Paul Thallner & Stu Singer: “Be in or around nature”

Paul — Increasing self-awareness can help develop optimal performance habits. By being more awake, aware, and attuned to your impact on other people, you can make adjustments that will help you and your teams perform better. A great way to develop self-awareness is asking five to ten friends and family members to share a story about you […]

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Paul — Increasing self-awareness can help develop optimal performance habits. By being more awake, aware, and attuned to your impact on other people, you can make adjustments that will help you and your teams perform better. A great way to develop self-awareness is asking five to ten friends and family members to share a story about you when you were at your very best. Gathering these stories and looking for patterns will give you a good sense of how you DO make a positive impact — a great platform from which to grow even further.


As a part of our series about “How Anyone Can Build Habits For Optimal Wellness, Performance, & Focus”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Paul Thallner and Stu Singer.

Paul Thallner is Founder and CEO of High Peaks Group and has 20+ years of experience as an executive leading consulting, operations, and production teams in the private, public, and government sectors. His journey towards optimizing performance ran through Cleveland Ohio where he studied strengths-based leader development and emotional intelligence at Case Western Reserve University. It was there he discovered he was not that effective as a people leader. The wake-up call shook him down to his core and prompted a long journey of self-development. Today, he advises senior leadership teams on creating authentic workplace cultures where everyone can thrive.

Stu Singer is Founder and CEO of WellPerformance, a Sport and Performance Psychology leadership and team performance company that works with college and professional athletes, teams, and organizations including the NBA’s Washington Wizards and the WNBA’s Washington Mystics — the 2019 World Champions. Stu is an integral staff member of the Mystics, serving as their Director of Performance Psychology. Stu has adapted his years of experience in some of the most competitive, high-performance sports environments to apply to corporate team and executive development settings. Stu has a Psy.D. (ABD) in Sport and Performance Psychology and combines this with 20+ years of experience in the field. He has a deep commitment to creating strong psychological performance foundations for the individuals and organizations that he works with.


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?

Paul Thallner: Sure. I grew up with my mom and four siblings in Harrisburg, PA. We didn’t have much money, but I had great friends. My mom worked at the famous Three Mile Island nuclear power plant (the site of the worst US nuclear disaster). She started as a receptionist, but soon found an internal posting for a training program to become an “operator.” Operators were responsible for essentially routing water around the plant; turning valves etc. She was accepted into the training program and — after many late nights teaching herself engineering and nuclear physics — my high school educated mom passed and earned a job alongside retired U.S. Navy nuclear submarine mechanics. Watching my mom live out that story — the highs and many, many lows — affected the way I see the world and taught me perseverance.

Stu Singer: Absolutely. My background is highly influenced by growing up within our small family sporting goods business in Harrisburg, Pa, as the youngest of the three boys. My oldest brother was a star athlete, and I was a two-sport varsity athlete. So, between our sporting goods business and our on-the-court/field interest and commitments we were pretty much focused on sports and sport performance non-stop. Family dinner discussions often centered around either playing better on the field or on how the family business could be doing better. Team dynamics, motivation, and work-ethic all became normal for me to think about even before I really could understand what I was working towards. This launched my passion for figuring out how we function at our absolute best. It seems like these themes have always been there for me either by choice or through the subconscious influence of my upbringing.

Additionally, during this same timeframe I was learning a lesson around positive mindset and never becoming prey to feeling sorry for yourself. My dad was first diagnosed with cancer when I was seven years old. He would battle three more bouts with it for 20 more years until his body could no longer fight. He passed away when I was 27 years old. However, his attitude always stayed positive over those years. He never seemed to feel sorry for himself, and never wanted anyone to treat him differently. I carry so much of all this into my daily framework for viewing life and the work that I do.

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

[Paul] My sister — an E.R. doctor — always felt marginalized in a male-dominated profession. She was looking for a way to make her system better and decided to get a Master’s degree in organizational development. She really changed as a result of the program — which was as much about personal development as it was about learning methodologies. I saw the way she used her newfound capability to interact with her family and patients. At the same time, I was skeptical because the language of organizational development is so fluffy and weird. She ultimately convinced me to enroll in the program by telling me that everything she learned was based on legit science. So, I believed her and enrolled. Then I became transformed too! As mentioned earlier, my self-concept as a big-shot CEO was challenged.

