In this episode, peak performance expert, Steven Kotler, shares the top 15 things that peak performers know about focus that most people don’t. You’ll discover how to focus, how to improve your focus and concentration spans over time, and how to shortcut your way into paying attention. Steven also clearly describes flow state triggers, goal setting techniques, and other habits you can use to maximize peak performance.
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John Assaraf is a successful serial entrepreneur with 5 multi-million dollar companies to his name. He is also a New York Times bestselling author, a behavioral & mindset expert. He’s also been interviewed by Larry King, Ellen and Anderson Cooper. In this interview, he talks about:
How to Achieve Your Goals
As you have probably already realized, setting goals is the easy part. Taking the necessary action and consistently following through is the part that most people struggle with. This brings up a common issue for most people when it comes to change. We think we need to know more, but knowledge is rarely the problem. We've got enough "know how" already.
The real problem is that most people are unable to consistently adhere to the behaviors that can lead to success. Often times, people end up getting the same results they are used to. Even worse, instead of acknowledging that we fell back into old habits, we become victims and tell ourselves, "I didn't try hard enough," or ,"It wasn't my fault," leading us to repeat the vicious cycle over and over again. We are creatures of habit, so I have been here too.
What you need to consider to tip the scale in your favor has to do with the subconscious mind. Everything you do has to pass through the subconscious mind to make sure that you do not experience cognitive dissonance. Consequently, the subconscious mind is an important player when making decisions. However, if your conscious and subconscious minds are not aligned, your subconscious mind will tend to take the cake. For example, you may have the ambition to transform your life to achieve the goals of your dreams, but your innerself will say "No thanks, I'd rather stay comfortable."
The 6 Obstacles to Success
What is it exactly that is holding you back in your subconscious mind? Turns out, there are six main obstacles to success: fear, excess stress, limiting beliefs, negative mindset, lack of emotional control, and disempowering habits. Here is a brief overview of each.
Obstacle 1: Fear
From an evolutionary perspective, the brain is primarily hardwired to keep you safe and alive. A sensitive structure known as the amygdala is constantly active evaluating every perception as a friend or foe.
This system operates below your conscious awareness, and for many this system signals the alarm every time is perceives a threat, real or imaginary, external or internal. Even if you are to consciously consider that the odds of a threat aren't in the favor of danger, say being attacked by a shark, your brain is likely to jump to conclusions towards the most improbable threats.
Whenever the alarm is signaled, and it is frequently, the subconscious mind will do what it takes to bring you back to the zone of comfort. Whether you perceive a real or imaginary snake, a spectrum of stress neurotransmitters flood your brain and body in an effort to keep you safe.
These real or imaginary perceptions can destroy your optimism and desire to take action or make improvements. For example, you may continue to work a dead-end job rather than search for a job of your dreams. Or you may look the other direction when an captivating person enters your space for fear of being rejected rather than being emotionally available. Or if you do begin to make progress toward achieving your goals, it's likely you will sabotage yourself with chronic, impulsive, automatic triggered fears. Researchers, such as Dr. Srini Pillay, have discovered that there are more than twenty-five types of fears that can throw you off from achieving your goals, if not completely stop you. By learning to recognize these obstacles when they arise, you can learn to turn your fears into fuel.
Obstacle 2: Excess Stress
Anytime you feel worried, anxious, scared, or depleted, a stress response in the form of a cascade of neurochemicals is sent out from your brain to your body, leading to host of debilitating effects. Stress can diminish your ability to learn new skills; disable your motivation; provoke restlessness therefore interfering with sleep; and cloud your brain's executive functioning.
Moreover, stress can inhibit your creativity, leaving you less able to see new opportunities, create novel ideas, and to access your innate brilliance. (This is where meditation comes in - stress less to accomplish more.) But like most things, it's not all or nothing, and there exists a balance. A healthy amount of stress is necessary to keep you aroused, excited, and motivated.
Obstacle 3: Limiting Beliefs
Beliefs are the lenses that you view the world and your experiences through, therefore they filter and color everything you think, say, and do. Beliefs are simply reinforced neural patterns that are based on memories, personal experiences, and old paradigms.
