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“Getting An Upgrade” With Dr Dilraj Kalsi

Visualization is easiest to integrate when anchoring it on other habits. If you meditate, spend some time visualizing. When you are planning out your SMART goals for the day or week, visualize the process too. You can even fit it into your morning walk or while you are in the shower. You can be creative […]

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Visualization is easiest to integrate when anchoring it on other habits. If you meditate, spend some time visualizing. When you are planning out your SMART goals for the day or week, visualize the process too. You can even fit it into your morning walk or while you are in the shower. You can be creative about when but because this is a habit in the mind, you can do it at any time and even multi-task whilst doing mundane things to integrate it.

As a part of our series about “How Anyone Can Build Habits For Optimal Wellness, Performance, & Focus”, I had the pleasure of interviewingDr Dilraj Kalsi.

Dilraj is a Doctor, Academic and Entrepreneur. He trained at the University of Oxford, the top medical school in the world, where he continues to publish with colleagues about Patient Empowerment. He is a Lecturer in Digital Health at the University of Warwick and uses Lifestyle Medicine to help patients reverse disease in his online clinic Hippocrates Lounge (www.hippocrateslounge.com).

Shocked that 80% of health outcomes are due to health behaviors, socioeconomic background and physical environment, Dilraj is focused on Health at Work. Time and again, he has found that wellbeing programs lack the outcome metrics expected in the medical and business worlds. Using lifestyle, behavioral and digital health, he is ushering in a new era of Preventative Health Care.https://cdn.embedly.com/widgets/media.html?src=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.youtube.com%2Fembed%2FnWLMmB6ahHY%3Ffeature%3Doembed&display_name=YouTube&url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.youtube.com%2Fwatch%3Fv%3DnWLMmB6ahHY&image=https%3A%2F%2Fi.ytimg.com%2Fvi%2FnWLMmB6ahHY%2Fhqdefault.jpg&key=a19fcc184b9711e1b4764040d3dc5c07&type=text%2Fhtml&schema=youtube

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive into the main focus of our interview, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory?

Iwas born and grew up in a town called Reading in the UK, which is about 30 minutes West of London. My family is Punjabi (North Indian) though my parents were part of the diaspora that moved to Kenya and then emigrated to the UK around the time of Idi Amin in Uganda. Learning from them and my grandparents who had to start afresh twice in new countries has always kept me grounded and inspired a strong work ethic.

I’m proud to have grown up in a very generous community and culture, where huge shared meals are a cornerstone. With selfless service being a core value, it felt very natural to pursue a career as a Doctor.

What or who inspired you to pursue your career? We’d love to hear the story.

Initially, my reasons to go into Medicine were a desire to serve and a passion for Science; but my journey was really shaped in 2015, when my mother was diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA). I was doing my Rheumatology rotation at Oxford at the time, so when she came to me one morning with purple, swollen, stiff joints, particularly painful in the mornings, my heart sank as I knew what we were dealing with.

As we all learn at Medschool, I was taught that RA is a condition where the immune system is attacking your joints. It is chronic and deteriorative. You need steroids when it flares and immunosuppressants to minimise the risk of flares. All the patients I’d seen in clinics had such joint deformity in their hands that they could not button their own shirts. I feared the worst.

Mum did not want that for her future. She did not want the joint deformities. She did not want the long term medications and their side effects. So she took ownership. We looked at it as a family and where I was emotional and found it difficult to see beyond what I knew, my brother came forward with some interesting ideas in terms of lifestyle and nutrition. Mum overhauled her lifestyle and started on an elimination diet. I remained skeptical. Coincidentally I was working in the same hospital as her Rheumatologist at the time who declared in a seminar while looking at me that “diet plays no role in RA”.

A few weeks later though, I was proven very wrong. To my amazement, Mum’s fingers looked pretty much normal and she was pain-free. A year later all her bloods — CRP, ESR, Rheumatoid Factor, anti-CCP — were all normal. It’s now almost 6 years later and she has had no flares and has been able to eat with no restrictions for the last 4 years. At her most recent follow-up with a different Rheumatologist, they acknowledged her lifestyle changes may have “reset” her gut microbiome, which we now know has a role in Rheumatological conditions.