[Stu] Wow, there are way too many people and experiences that I could share that led me to this career, so instead what I’ll try to use to explain it all is that from high school on I always had this feeling that there was “a better way” to high functioning in life, sport, and business. My mind never worked well with status-quo, or with phrases like “because we’ve always done it this way.” However, it was my wife who finally encouraged and supported me to go pursue my PsyD in sport and performance psychology and let me know it was really important to her that I pursue my passion. It was a struggle for sure — we had a home, three young kids, and we both had full time jobs. But she knew that I’d live with regret if I didn’t “go for it” and so she supported me every step of the way. Ultimately, I don’t know if I could have done any of this without her determination to make it all happen!

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?

[Paul] I often think of my first boss, Leslye Arsht. She was former Deputy Press Secretary at the White House who — when I worked for her — was leading a nonprofit organization. She was tough. On my first day of work, she asked me to write a short paragraph, and I complied. She mercilessly edited it; I mean, the paper was dripping with red ink! I rewrote, she re-edited. This went on for a week until one day I handed it to her and she said, “are you sick of this yet?” Turns out it wasn’t about getting me to do my best work — that was the minimum requirement — she was teaching me to trust myself and stand behind my good work.

[Stu] Again, there is no doubt that my wife was the support system and encourager that I needed not only to start this journey, but also to continue in this field to this day. Belief in the self is a fickle friend, and there were numerous moments when I struggled with that belief. But she never did. Prior to pursuing a career in helping others with their performance psychology I was a school counselor, coach, school district administrator, and the assistant director of a psychotherapy practice that specialized in consulting work. I had many successes along the way and many failures. While I probably spent too much time thinking about the shortcomings, she saw the growth and passion happening. She could see what I couldn’t and so encouraged me to go all-in. She continues to serve in the role right up to today for me!

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?

[Paul] I was working as a staffer in the California state government. It was a political position doing education policy, and one of my duties was handling press communications. We wrote an Request For Proposals to hire experts in math education to help us draft curriculum that 7 million kids would use in school. The stakes were high. We got two competing bids from — as you’d expect — politically polar opposite groups. One group used a loophole in our proposal evaluation criteria to make it impossible not to be selected. So, after much internal discussion, we decided not to award the contract to anyone. The aggrieved party called a major newspaper who then called me. The reporter asked, “so, are you just completely incompetent, or is there something illegal going on there?” My idealistic bubble burst that day. I learned that good intentions can’t drive everything; there is always a political dimension to everything. Sometimes you have no good options and you have to choose one of them anyway. As long as you live to fight another day, you still have a shot at changing things.

[Stu] Oh man, yes, I definitely have THAT moment. I was speaking at a conference for about 150–200 athletic coaches, and if I’m being totally honest, I was feeling pretty good about myself. While speaking I tried to make a point using the great Tom Brady. Specifically, I was trying to say that he’s NOT truly athletically or physically gifted, but instead that he has used his mind and emotions extremely well over his career. However, I made fun of an infamous photo of him from his draft day that showed a pretty average at best body. Well, a bunch of coaches in the back started laughing hysterically. I thought what I shared was funny, but not THAT funny. When I finished up I asked the person who coordinated the event why he thought they were laughing so hard. His reply floored me — “are you serious? Tom Brady’s college strength and conditioning coach was sitting right in front of you as you said all that about him”! I was completely embarrassed and humbled. I did go up to the coach to explain further and to apologize, but it was definitely my moment of realizing that no matter what I feel I’ve accomplished it’s essential to stay humble forever.

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?

[Paul] Always care about what you’re doing. People get lured into thinking they can waltz into a “find your passion” dreamscape, but the reality is nobody starts there. It takes a lot of work to find your passion. First jobs are incredibly important and at the same time not likely to be our “true calling.” So, remember that there are learning opportunities in those initial jobs that will serve you forever as you make your way through life. Letting go of finding the perfect job and focusing on perfecting how you work is something I wish I heard when I was younger.

