time zones to present in 2 different countries within 2 days, one of my colleagues sent me an interesting Wall Street Journal article about how some members of the US Ski Jump team were approaching this year's Winter Olympics. The article claimed that jet lag could possibly be used to the advantage of these ski jumpers as a stress and monkey mind management tool. The thinking was that brain fog that comes along with jet lag would help them switch off their sometimes overactive minds to rely more on muscle memory.
Although I love the curiosity of finding individual and contrary to popular belief approaches to optimize performance, I wondered if this approach was inadvertently setting them up to fail since research has shown that jet lag causes a reduction in power, fine motor control, balance, and overall cognitive function.
At Tignum, we work with high-level business professionals that are under constant pressure to perform where expectations are high, non-negotiable, and relentless. They cannot afford to wing it, especially when they are traveling across time zones.
For the US Ski Jump competitors, there was a clear purpose to their approach: to reduce the impact of nerves and to quiet the low performance self-talk of the brain. However, their method for reaching this outcome was a little questionable. The better approach would be to learn how to control their breathing, detach from their overwhelming emotions (mainly fear), learn to embrace their suck (that feeling in their gut that makes them want to throw up), and master reframing their inner dialogue.
Sustainable High Performers take control of their performance and preparation. They develop and master strategies to defeat external performance killers like jet lag and others' expectations. They become highly skilled at recognizing and defeating internal performance killers like fear, doubt, anxiety, and lack of confidence.
By learning, developing, and refining these skills through repetition, they give themselves permission to feel all their emotions, acknowledge any fears, and refocus their energy to the task at hand. This allows them to regain the most critical of preparation variables - control.
This Winter Olympics will no doubt have many great examples of those who have mastered their Sustainable High Performance and those who have not. I, for one, can’t wait to watch them. As always, I’d love to hear your thoughts.
By Chris Males
Director of Performance Coaching