Since then, it has been my mission to understand extraordinary health outcomes like Mum’s so I can share them with the world.

None of us can achieve success without some help along the way. Was there a particular person who you feel gave you the most help or encouragement to be who you are today? Can you share a story about that?

My brother Sukh and I have always had a great relationship. You can’t pick your family but we are genuinely best friends. Despite him being 5 years older than me, we’ve always spoken to each other on the same level, debated everything as equals and challenged each other’s ideas with the same respect. Inevitably there’s the odd argument but we always resolve things very quickly.

At a time when I was underachieving at high school, choosing to misbehave to try and be friends with the cool kids rather than learning, Sukh got into Oxford University to study Politics, Philosophy and Economics. He showed me what was possible for my future and with his support and coaching I was able to go from bottom set Science class with a teacher telling my mum I’m “not a natural Biologist” to training to be a Doctor at Oxford University, consistently voted the best Medschool in the world.

At Medical School I found that despite being at an institution famed for pushing forward scientific boundaries, I had to rote learn a lot of information. It’s not an uncommon thing to experience at Medschool because we have to all reach a minimum level of competence to practice safely; however, it left me feeling there was a lack of creativity and ability to solve broader problems and think in different ways. What kept me going is conversations with Sukh, bringing different perspectives and challenging me to view problems from a different lens.

His encouragement gave me the confidence to pursue my interests that were off the beaten track. Where Innovation and Digital Health were seldom talked about in UK Healthcare I grew the confidence to take a Biodesign course at Oxford, devise a 2 month project exploring US Health Innovation and do a Healthcare internship with McKinsey. Where Lifestyle Medicine was potentially seen as ‘alternative’ by some, I developed the conviction to train in it and focus on supporting people to achieve extraordinary health outcomes like my Mum’s. With all of that support I now run my own e-clinic helping people use lifestyle change to get healthy, prevent illness and reverse disease.

Interestingly, in challenging each other, Sukh and I have developed complementary skill sets. He is a Coder and Product Manager and I have experience of Health Tech implementation and adoption. He is a Strategy Consultant with Data Analytics expertise where I have Clinical Research skills. He focuses more on Mental Health where I look more at overall Lifestyle Medicine. This is why we have come together to take employee Wellbeing programs to Preventative Health through our platform.

Can you share the funniest or most interesting mistake that occurred to you in the course of your career? What lesson or take away did you learn from that?

I have always had a fear of my ideas being too different and of being seen as a quack rather than a maverick. The irony is that every time I’ve shared my thoughts and ambitions with my mentors, I’ve only ever been met with positivity and encouragement. Hopefully I’ve learned my lesson by now, but this happened in a number of instances with my mentor from Oxford, Professor Ashok Handa.

Historically, softer skills such as communication were not taken as seriously in Medicine; but this is the aspect of being a Doctor that I derive the most fulfilment from. Unlike many surgeons, Prof Handa prioritizes communication and shared decision making with patients based on their values. So when I eventually shared my interest in communication skills he supported me and we have gone on to publish 5 academic papers on the subject.

There has long been a culture of judging entrepreneurial ambition as a conflict of interest from stakeholders in the UK NHS as it is a public healthcare system. However, when I came to Prof Handa with an idea for a Medical Education app he arranged for me to speak with Oxford University’s Tech Transfer team to explore a spin-out.

Lifestyle Change and Nutrition as well as Complementary Therapies are not taken seriously at Medschool. So when my mum overcame her RA through these approaches and I wanted to understand more, I was concerned that I could be cast as an outsider in my field. But when I told Prof Handa he was so pleased for my mum and went on to co-host a community event with us focused on Patient Empowerment and extraordinary health outcomes.

Now, as Sukh and I have created a healthy habits platform to tackle COVID Quarantine Fatigue, Prof Handa is actively supporting our product development and pursuing collaborative research opportunities for us.

What is the key lesson from all of this? Trust yourself and trust your mentors. They want the best for you, they will do all they can to support your ambitions and you need their support because ideas are just the beginning of the journey.

The road to success is hard and requires tremendous dedication. This question is obviously a big one, but what advice would you give to a young person who aspires to follow in your footsteps and emulate your success?