[Stu] I totally agree with what Paul shared. I wish someone would have told me that my intuition about what I truly wanted to do from a young age was possible (so, in a way — pursue your passion). But it’s also true that we probably can’t get to that place without toiling in some work that simply isn’t that YET. That early work teaches you so much about yourself, the field, and what you are and are not about. Use that time as the learning bridge to get where you truly want to be. Second, focus way more time on giving attention to your work helping others, and way less time on titles and money. If you spend enough time truly helping others then titles and money begin to follow. Way too many members of our society have been convinced that fulfillment comes from titles and money — it doesn’t — but instead the fulfillment comes from the value of the work you do.

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?

[Paul] I was an English major and Ulysses by James Joyce had a huge impact on me. Besides the feat of simply finishing the notoriously challenging tome, I really loved the idea of elevating the mundane to a much higher level. In many respects, that’s what I do for a living. I try to elevate human interaction — an unconscious act for many — to a conscious level in order to improve individual and business performance.

[Stu] Again, so many books that I’ve read have influenced me, but I think that there are two specific ones that truly crystalized my approach. The first is The Chimp Paradox by Dr. Steve Peters. It was the first book to really clarify the function of the various regions of the brain and how they interact during moments of stress and pressure, but does it in an accessible way using ordinary language. Second, was The Mindful Athlete by George Mumford. This book gave me a deeper understanding of my own use of mindfulness practice, but also why I believe so strongly in my clients beginning to use the practice as well. Truly understanding that science and training are behind greater mental performance is the foundation of all I do. I reference both books to this day.

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

[Paul] “Words create worlds.” It resonates with me because it helps me remember that there are endless ways to interpret reality. Also, taking time to consider other ways to interpret reality allows me (and my clients) to filter out assumptions and biases and see a situation for what it truly is. I believe that’s the point from which folks can make forward progress.

[Stu] “Our life experience will equal what we have paid attention to whether by choice or by default” — William James. This serves as the clearest reminder that the brain is always giving its attention to something, and so it is up to us to create a healthy and effective filter for it to use. Unfortunately, the brain’s design is to scan for the next “danger” for instinctual survival purposes. This means that its default system is biased towards the negative. While this system serves us well in many instances it can also create more anxiety and negativity than is needed. Learning to pay attention on PURPOSE is a challenge, but a massively important skill to work towards mastering.

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

[Paul & Stu] We’ve been concerned about the rise of burnout (made much more acute by the pandemic) and the impact of chronic stress on people and business. We’ve recently convened a group of Pennsylvania business, government, and higher education leaders to discuss how we can align and mobilize resources to create truly great workplaces — ones where people actually live longer as a result of going to work. One of the interesting themes that has emerged is that even though everyone has felt the pain of this unusual experience each one of us have also found new interests, focus areas, or systems that have kept us energized and resilient as well. It’s in the early stages, but we’re really encouraged by the response.

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?

[Paul] Habits are about more than an efficiency. They help redirect cognitive load from lower order to higher order things. Think about it, if we spend our mental energy deciding when to brush our teeth, that leaves less brain power for more important things. By habituating good actions that make you feel and perform better, you score easy points every day which ends up creating positive momentum for more. And as it turns out, developing good habits are important because the more you use them, the stronger they become.

I was a good student in high school and college, and my habits around studying were good but not great. I would wait until the last minute to write papers, and that always stressed me out. In grad school, the workload was much more intense, life was more complicated, and I just had to create a better way to work. First, I mapped out my reading assignments so I was doing shorter bursts of reading over a longer period of time. Then I developed a habit of note-taking while I was reading (vs. just highlighting) and summarizing my notes every day. Soon, the incremental effort added up and I was able to absorb much more information and had more fun doing it.

[Stu] Paul laid it out really well and I’ll just add one more piece to the importance of habits. Too often popular culture — and even teaches, parents, and other leaders — push the idea of “will power” as a method for achievement. The reality is that we aren’t very good at will power. Instead, we’re better off if we use habit formation in order to bypass our need altogether to have deep will power. For instance, if we want to be healthy and active many would suggest using great will power to get out there and do it — to force yourself into doing something that may create discomfort and not always be fun. This isn’t the case, and is why so many fall off their exercise goals. Instead, the best thing to do is simply create the habit of space in your schedule for some type of movement. At first that space should simply be doable — even if it’s only 5 minutes 4–5 times per week. Once we’ve created the habit of space for it in our life, we can always expand the time and the effort level of it, but without the habit of time built in the rest of it will never happen.

