“Proper preparation prevents poor performance”, Dr. Jason Hamed and Parveen Panwar, Mr. Activated

“Proper preparation prevents poor performance” is a great saying I often repeat to myself as a reminder of the importance of planning. Whether it’s a sporting event or the workweek, we cannot expect to perform at a high level if we don’t go into our week prepared. What does the week ahead have in store […]

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“Proper preparation prevents poor performance” is a great saying I often repeat to myself as a reminder of the importance of planning. Whether it’s a sporting event or the workweek, we cannot expect to perform at a high level if we don’t go into our week prepared. What does the week ahead have in store for you? What aspects of your job or athletic endeavor require additional preparation, attention, or time from you this week? Are you going into Monday with a clear vision of what you want to accomplish or are you just winging it? The best in the world set their intention for what they want to accomplish and then are prepared to execute in the following days.

As a part of our series about “How Anyone Can Build Habits For Optimal Wellness, Performance, & Focus”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Dr. Jason Hamed.

Dr. Jason Hamed of The Wellness Connection graduated from Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs, N.Y. with a degree in physiology and chemistry and completed his chiropractic training at Logan College of Chiropractic. He now focuses on structural corrections, optimal nutrition, and mental success strategies to help his patients heal naturally and achieve optimal performance. Dr. Jason is a lifelong athlete and has completed multiple marathons and triathlons, including the New York City Marathon and a full Ironman event. Dr. Jason is happily married with four children and continually strives to achieve new levels of success as a husband, father, clinician, and business owner.

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?

Thank you for having me. I’m excited to be here! I grew up in a small town about an hour and a half south of Buffalo, NY. I am the older of 2 boys. My parents were both from large families, so I grew up with a lot of uncles, aunts, and cousins. Family activities, as well as the overall importance of family, were a very important part of my life growing up.

My mom and dad worked very hard to provide the best life they could for my brother and me. They showed us by their example the importance of hard work, integrity, and helping others. Growing up in a blue-collar town, my mom and dad suffered through various times of layoffs, downsizing, and other economic challenges. However, no matter what stress they were going through, they always expressed to me and my brother the importance of faith and staying positive.

My younger brother also taught me a lot about life. Around the age of 2–3yrs old, he was diagnosed with a pretty significant case of juvenile rheumatoid arthritis. He was in so much pain most days. I can specifically remember on some mornings my dad having to carry him and place him in the bathtub because it hurt too bad to walk and he needed to let his body soak in the tub just to be able to carry on his day. He endured so many surgeries and so many medications for a very long time. Through it all, though, I can’t recall him complaining or ever using his JRA as an excuse as to why he couldn’t do something.

Unfortunately, in 2001, I lost my dad to an 18-month long battle with brain cancer. As anyone would expect, this was a very trying time for my family for a multitude of reasons. However, through it all, my dad handled cancer just like he did everything else: with optimism, faith, and a big smile. Over the last 19 years since he has passed, I’ve come to realize more and more each year how absolutely blessed I was to have the dad and mom that I did. They set an amazing example of living according to your values no matter what the circumstances — an example I hope I am providing for my kids now.

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

I have wanted to be a chiropractor since I was nine years old, believe it or not. Funny story, I was in 4th grade and at the end of the year the teacher had a project where we all had to tell her what we wanted to be when we grew up. She was writing them all down on this big board. All my buddies were saying they wanted to be things like, a pitcher for the Mets, a shortstop for the Cubs, and fireman. When I said “chiropractor,” my teacher literally asked me if I knew how to spell that. I did, by the way.

This desire at such a young age was inspired by my uncle (by marriage), who was a chiropractor. He and my mom’s sister lived and practiced in Oklahoma. He would come home to visit, and he would give my brother and me treatments, known as adjustments. I had awful sinus, ear, and allergy problems as a kid. My nose and ears were constantly stuffed up, yet when he gave me those adjustments, my nose started to drain, and my ears became unclogged. At that age, you do not have a “bias” or are even aware as to what is deemed traditional medicine versus alternative care. I just knew that my mom was taking me to all these doctors, and my ears and sinuses weren’t getting better. Uncle Frank adjusted me, and I could breathe. From that point on, I was in my Uncle Frank’s back pocket, always asking questions about chiropractic and how the body worked. Many years later after I had completed my schooling, I spent three years working alongside my uncle in his practice in Tulsa, Oklahoma. There he taught me so much — not just about the art and science of chiropractic, but also the art of taking care of people and the highest standards of running a professional healthcare business.

I was also naturally drawn to science and health, specifically as it relates to exercise, nutrition, and optimal performance. These days when I get together with my childhood friends, they are quick to remind and jokingly harass me about all the nutrition and exercise advice I’ve been giving them since we were kids. Luckily, this natural love of science and health was amplified in college because of Dr. Paul Arciero, an amazing professor, research advisor, and mentor. Dr Arciero was and still is a tremendous researcher and professor in the fields of nutrition and human performance. Dr. Arciero showed me what it looked like to fall in love with the never-ending journey of learning as well as passionately teaching and leading others to improve their health.

