Is your body betraying your brain? Certified Movement Reeducation and Performance Specialist, Philip Penrose, looks at the impact of practicing outside of the box to improve in-the-box performance.
At every point of your life experience, you find that everything you have ever done has determined everything that you are, and that what you are is your framework for who you are to become.
It doesn’t matter where you are in your career right now. At least not to your body. For most of us, our body is an un-appreciated, over-looked, and under-compensated employee who is stuck with all the heavy lifting. Your body doesn’t care if you’re promoted, laid-off, or in transition.
Your body’s ability to support your desired lifestyle is largely a result of all the choices you have made until now. Choices are usually either based on striving for survival or leveraging opportunities. The probability of your making any particular choice is derived from the wealth of every experience you’ve ever had, and projected on to your current awareness of your environment.
You are a result of what you PRACTICE. The way you practice will ultimately aid or disrupt your PERFORMANCE. Performance can be anything done for a desired outcome, it could be writing a proposal, delivering a presentation, or using video editing software on an industry-specific keyboard and mouse. It could also be sex, swimming, or hiking with your kids or best buds.
Newsflash – Your Brain is Part of Your Body
Until we invent a self-maintaining robot that can house our physical brain (and at that point the sex, swimming, and hiking with the kids or best buds will never be the same) you must use your body to experience your environment and to act out your decisions.
Your body is critical to your career, the same way your body is your vehicle for physical performance. If you’re a modern man (or woman) whose career success does not depend on physical ability to perform tasks, you probably treat your physical heath as something separate from, or secondary to, your career investment.
If your career success does depend on physical ability, but you are not conditioning your body or rejuvenating your body, not only will your ability to perform your physical tasks suffer, but so will your ability to perform mental tasks.
Words-per-minute, stage-presence, surgical sensitivity and dexterity, endurance, resistance to disease, critical thinking, creative problem solving, and mental acuity all impact performance metrics such as productivity, effectiveness, and excellence in any career role. And they are all dependent on your willingness to listen to your body’s cry for help.
Practice Outside of the Box to Optimize In the Box Performance
Imagine if your work involved sitting at a desk typing code, and you managed to type faster, with more precision every year. Impressively, you can maintain this trajectory regardless of language, operating system or keyboard. And over time, although your back, neck and shoulders grow tight from neglect, and your eyesight deteriorates due to strain, you are still able to compensate.
It’s unlikely that this will be your experience, but even if it is, how elegant do you think your code will be? Speed isn’t the only metric that determines your success.
In fact, there is no one metric that determines your success. In any career role, performance success is based on a range of abilities including quantity and quality of output, attitude and team play, initiative and innovation, dependability and timeliness.
And all of those measurements suffer if you aren’t listening to your body.
A true linear relationship in any biological system must over-simplify or it will reflect ignorance. Your body loves challenges, it thrives on them. In fact, it requires the stimulation of new challenges to improve function.
If your practice is only focused on the areas of performance you want to maintain or increase, you will likely over-practice and your performance will drop until you become unconsciously incompetent. Because over-practicing does not always improve performance, we need recovery, variety, and security.
Reversing the Trend of Diminishing Returns
Research is showing that healthier employees are more productive at work and more satisfied with their employers. If they are fitter they are able to enjoy a wider range of activities without physical discomfort. Employees who are regularly active typically have less stress and are stress resistant, learn faster and are better problem-solvers.
Your body-brain fitness also impacts your ability to sleep, and to truly rest during sleep, which in turn impacts energy levels. Which impacts your ability to deal with stress, and work more physical activity into your day. Which spirals back to decreased body-brain fitness, and probably makes you wonder what you’re really working for. Because isn’t the quality of your life the most significant return on your career investment?
You probably think I’m going embark on the typical lecture about getting to the gym, or taking the stairs, or parking in the neighboring office building’s parking lot.
Sure, do that. Won’t hurt a thing, and might help a lot.
But you choose stairs over the elevator how many times a day? And you walk to and from your office two, maybe four times, if you leave for lunch. And you might get to the gym two or three times a week.
How many times a day do you wash your hands? How many times a day do you sit back in your chair and stare at the ceiling trying to solve a problem, or check your phone for messages, or take a peek at your newsfeed?
What if you used any or all of those repetitive behaviors to practice something outside of the box that would reenergize, distress, and reengage both your brain and your body?
Don’t you think your performance inside of the box, as well as your quality of life, might improve?
Here’s an easy one – shoulder circles. You can do these in the privacy of a restroom stall if you need to. Stand tall, but relaxed, hands at loose at your side. Inhale as you roll your shoulders forward and up, exhale as your roll them back and down. Go slow, if your body complains, go slower and make your movements smaller until it becomes comfortable. Make the circles slow, smooth, and controlled. Do three or four in one direction, then reverse, always inhaling on the upward motion and exhaling on the downward motion.
Or, while you’re staring at that ceiling, wake up your body and mind with a simple focus exercise. Choose a point about 10 feet away, focus on it for 10 seconds. Then choose a spot at the edge of your range of vision, focus on it for 10 seconds. Keeping your body tall and relaxed, repeat three or four times, or until the solution to your problem shows up.
As a Z-Health Certified Movement Reeducation and Performance Specialist, these are two of the simplest and most universally beneficial “drills” I offer my clients. Like most of the Z-Health drills, they’re deceptively easy, but designed to reconnect and reprogram the neurological pathways. For more simple, elegant “practice outside of the box” solutions I recommend subscribing to the Z-health newsletter.
Stopping the spiral of diminishing returns is really about starting with the little, but frequent, and cumulative changes. Because it’s those changes that prepare both body and the part of the body we call the brain to unite, get their act together, and let you start nailing all those performance metrics.
Bottom line, the more small things we change for the better today, the more we prepare ourselves for a happy, healthy, and productive future.