Learn how to learn, take every opportunity to learn about your interests and where those opportunities do not exist, create them.

Learning how to learn is not something we consciously think about but it’s so important. The earlier you can take ownership of your education the better. This means understanding what you need and want to learn based on your goals and interests and being able to devise a strategy to learn all of that information. This does not mean enroll in a class and just follow the steps without exploring your own thoughts or perspectives.

Taking every opportunity to learn about your interests is the best way to guide your education towards something you are truly passionate about. What is offered to you in a typical education setting is not always aligned with what piques your intellectual curiosity the most. Wherever you do get that feeling, talk to people, send emails to thought leaders, go to conferences, get involved in projects and allow that exploration to guide you to discovering your passion.

Sometimes these opportunities are not so readily available. Be prepared to take initiative and research different fields in order to identify the right people to speak to and the right projects you can get involved in. This is especially important when you are unsure about your current path because the only way you will be able to change things is to proactively seek new knowledge that fulfills you.

Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?

I’m currently reading a book that I think is so important that it is worth mentioning even though I haven’t finished it yet. Cured by Jeffrey Rediger is the most thorough look into extraordinary health outcomes that I have come across. Against a backdrop of medical research and practice that focuses on minimising harm, symptoms and side effects, there is little to no focus on why some people achieve extraordinary outcomes and what others can learn from them. Dr Rediger is a Harvard Professor who has gone deep into the literature on spontaneous remission as well as understanding the real stories of real patients and even exploring open-mindedly some of the alternative practices patients credit with their success.

It resonates deeply with my philosophy of empowering people to have the most extraordinary health outcomes that are possible for them. This starts with understanding what is possible and this book is the most thorough overview of that I have come across.

Can you share your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Why does that resonate with you so much?

Hippocrates said that “It is more important to know what sort of person has a disease than to know what sort of disease a person has”. This quote encapsulates for me how health is about us as individuals and our values. Personalized health is not all about Genomics and Big Data, it’s about empowering each individual with the knowledge and tools they specifically need to achieve their most extraordinary health outcomes. Sometimes the best solution for someone is very low-tech!

What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now? How do you think that might help people?

Currently I am focused on solving the COVID Quarantine Fatigue problem. For those of you who don’t know, the symptoms are quite varied ranging from stress, anxiety and racing thoughts to lack of motivation and productivity to difficulty sleeping and even changes in appetite. It seems that these are early health effects of loneliness and social isolation, which we know leads to depression but also increased mortality from cardiovascular disease.

Given our living conditions, this is something we are all at risk of right now and so the prospect of being able to help so many people and have a meaningful positive impact on their health is hugely meaningful. It is also an interesting problem to solve and enables us to bring together Lifestyle Medicine, Behaviour Change and Digital Health around a core philosophy of Patient Empowerment. Our platform, called Chipper, brings together e-learning and habit tracking such that individuals can integrate healthy habits that align with their values and lifestyle, as well as track their health outcomes. For employers, we enable analysis of anonymous aggregated health outcomes data and the impact on key business metrics. Our core philosophy is that people need to be empowered with the right tools at the right time to take ownership of their health and we see this as the solution to their Quarantine Fatigue. Furthermore, our population analytics offer the opportunity to create a true virtuous cycle between employee health and business outcomes to the benefit of all key stakeholders.

While CQF is our current focus, we have built the Chipper platform such that we can integrate further lifestyle programs very quickly. We know that the pandemic has reduced access to Healthcare by 40%, meaning there are going to be millions of people with worsening, or new diagnoses of, long term conditions in 12–24 months time. We need to empower people to get ahead of this through behaviour change programs targeting specific conditions. What’s more is that these programs may also have the potential to reverse chronic disease.

OK, thank you for all of that. Let’s now shift to the core focus of our interview. This will be intuitive to you but it will be helpful to spell this out directly. Can you help explain a few reasons why it is so important to create good habits? Can you share a story or give some examples?

Habits are the foundation of long-term progress and success in any domain of life. This applies to health and personal life as well as professional life. Without positive habits there is volatility that detracts from progress. With positive habits you consistently chip away towards your greatest goals. This is especially relevant for health because 80% of health outcomes are determined by health behaviours, socioeconomics and physical environment, all of which can be optimised through habit change.