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

[Paul] I have a few quirky habits that have really impacted my success. The most important one for me is stopping and pausing at the end of any writing project (whether it’s an article, email, or text) to read what I’ve written. I get a huge thrill when I find a better way of phrasing something or catch a typo. Plus, it helps me present myself the way I want to and signals that I truly care what I’m doing and care about the person I’m communicating with.

Another success habit is assuming the best in people. This took some time for me to develop; the idea is to treat every interaction as an opportunity to give something to someone. We’ve been trained to evaluate relationships based on what we can get from them, but I think of them as opportunities to help, teach, support, or guide someone. Nobody wants to be treated like a transaction, so I try to ask more questions, listen more than I speak, and leave space in the conversation for ideas to emerge. Oftentimes, we end up dreaming up very interesting things.

[Stu] I have two major habits that have served me well and are really the foundation of almost every day for me — meditation and exercise. I begin everyday with 10 minutes of mindfulness meditation. It’s a great way to center myself, create some calm and clarity, and reduce any stress as I start my day. Also, as the research supports, it minimizes my reactiveness to whatever may come up in life, and instead allows me to be responsive in those moments. I typically exercise about 5 days a week minimum and it can really be anything that gets me moving — strength training, yoga, bike, walking, swimming, or hiking with my wife and dog. I’m less concerned about what it is and just believe in the benefits of at least 30 minutes of movement. These serve as my stress management, therapy, and energy and mood boosters. Can’t tell you how many times these two habits have gotten me through the difficult times of work and life.

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

[Paul] There’s a ton of research on habit formation. And for most people, it’s a steep climb to build a habit to the point that it is automatic. So, I advise people to take the pressure off themselves and try small experiments for a few days. Then, stop and think about it. If they like the result of the experiment, they can decide keep doing it for another couple of days. Then — and this is important — think about the benefit that change made to you. Did it make you a little happier? A little more relieved? A little more comfortable? A little more in control? That’s useful data to help you decide to keep the behavior going. It’ll soon add up and the habit will become embedded. Small, incremental change.

Stopping bad habits is hard because we judge ourselves for even having the habit in the first place. I mean, we call them “bad” habits after all. It’s important to realize than an unhealthy (or bad) habit is happening because somewhere in your brain, you’re getting something positive out of it. Maybe an eating habit is temporarily distracting you from loneliness. Or a drinking habit soothes work stress. Or a nail-biting habit is making you feel like you’re ‘doing something’ while you procrastinate. Pausing to reflect on what you’re getting from that habit (without calling yourself ‘bad’ for having the habit) is an important first step in habit change. Once you know why you’re doing it, you can work on adding or substituting a different behavior that gives you a similar reward. For example, joining a neighborhood group to combat loneliness or meditating to combat stress. This won’t mean you’ll stop eating or drinking, but you’ll disrupt the brain’s automated response enabling you to more easily choose NOT to do those unhealthy things.

[Stu] Again, Paul did an excellent job of laying out some of the best ways to start and stop habits. I’ll just add two small pieces that are known to be really helpful. First, habits need to be “doable”. Too many people attempt to create too big of a habit all at once and the lack of immediate success is self-defeating and the habit never has a chance of forming. Second, try stacking it with an already formed habit. For example if you want to read more try to pair it with an existing habit like maybe brushing your teeth. The phrase you create is “after I brush my teeth I’m going to read for 10 minutes.” The new habit is both doable and attached to an already formed daily habit. Biggest reminder — if you miss a day don’t beat yourself up — just start up the next day. One miss isn’t a big deal, but beating yourself up can create missing multiple days in a row, and THAT can become a roadblock for allowing the habit to truly form.

For breaking bad habits think in terms of environment changes. If you don’t want to eat as many sweets don’t try to just stop doing it using your will power — you’ll eventually fail. instead remove them from your house. If they aren’t there it makes the habit much more difficult to maintain. As Paul mentioned most “bad” habits actually serve to give some type of immediate gratification wired to the release of the feel-good chemical dopamine in our brain. The fewer “hits” we get of it the more likely we are to begin to break that habit.

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.

