How to Thrive in High Stakes Environments Using This Simple Rule

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

Here’s how to stay calm, composed and yet give your best

By putting hustle and hard work on a pedestal, we’ve reached a point of insane pressure. The only way to get more done, we think, is to work more. If you have a long list of tasks to finish, what do you do? You put in more hours, miss family time, work on holidays and stay up late.

While that’s fine once in a while, a life of constant overwork and stress leads not to success but burnout.

The past few decades have seen a tremendous rise in self-made millionaires and in general people who’ve made it on their own. This could be a Web 2.0 founder or simply a kid who successfully launched an iPhone app.

We’re told that we too can do the same thing if we’re willing to work hard enough. And this is where the problem is.

We try to compensate for problems in our life by the mindless use of willpower. In reality, however, it’s as though you’re accelerating a car whose handbrake is applied — all that energy is wasted.

In simpler words, you’re pushing yourself for nothing. You see, you can’t solve every problem with the use of will and extra work. This notion, that problems can be solved only if we’re willing to work hard, is preposterous.

The Need For Calmness

Given the kind of work culture we live in (which is all the more amplified by work from home), the need for calmness and relaxation has never been more apparent.

I see people around me who’re often lost in thoughts when having a conversation — just because they’re worried about the myriad tasks they have to finish. That’s natural, yet harmful.

In his interview with Tim Ferris, Hugh Jackman talked about his approach towards physical preparation for movies like Wolverine:

“I can’t get injured, so I can’t prepare as a body-builder. I have to prepare as a really ripped athlete/dancer, because fighting is dance. There is more relaxation in a fight scene than there is strength. If you think about all the great athletes you see, there is relaxation. That’s why you see every sprinter poking their tongue out and dancing around with joy before they run 100 meters, that sense of having the right level of relaxation”.

In my recent article, I called this simply, “Relaxed Concentration.” Others apparently, have referred this to as the “85% Rule.”

The concept, however, is the same. To state them succinctly:

  1. Pushing your limits at full throttle every time leads to unnecessary tension, stress, and burnout.
  2. This tension is counterproductive — In an attempt to use too much willpower and discipline, we mess things up. When your mind is relaxed, you can produce much better results.

Hugh also explained this further in the context of athletes:

“If you tell most of A-type athletes to run at their 85% capacity, they will run faster than if you tell them to run at 100%, because it’s more about relaxation, and form, and optimizing the muscles in the right way”.

If you read between the lines, the 85% rule is all about mastering the mind to achieve a balance between relaxation and concentration/willpower.

On comparing my state of mind between yesterday and the day before, I saw the 85% rule in action. Both days, my schedule was equally hectic. Yet, yesterday I was much more joyful. Why? Because I was relaxed.

Even though I completed the same amount of work, I did not rush, worry or stress about the different things on my plate. This presents an apparent and important lesson —x things will take care of themselves even if you don’t stress yourself out!

Tasks will be done and projects will be executed even if you don’t stress about them. Ultimately, keeping this principle in mind, you’ll reach a state where you can be engaged in piles of work, yet be completely relaxed inside.

It’s For Everyone

While the examples I gave came from sportsmen and athletes, it applies to everyone and everything.

Whether you’re writing an email, building a home, painting a picture, or making a culinary dish — tension and stress are not your friends.

Just like we keep pushing ourselves, we should make an extra effort to relax. You should feel like you’re going towards your goals at a steady pace that you can maintain. Going all out and burning out will waste more time in the end.

So give yourself a little room to breathe and wake up the other day to fight the battles of life.

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Written on August 9, 2021