A great analogy for the importance of habits is to think of an airplane. Our willpower is the engine. You can rev it up to go faster but that burns up your fuel. It has finite capacity. Habits can be either the headwind that hinders you or the tailwind that helps you to reach your destination or goals. But unlike real winds, we can change habits over time. Progress is made with consistency, through economic use of our fuel, rather than putting your pedal to the metal and burning out.

The example we are all familiar with is how we sign up for the gym in January with the best of intentions and plenty of energy but 90% of people quit after 3 months. Instead, those who build consistency at a more steady pace will reap greater rewards in the medium to long term rather than those who focus on short term sprints that leave you with no capacity left to maintain performance. Rather than forcing change by using our willpower every time we take action, we need to use that energy to create positive habits.

How have habits played a role in your success? Can you share some success habits that have helped you in your journey?

As I mentioned, I believe habits are the root of success in all domains of life and I think this is reflected in my journey. Back in high school I built up a habit of doing my homework in my lunch breaks. This opened up capacity that I could read ahead when I got home. I used this time to read health news and articles which enabled me to succeed in my Oxford Medical School interview.

At university, I kept a daily checklist of what I needed to achieve in my work life, extracurriculars and in my personal life. That daily habit meant that I was able to succeed on my course leading to a scholarship, be President of 3 different societies and take on several research projects that led to me now having authorship on 10 academic publications.

To cope with life on the frontlines of the UK NHS, I needed to prioritize healthy habits that I could integrate in amongst a crazy shift pattern. The first thing I would do when I woke up was a 15 minute calisthenics workout. This was the easiest way to integrate regular physical exercise. On my commute to work, I would meditate whilst sitting on the train and this would have a noticeable impact on how I was able to cope with the stress at work on any given day. At work, I made sure to take regular mini-breaks to stay refreshed. I always made a point to speak to colleagues using their name, ask them how they are and hold doors open with a smile in the hallway. These little things build camaraderie and make it that bit easier to cope in an overstretched system. Finally, I always carried my water bottle with me. It’s far too easy to get dehydrated on shift as a healthcare professional. In fact, a study following 88 doctors and nurses found that over a third of them were dehydrated at the start of their shift and almost half were by the end, with dehydration correlating with impaired short term memory! Keeping my 500ml bottle with me, I always made sure to have 6 of them over the shift, meaning I always had at least 3 litres.

Now ,as an Entrepreneur, I do not have external drivers to orient my habits around. I have to proactively manage all my habits and behaviours myself. This offers incredible flexibility but puts me at risk of decision fatigue. There are a few cornerstone habits that enable me to extract the most value from my time while balancing all of my priorities. Each Sunday, I will reflect on the previous week and calendar block the week ahead, prioritising my health and personal time first. Each task is an action oriented statement of intent towards an outcome, e.g. I am cycling 30km to optimise my cardiovascular fitness. Each night I journal about the day and update the plan for the next day. Monthly and quarterly I do broader reflections on how that has all helped me progress towards my ambitions across different domains of my life, e.g. health, relationships, professional, financial. This structure enables me to stay focused on my goals and build all my daily habits and actions towards them without letting any one aspect fall too far behind. I would definitely say that most of my successes have been built on a foundation of habits!

Speaking in general, what is the best way to develop good habits? Conversely, how can one stop bad habits?

Building positive habits and eliminating negative ones has to be approached with an overarching strategy. As with everything, you are much more likely to succeed if you know why you are doing it. Before diving into habit change, you need to think about why you want to do it. Want is a key word here. Telling yourself you should do something is often offputting, especially if you hate being told what to do. Thinking about the positive outcomes if you make the habit change and the negative outcomes if you do not are useful triggers to establish your why.

You also do not want to take on too many changes at once else your willpower will burnout. Build up one habit at a time. In reality, establishing a habit can take between 18 and 254 days with an average of 66 days; so think about making a new habit change every 1–2 months.