[Paul]

  • “The something plan.” That is, do literally any form of physical activity two to three times a week (for ~20–30 minutes) and count it as your wellness activity. Give yourself credit for cleaning the house, walking the dog, or refereeing the local pee wee basketball game.
  • Be in or around nature. Being in the woods or at the ocean is renewing. But if you can’t get to nature, just visualizing yourself in nature can help restore your energy and reduce stress.
  • Read fiction. Reading for pleasure gives your mind and body a chance to decompress from the stresses of work and home life and increases and can lead to feeling more fulfilled in life.

[Stu]

  • Live/work/play in the present moment. Replaying or pre-playing events lead and to stress and anxiousness.
  • Give your attention to the things you have relative control of in the present moment
  • Let go of the Big 3 judgments — self-criticism, attention to others opinions/judgment, and comparison.

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

[Paul] Practicing self-compassion is important to develop any habit. We tend to over-think and self-criticize when it comes to changing our own behavior. So, cut yourself some slack. Count any step forward as progress — because it is — and give yourself credit for doing the work. And by “the work” I mean the cycle of trying, advancing, stumbling, getting up, and trying again. Celebrating the whole cycle even though it’s not always pretty or as fast as you’d like will definitely help you develop more enduring positive habits.

[Stu] For me mindfulness practice is at the core of developing these habits. Mindfulness has been defined as the “non-judgmental awareness of the present moment.” It’s all about developing the skill of keeping your place of attention present and just allowing for total acceptance of what happens within that present moment. This can be done with breathing exercises. Apps like Headspace or Calm can help. By spending 10 minutes per day in a mindfulness practice your brain can naturally develop mental habits I mentioned above.

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

[Paul]

  • Simple, consistent end of day (EOD) Routine. End your day by reviewing what you accomplished and plan the following day’s activities. Beyond reviewing the checklist, I take a little time to jot a few notes about what I learned or what I was thankful for. It takes 15 minutes, and it’s a life-saver.
  • Prep for meetings. Take a few minutes before a meeting to get yourself familiar with the agenda and the people in attendance. It will enable you to be fully present for the decisions that need to be made.
  • Decide how you want to show up. Do you want to be a rebel? An intellectual? A kiss-up? A problem-solver? A brainstormer? An analyst? By thinking about how you want to be perceived you will naturally adjust your behavior accordingly.

[Stu]

  • Understand where you’re heading. I start each new year with an intentional focus for where I want to get to. I may or may not reach it, but at least I’ve intentionally tried to develop the vision for what it would look like if I do. From there I go back to taking care of what I can do TODAY that most likely can lead to that vision.
  • Start each day mindfully. We can “practice” mindfulness, and we can also “live” mindfully. I’m almost 100% consistent in starting everyday with my mindfulness practice, but it’s the living mindfully part that may be most important. When stress, lack of focus, second-guessing, or anxiety are clouding my mind I can often just remind myself to become present to gain clarity.
  • Don’t strive for balance, but instead strive for quality recovery. Anyone that is on the path to something that’s special and of real value will probably NOT have true balance (i.e — half work, half fun/relaxation). Great endeavors typically require pretty big investment. Instead learn to practice quality recovery. How to do you unplug? How do you relax? How do you reconnect with family and the people/things you love? It doesn’t need to be a 50/50 work/life balance, but you do need to know how to refill the energy tanks!

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

[Paul] Increasing self-awareness can help develop optimal performance habits. By being more awake, aware, and attuned to your impact on other people, you can make adjustments that will help you and your teams perform better. A great way to develop self-awareness is asking five to ten friends and family members to share a story about you when you were at your very best. Gathering these stories and looking for patterns will give you a good sense of how you DO make a positive impact — a great platform from which to grow even further.

[Stu} Once again Paul nailed it! Self-awareness is massive. Learning to understand what impacts you and how you impact others is the absolute starting point. Without this awareness it’s hard to shape/change anything. I’d also add in the practicing of an “attitude of gratitude.” Intentionally focusing on what you’re grateful for is essential for staying present, understanding the things we still have control over, and allowing us avoid worrying too much about what others may think. Ending each day with a thought or two about what you’re grateful for — even on the tough days — is a simple but powerful practice.

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

  • Meditate on the regular. It’s been shown that even five minutes of meditation can help re-wire the brain for optimal focus.
  • Go to bed at the same time every day. Sufficient rest gives the brain time to take advantage of down time in order to be clear and alert the next day.
  • The Pomodoro technique. Set a timer for 40 minutes, focus your attention on one thing, and when the timer goes off, take a five-minute break.