What you believe to be to true in your life determines your self-image and sense of self-worth. If your external reality doesn't match your internal map of your sense of self-worth, a disconnect between your subconscious and conscious mind manifests, also known as cognitive dissonance, which often leads to unconscious self-sabotage to bring you back into alignment.
Limiting beliefs can create habitual patterns, often interfering with your ability to see yourself, your community, and the world in novel, creative and empowering ways. Until you change your limiting beliefs, you will keep repeating the destructive patterns that hold you back.
Obstacle 4: Negative Mindset
We have all experienced negative or pessimistic attitudes. This is a safety mechanism of the brain to be aware of danger before jumping into action. From an evolutionary perspective, being skeptical, indecisive, and negative can be a valuable trait because it can help prevent impetuously indulging in risky behaviors. This safety mechanism reminds you to take extra caution when spending money or talking to the special someone you barely know.
Conversely, if you begin to ruminate on all the possible negative potentialities, fear and anxiety can take control, transforming you from the optimist that is the natural state of healthy brain functioning into an entrenched "Negative Nancy" generating excess stress, further disrupting your brain's executive functioning. Once again, balance is key.
Obstacle 5: Lack of Emotional Control
Emotions are neither good or bad, positive or negative, regardless of whether they feel pleasant or unpleasant - they are merely signals that are triggered at the subconscious level. Nearly all organisms, from single-celled paramecium to Homo sapiens move away from pain and toward pleasure. The key is to be aware of our feelings without judgement and to learn how to manage them better.
Obstacle 6: Disempowering Habits
You are the product of your thoughts, feelings and actions. Humans are creatures of habits, and our autopilot patterns define who we are. By definition habits are tendencies that are easy to repeat and challenging to change.
From an evolutionary perspective, the brain creates habits to conserve energy. It is easier to automatically carry our familiar tasks without thinking about them than it is to reinvent the wheel. But habits can be empowering, such as moving your body five times a week, or reading forty-five minutes each day, or saving 10 percent of paycheck for savings.
On the other hand, disempowering habits - many of which were planted in your childhood - are largely destructive and sabotaging. The wrong habits can stop you from creating new solutions to life's problems. Instead, they can create cognitive bias blinding you from truth.
Aligning Your Two Minds
Your subconscious mind is a powerful and permanent part of you. Therefore, if you want to recruit the power of your subconscious mind to help you reach your goals, it's best to learn to live with it and align it with what you truly want by transforming these potential obstacles into opportunities for growth.
Your fears can become fuel for change instead of holding you back.
Your stress can become a powerful tool for building your resilience and creativity instead of burning you out.
Your beliefs can become powerful stories and anchors that inspire you instead of keeping you stuck in a rut.
Your mindset can become a lens for seeing possibility and opportunity all around you instead of making you miserable and cynical.
Your emotions can become significant signals relaying your subconscious status instead of uncontrollable reactions.
Your habits can become rituals that bring you closer to your goals instead of automatic disempowering cycles.
These six obstacles are concealed both above and below our conscious awareness. Until we learn to increase our mindfulness and observe with evaluating, we may achieve some of our goals, but not our highest potential.
Assaraf, J. (2018). Innercise. Cardiff, CA: Waterside Press.
Academically speaking, happiness is really a meaningless term because you can't really measure happiness. However, you can measure life satisfaction. You can ask people on a scale of one to ten, thinking of their life as a whole, how would they place their happiness. If you get enough people you can start to aggregate out subjectivity and approach objectivity. People only remember about two percent of their life, so asking them to think of their life of a whole is not much data. But people can pretty much remember the last 24 hours. So, if you ask them to recall the last 24 hours how much they smiled, laughed, felt stress, etc., you can get a pretty good idea of their daily emotions or their experienced happiness.
And then there's a question about purpose: "Do you use your strength to do what you do best every day?" And then if you ask a number of other questions about demographics, about age, gender, ethnicity, what your values are, what you do with your day, and you use this clever little statistical trick called a regression analysis, you can start to find out what correlates with happiness.
For the purposes of the book, Blue Zones of Happiness, in a National Geographic article Dan Buettner asked these huge databases to tell him where in the world life satisfaction is highest, daily emotions are highest, and purpose is highest. So, you can learn some things from data, but often to really understand it you have to go there.