If you do not already have anchor points in your day upon which to build further habits, you should prioritise creating morning and evening routines. These are important inflection points in the day to plan it out and reflect on it. Once you have these ingrained then you can add to your morning and evening routines. With those anchor points, it is much easier to ‘stack’ habit changes, especially when you create a daily checklist of habits you keep yourself accountable to at these check-in times.

Habit change is most definitely NOT a case of ‘go hard or go home’ but rather a case of ‘go easy and go often’. You want to layer up the intensity over time and focus on increasing the frequency. You would not just go to the gym having never been before and pick up the biggest weights. You would start where you are able to and gradually build up the frequency you go to the gym. Over time you up your rep count and then you can up the weight. The same principles apply to any habit. The repetition of the habit ingrains it in your behaviour and over time you can build up the intensity as you build greater capacity.

Now you have a clear idea of overall strategy, we can consider how to make each individual habit change stick. James Clear’s Four Laws of Behavioural Change provide a great framework to think of how to both create a good habit and break a bad habit:

How to Create a Good Habit

How to Break a Bad Habit

The 1st Law (Cue)

Make it obvious

Make it invisible

The 2nd Law (Craving)

Make it attractive

Make it unattractive

The 3rd Law (Response)

Make it easy

Make it difficult

The 4th Law (Reward)

Make it satisfying

Make it unsatisfying

Let’s look at a couple of examples. To get into running you can put your running gear somewhere obvious you will see it when you wake up. You can make it more attractive by thinking of how you’ll feel when you can fit into that outfit you’ve been dying to get back into. You can make it easier by getting your partner to go with you and keep you accountable, as well as planning your routes the night before. Then you can reward yourself with your favourite coffee brew when you get back. You need to think about what matters to you and apply the Four Laws in the context of your lifestyle and values.

On the flip side, when I wanted to break a lifetime habit of biting my nails, I could have made it invisible and difficult by wearing gloves. Luckily I managed to change my mindset and make a clear decision that it was an unhygienic habit I could not continue which made it very unattractive. When I caught myself doing it, I pinched myself to make it unsatisfying. Over time, I’ve been able to stop completely.

Let’s talk about creating good habits in three areas, Wellness, Performance, and Focus. Can you share three good habits that can lead to optimum wellness. Please share a story or example for each.

There are a plethora of healthy habits you can take on, but let’s consider a few you may be less familiar with. Deep breathing, or diaphragmatic breathing as it is known in the scientific literature, is associated with improved mood, increased attention span and reduced levels of the stress hormone cortisol. Moreover, meditation may actually slow the aging of your cells. Telomeres are at the end of your DNA and act like the tips of shoelaces: they shorten as cells age and divide. There is now evidence suggesting that meditation can help to maintain the telomeres for longer, with potential benefits in terms of aging. So deep breathing and meditation have multifaceted and significant benefits.

There are many diets out there but two simple principles can yield wide-ranging benefits: first, strip out inflammatory foods, particularly processed ingredients; second, focus on preparing your meals from fresh, raw ingredients that you recognise when you pick them up. Inflammatory food intake is actually linked to depression meaning diet is an important tool to consider in optimising mental health. Anti-inflammatory diets are also linked with better sleep quality so dieting is not just about your weight, it is about your overall Wellbeing.

With social distancing we’re all getting bored at home and running out of Netflix shows to watch. But did you know that having hobbies is linked with better Wellbeing? A study following almost 1400 people found an association between engaging in leisure activities and better mental health, BMI, cortisol, blood pressure and perceived physical function. So having hobbies makes us healthier. Time to get a little more creative. Pick up something old or new. I’ve picked up cycling recently and found it so refreshing to explore new green areas I’ve never seen before in my local area.

Can you help explain some practices that can be used to develop those habits?

When it comes to deep breathing or meditation, the easiest way to integrate them is to find an anchor point in your day to associate it with. Maybe you want to deep breathe before you get out of bed. Perhaps meditation helps you relax and fall asleep. It could be that you need a midday pick-me-up before your afternoon work sprint. Or, as there are so few boundaries between work and personal life right now, maybe you want to use it to wind down the work day to a close.

