If you spend much of your day being frantic in your pursuit of success, you should know that research shows that the vast, vast majority of high performers are actually very calm. Being hectic (if not downright panicked) isn’t a hallmark of success; it’s a sign you’re making it difficult to reach your own peak level of performance.
That’s the message of a recent LinkedIn post from TalentSmart president Travis Bradberry. “TalentSmart has conducted research with more than a million people, and we’ve found that 90% of top performers are skilled at managing their emotions in times of stress in order to remain calm and in control,” he writes.
In the post, he lays out his company’s findings about the emotional state of super-achievers and offers a roundup of recent research on stress. He also suggests some tips on how the rest of us can emulate their calm. Here are a few to get you started.
If you’re never satisfied, you’re never calm. A fact high performers have figured out, according to Bradberry. Top-tier talent may be strivers, but they also understand the importance of gratitude for what they already have, he contends.
“Taking time to contemplate what you’re grateful for isn’t merely the ‘right’ thing to do. It also improves your mood, because it reduces the stress hormone cortisol by 23%. Research conducted at the University of California, Davis, found that people who worked daily to cultivate an attitude of gratitude experienced improved mood, energy, and physical well-being,” Bradberry reports. Another recent study found gratitude can also improve decision-making by making us less impatient.
“Given the importance of keeping stress intermittent, it’s easy to see how taking regular time off the grid can help keep your stress under control. When you make yourself available to your work 24/7, you expose yourself to a constant barrage of stressors. Forcing yourself offline and even—gulp!—turning off your phone gives your body a break from a constant source of stress,” Bradberry says.
High performers know that if you’re always on, you’re never at your best and unplug accordingly. Best-selling author Tim Ferriss, for example, recommends leaving your smartphone at home (or otherwise out of reach) at least one day a week.
You probably know this one already, so come on, why aren’t you acting on it? “I’ve beaten this one to death over the years and can’t say enough about the importance of sleep to increasing your emotional intelligence and managing your stress levels,” insists Bradberry. Need more convincing? I could link to limitless studies about the horrors of sleep deprivation as well as posts from people you admire urging you to go to bed already!
How you talk to yourself (in your head) matters. High flyers know this and nip negative self-talk in the bud. Bradberry suggests a way to follow their example and do just that: “The more you ruminate on negative thoughts, the more power you give them. Most of our negative thoughts are just that—thoughts, not facts. When you find yourself believing the negative and pessimistic things, your inner voice says, ‘It’s time to stop and write them down.’ Literally stop what you’re doing and write down what you’re thinking. Once you’ve taken a moment to slow down the negative momentum of your thoughts, you will be more rational and clear-headed in evaluating their veracity.”
“The easiest way to make stress intermittent lies in something that you have to do every day anyway: breathe. The practice of being in the moment with your breathing will begin to train your brain to focus solely on the task at hand and get the stress monkey off your back. When you’re feeling stressed, take a couple of minutes to focus on your breathing,” writes Bradberry.
Do this in a routine and organized way and it’s called meditation (a technique endorsed by tons of impressive entrepreneurs), but don’t think you need any fancy equipment or lengthy meditation training to get started calming yourself by paying attention to your breath.
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