It turns out the area with the highest life's of satisfaction is Asia. The happiest place, very counter-intuitively, is the island nation of Singapore. 27 miles long, 247 shopping malls, but it has one of the highest GDPs in the world. GDP is important for us at a certain point and one of the highest life expectancies in the world. In the 1960s it was basically a fishing village.
But what you have here are five million people very ethnically diverse, Indians, Malay and Han Chinese that live in near perfect harmony. And the reason they do is because it was very planned. Lee Kuan Yew the Prime Minister there made sure that almost everybody in the entire country owns their own house. And in these high-rise housing communities, every building reflects the ethnic diversity of the entire country. So, you have no ghettos for the Malay, or no ghettos for the Indian, or gated communities for the Chinese. The kids go to school together, it's very safe and secure. Very tough laws there. If you're a man and you commit a violent crime, there's a chance that you'll be beaten, they it call caning. If you're caught with more than a half an ounce of opioids you get the death penalty.
The other side of that coin is they don't have an opioid crisis there so nobody is dying of overdoses or the crimes that come out of it, and your children or a woman can walk any place in Singapore day or night and not have to worry about being accosted.
And actually you know there's sort of an inverse relationship between freedom and security. Actually, security is more highly correlated with life satisfaction than freedom is.
In this mindfulness session with Bernie Clark you will learn how to watch your own mind; to follow the coming and going of thoughts without getting attached to them or caught up in the drama that our thoughts create.
Daily meditation is a life changer. Meditation radically improves our well being, psychologically and physically.
It starts with relaxing. Put on some calming, instrumental music. Find a comfortable position to sit in, somewhere quiet. Close your eyes and take a deep breath.
Gently exhale, count down from 20 and let yourself sink into a relaxed state of mind. To go deeper into this state, start with a gentle relaxation of your physical body. Feel your scalp relax. Feel that feeling of relaxation flow all the way down to your toes. Move your focus down your body, part by part, and relax each section completely as you go.
Phase 1: compassion
Focus on your consciousness. Picture it as a white light surrounding your entire body in a bubble of peaceful, gentle, loving energy. Imagine this light expanding to connect you, and spread compassion, to your room, house, entire neighborhood, city, country, continent, and planet. Feel that sense of oneness.
See yourself for what you are, a piece of consciousness directly connected to every other life form on planet earth.
Phase 2: Gratitude
Bring to mind 5-10 things that you are truly grateful for - big or small. Express gratitude for these things. Vividly recall how they made you feel - use all 5 senses: smell, touch, taste, sound, vision. Feel this gratitude vibrate all throughout your body.
Know that when you express gratitude for beautiful moments in life, you open the way for these moments to repeat themselves and grow in terms of their magnitude.
Phase 3: Forgiveness
Bring to mind anyone who you have had a conflict with - it could be a person or a situation. Imagine that person in front of you. Apologize for any wrong that you brought them. Ask for their forgiveness. Forgive them for any wrong that they brought to you. Feel that feeling of forgiveness all throughout your body.
Know that at a deeper level we are one, and any negative charge toward any other living being is a charge against yourself.
Phase 4: Visualize your future
Visualize all the different aspects of your life as you want them to unfold in the next 3 years. Be as vivid as possible by incorporating all 5 senses: smell, touch, taste, sound, vision.
As you wrap us, mentally tell yourself, "Let this or something better unfold in my life."
Phase 5: The Perfect Day
Visualize yourself from the current moment, living the best version of this particular day. Make it as vivid as possible. Bring in emotions of joy, excitement, and gratitude. Bring yourself to the end of your day, and see yourself going to bed and going into a deep, comfortable, rejuvenating sleep.
Visualize yourself making today amazingly wonderful.
Phase 6: Blessing
Call on any higher power you believe in (this could be your own inner strength). Ask for luck, energy, support. Ask for help crafting your perfect day so that you can make your dreams for the next 3 years unfold. Feel this support and energy all around you, a protective energy embracing you.
Know that luck is on your side and the universe has your back.
Bring yourself slowly out of your meditation by counting upwards from 1 to 5.
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