In order to stick to a diet or food plan, the easiest way to keep accountable is using a photo diary. Make a WhatsApp group with someone who will keep you accountable. Tell them your intention and every time you eat or drink anything (including water!), make sure you snap a photo first. This forces you to make conscious decisions about what you eat and drink and whether consuming it really aligns with your health goals.

Getting into hobbies can feel really cumbersome when we are so used to focusing on work and practical elements of our personal life. It does not allow much room for creative freedom. You need to factor in enough time to think creatively about what you want to do as well as doing it. Earmark half a day on your day off to figure things out. When I got into cycling I needed to fix my old bike, figure out how I will plan my routes and get my backpack and wireless headphones set up so I can safely listen to the GPS on the go. Allocate that same time block weekly and over time you will be able to get fully into your hobbies again. You will also get better at connecting with which hobbies you want to be taking up and can allow that to change accordingly.

Can you share three good habits that can lead to optimal performance at work or sport? Please share a story or example for each.

There are such blurred lines between work and home life right now that it is easy to develop a lot of animosity towards work and potentially colleagues. WebMD found in a recent survey that more than 1 in 4 people have considered quitting since the pandemic began. Each of us needs an emotional outlet and may not want to burden our families with it and so journaling is an incredibly useful tool. A study at the University of Texas following almost 50 students found that journaling about trauma and stress led to less requirement of health care than journaling about trivial matters. A great approach is the RULER method from the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence whereby you recognise, understand, label, express and regulate your emotions. Essentially when you journal, write down the emotion and take it from there: “I am stressed because…”. Having your emotional outlet via your daily journal enables you to be more resilient to stressors as they arise and over time you become more effective in managing your emotional state.

Many of us may feel we are under-performing relative to the usual standards we set ourselves; but this may be unrealistic in the context of the pandemic and Quarantine Fatigue. Studies have found a positive correlation between self-compassion and resilience and while productivity may be on our minds, resilience is what we need right now. Rather than indulging the inner critic, make a point to note down all of your successes and achievements every day, no matter how small, and reflect on at least 3 of them per day. Over time, you’ll start to overcome the negative self-chatter and build a positive spiral of realistic expectations and goals that are met or exceeded.

Working from home on the surface sounded like it would make things so much easier and relaxed. But sitting on the couch can leave you slouching leading to low back pain. It requires proactive effort to avoid this so we need to integrate movement throughout the day. Not only is there some evidence that standing desks improve productivity and stress levels but also that doing stretches every 30–60 minutes ensures optimal posture. WFH is here for the long-term so make sure regular movement is a habit you are building.

Can you help explain some practices that can be used to develop those habits?

To get into journaling, you want to set a specific time to do it. I personally find it really useful at the end of the day when I can reflect on everything and unload my emotional baggage. But you may find it more refreshing to unload before you get into your work day or as a means of slowing down when your last meeting is done. Either way choose a time and stick to it. You only need 5 minutes or so but you can get a lot out of this.

Building self-compassion is something that can be done alongside journaling. As part of your journal entry, note a minimum of 3 positive things from your day. Even more powerful is to make this list as long as you possibly can so you are being really fair to yourself. From there, you want to try and recognize your negative inner voice when it occurs, reorient yourself to the moment and what you are doing, then consider positive aspects that nullify that negativity.

The best tool to build regular movement into your day is a simple stopwatch. Set a timer for 30–60 minutes. Do your work sprint. Then when it goes up get up and do your stretches. I have found some great posture routines on Youtube or you can always check out what your healthcare provider recommends. Rather than a normal stopwatch, I personally have a productivity tracker integrated in my web browser with Pomodoro timer, but I appreciate that the simplest solutions are often the best for most of us.

Can you share three good habits that can lead to optimal focus? Please share a story or example for each.

We have probably all heard of SMART goals — specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-based. This same thinking can be applied to any task. In fact, defining our goals clearly and writing them down is shown in research to improve the rate of success by a third. A study by the University of Michigan found that 76% of people who wrote down their goals with weekly progress reports to a friend achieved their goals as opposed to 43% of those who did not write them down. It always helps to be clear on the outcomes we are looking to achieve rather than just the task ahead of us from a motivation perspective too. The first habit is to make sure that your tasks, as well as goals, are all SMART.