[Stu]

  • Mindfulness mediation — hate to be a broken record, but scientifically been proven to work!
  • Turn it all off — shut off everything — radio, tv, phone, social media, etc. The best way to create a deeper focus is learn how to be in the stillness and quiet. Spend time allow for extending moments of no distraction and needless stimulation. Great ideas and clarity happen on a quiet walk!
  • “Be where your feet are” — I do a little exercise with my clients (and I practice it as well) where I ask them to truly focus on the sensation of feeling their feet grounded to floor beneath them. This is literally a 5 second practice that can help you to recenter and create some intentional focus to the present moment. It’s a literally and figurative reminder on how to be focused in the here and now!

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

[Paul] Setting appropriate expectations is important when setting habits. People often bite off more than they can chew and end up frustrated. So, focusing on small wins is critical. Also, separating practices from goals is a good step. Goals imply a starting and ending point (e.g., lose 10 pounds), and practices change the way you interact with activity. Change your mindset around achievement, from obsessing about the destination to paying more attention to the journey.

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?

[Paul] It’s amazing when I see athletes or singers who can simply perform on demand. They snap into a state of flow almost at will. We’re seeing them at their most skilled. But flow doesn’t only happen to professional athletes. It can happen to us and, like most things, we have to work to achieve it. To bring a state of flow into our lives more often, I suggest being intentional about it. That is, pick something meaningful that you’re already good at and work at the edge of your competence zone. It can be a hobby or something related to your profession. It can be mundane or highly specialized. Start by carving out 40 minutes two or three times a week to do your activity. While you may not achieve flow at first, if the activity is meaningful to you and you’re already good at it, you’ll ultimately find yourself lost in it. Time will pass quickly, and you’ll feel gratified.

[Stu] There a few things that we know about flow state. The first is that it is really difficult to reach and stay within it. And, we know that flow state is created when there is just enough challenge (creates strong focus and attention), but not so much challenge that the task seems unachievable. This alone is a tricky balance. What we also know is that it’s an internal process and not external. The given moment is motivated by its own intrinsic value and not by trying to prove anything to anyone, or with other’s opinions and judgments in our conscious thoughts. There is a transcendence that occurs where the value of the performance is literally all that exists, and that value is defined by the individual herself/himself. Lastly, the performer is completely lost in the moment for the sake of THAT moment.

In terms of building our ability to find this mind space — I hate sounding like a broken record but my recommendation to put ourselves in position to find a state of flow is to practice mindfulness daily. It’s THE brain exercise that trains deep, non-judgmental awareness of the present moment. The more we can proactively train ourselves to clear the clutter of the mind that comes from always judging and then replaying the past or predicting the future the more realistic it becomes that we can find those few precious moments where we are deeply engaged in the appropriately challenging task at hand and that we truly find core to our authentic self.

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.

[Paul] We spend a lot of our time at work. I believe workplaces can and should be places where incredible outcomes are achieved and the people who work there can truly thrive. I’m very concerned about chronic workplace stress, and if I could inspire organizations to completely rethink how workplace culture works, we could see longer life expectancy, lower adverse health impacts, and breathtaking innovation across our entire economy. Imagine a wold where people in all workplaces are feeling deeply alive and are frequently in states of flow. And think of the ripple effect on workers’ families, friends, communities, and even the environment.

[Stu] In support of Paul’s paradigm shift I would add that we must flip our understanding of how great success is truly reached. From an overall societal viewpoint we’ve been fed that reaching outcomes are the gateway to finding purpose and fulfillment. What the research supports and what I’ve learned through my own experience working with athletes that have reached the highest achievements on the biggest stages is that this is actually backwards. We must first align our daily work with core values and purpose that are authentic to us, and then as we pursue this internal fulfillment follows.

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 🙂

[Paul] Zuzana Čhaputová — President of Slovakia because of her courage to lead the country away from populism even while her neighbors seemingly are embracing it.

[Stu] Jurgen Klopp — Manager of Liverpool FC for his outstanding leadership

How can our readers further follow your work online?

[Paul] www.highpeaksgroup.com and social media (Twitter & IG) @highpeaksgroup

[Stu] www.wellperformancecoach.com; and social media (Twitter & IG) @WellPerformance

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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