Visualization also has the potential to improve our focus and success rate. A study of 85 students found that those visualizing the process of good study habits had better exam results than those focused on the end results due to better planning and reduced anxiety. It makes sense then to combine our goal-setting with visualizing the process of getting there in order to maximize focus and output.

This third habit tip might make me unpopular, but we really need to make sure we control our caffeine intake. Excessive caffeine intake not only disrupts sleep but also leads to daytime sleepiness. It is interesting because where there is sleep deprivation, caffeine can help, but in otherwise normal sleeping conditions it just gets us back to baseline rather than improving energy levels. We may be below baseline for a number of reasons including varying sleeping times and withdrawal overnight from caffeine itself! So if you limit yourself to 1 or 2 caffeinated drinks in the morning and avoid caffeine from say 2pm onwards, you are going to avoid daytime sleepiness and stay more focused during the day.

Can you help explain some practices that can be used to develop those habits?

To get into the habit of setting SMART goals, you’ll want to get into the habit of planning your daily task list in the SMART format, as well as your daily checklist of habits you are looking to form. Ingraining this thinking in all of your goal and task setting will embed the habit but also strengthen the impact and likelihood of success.

Visualization is easiest to integrate when anchoring it on other habits. If you meditate, spend some time visualizing. When you are planning out your SMART goals for the day or week, visualize the process too. You can even fit it into your morning walk or while you are in the shower. You can be creative about when but because this is a habit in the mind, you can do it at any time and even multi-task whilst doing mundane things to integrate it.

Easing up on caffeine takes a little while and you may experience a bit of withdrawal depending on how much you have. If you drink a lot you may want to consider tapering it off rather than going cold turkey else you will probably get headaches. I cannot pretend it is the perfect substitute; but using decaffeinated options or herbal teas do provide an excellent alternative to normal coffee or tea. That way you do not have to completely compromise on the coffee drinking experience but can still minimize your caffeine and the impact it has on your focus.

As a leader, you likely experience times when you are in a state of Flow. Flow has been described as a pleasurable mental state that occurs when you do something that you are skilled at, that is challenging, and that is meaningful. Can you share some ideas from your experience about how we can achieve a state of Flow more often in our lives?

To me, flow is that experience of being ‘in the zone’ when playing your favourite sport as a kid. I’ve noticed that I achieve flow more when I am deeply motivated by what I am doing or it aligns strongly with my goals. I have to be fully focused and immersed in the moment to get there.

I have found the key factors enabling me to experience more flow are to tune into the activities and goals that deeply motivate me, minimize or delete the ones that do not and avoid distractions and multi tasking. All of these may seem deceptively simple but requires a lot of discipline. When I manage to stick to them, I am able to fully commit to moments of true joy.

Ok, we are nearly done. You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good for the greatest number of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.

My mission is to enable over a billion people to achieve extraordinary health outcomes and share their stories. I believe inspiring a movement for true patient empowerment by giving them the knowledge and understanding that habits are the biggest determinant of health and the tools to continuously optimise them.

We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US, whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we both tag them 🙂

Naval Ravikant — He has a unique way of blending together the principles of Entrepreneurship, Science and Philosophy that you can apply as an individual rather than just pushing one story of his own success. Interestingly, he has a very simple and pragmatic approach to meditation.

Listening to his podcast helped me to focus on maximising impact in order to create wealth and get much sharper on how I allocate my time so I can grow my business and optimize my wellbeing. Come to think of it, I’m probably going to listen to it all again!

How can our readers further follow your work online?

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For any individual wanting support to optimize their lifestyle and habits to get healthy, prevent illness or reverse disease, check out hippocrateslounge.com

For employers who believe Wellbeing is about DOING good and not just looking good and recognize the need to conquer Quarantine Fatigue before deeper health problems arise, get in touch via kalsiandkalsi.com

Thank you for these really excellent insights, and we greatly appreciate the time you spent with this. We wish you continued success.

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People look for retreats for themselves, in the country, by the coast, or in the hills . . . There is nowhere that a person can find a more peaceful and trouble-free retreat than in his own mind. . . . So constantly give yourself this retreat, and renew yourself.

- MARCUS AURELIUS

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