My parents, my Uncle Frank, and Dr. Arciero not only inspired me to be on this path but also gave me a framework of what was possible. To them, I am eternally grateful.

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?

I have been so fortunate to have so many friends and mentors who have helped me along the way. When it comes down to the ones that were the most integral in my getting to where I am today, it is my mom and dad. Once I stated I wanted to be a chiropractor, they were always supporting me, encouraging me, and reminding me of my goals when I got off track. When my dad was going through cancer treatment, I was in chiropractic school. He sat me down one day, looked me in the eyes, and made me promise I would not stop no matter what happened to him because he knew this was my goal. They just did so much to make sure that my brother and I could achieve our dreams, and they filled our minds and hearts with love and confidence that we could do whatever we set our minds on.

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?

The biggest mistake I made early in my career was using assumptive language or communication. There are a lot of consultants that would tell you how to “handle” unruly patients or staff. Usually these styles of communication are abrasive and assumptive.

One instance I remember like it happened yesterday. A patient was not making her visits. Instead of asking if she was all right or being empathetic, I went right into an abrasive brow beating on how she can “either change her goals or change her actions.” She quit care the next day and sent a pretty nasty email about my communication and what she thought were my intentions. That stung deeply because I did genuinely care about this person and wanted her to get the best results. I just used poor communication techniques to get my message across.

I don’t know what’s going on in people’s lives. So I stopped communicating like as if I knew, and this has made all the difference in becoming a better leader. Now when a person is not following through with their care, I first ask them “Is everything okay?” From there, we open a safe dialogue about what is presently going on in their life, what their goals are, and where their present actions are leading them. This inevitably leads to them feeling supported (not scolded) and gets them back on track.

This one mistake taught me the immense value of empathetic communication and has in turn led to many favorable and positive conversations with patients and staff that may have otherwise gone awry.

On a funnier, less serious note, I have to “pre-eat” before lunches with other professionals. In my first year of practice, one of my staff members was getting lunch with her spouse at the same restaurant I was meeting with another professional. She later told me, “Dr. Jay, it looked like you hadn’t eaten in a week. You were inhaling your food and had your head down the entire time.”

Openly, I do eat fast and I eat a lot. So now I make sure I have a small snack or light meal before I go to professional lunch. This way I can actually carry on a conversation without inhaling my food. Funny stuff. Makes me laugh thinking about it to this day.

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?

Never stop working on yourself. Become completely honest with yourself and others. Know who you are, what you believe, and surround yourself with others who will challenge and support you. And realize that not everyone will agree with you or support you. Do it anyway. This is part of the process when you choose to live your life according to your values and you exceed the expectations or standards that others have put on themselves.

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?

Shortly after graduation from chiropractic school, one of my friends suggested I read Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill. This one piece of advice from a friend had a huge ripple effect that I can see even to this day. Throughout the book, Napoleon Hill highlights stories of the most successful people of that time. And in each case, he demonstrates the unbelievable power of the human mind, mental focus, and a positive mindset.

At one point in the book, Mr. Hill discusses a statement of purpose that he wrote for himself. He read this statement of purpose aloud every day to program his mind for success. He stated that by doing so he would create success first in his mind and then take the necessary actions in order to manifest the life he desired. I was so inspired by this concept and by the vast amount of success Mr. Hill had created in his life that I decided to create my own personal mission statement.

I wrote my mission statement in 2003, long before I was married, had any kids, owned my own business, or had achieved any level of financial success. Yet, in that letter I stated the man, husband, father, clinician, Christian, and business owner I intended to become. I read that statement aloud daily for many years. Even though I do not read it aloud daily anymore, I still have it on my office desk and review it weekly. This personal mission statement not only serves as a “true north” for me today, but also is a sense of accountability to the version of me who wrote it 17 years ago and the man I strive to become in the years ahead.

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

“The dream is free, but the hustle is sold separately” is one of my favorite quotes and has been for years. To me it represents the fact that any one of us has the power to envision a better life or more success, yet few actualize it. Having an idea or dream is not enough. You must be willing to put in the work in order to make that dream a reality. I’ve loved the word “hustle” for a long time as well, long before it became “trendy” or a hashtag. To me, hustle simply means putting in the work and pushing yourself beyond what you think may be possible. Hustle opens the “door of possibility” within our minds — the possibility of what is actually possible when we get out of our comfort zones and do things that are new or scary yet lead to an expanded version of ourselves.

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

Right now we are working on bringing more cutting-edge regenerative medicine services to our community and surrounding area. The application and science around stem cell/mesenchymal cell injections has grown tremendously over the last several years. This type of therapy can literally help regenerate connective tissue in the body and can help people with knee, shoulder, and elbow pain naturally. This in turn will help people from overusing non-steroid anti inflammatory medication, which when overused places a great deal of stress and harm on the stomach, small intestine, and liver. Additionally, having a natural means to regenerate connective tissue can slow down or limit the need for surgical intervention, which most people want to avoid in the first place.

We are also working on creating digital coursework that will be designed to educate and walk people through a step-by-step process to improve their health through nutrition, supplementation, and advanced testing in an easy and effective virtual platform. This project has the ability to make an impact on people who may live thousands of miles from our office. With this type of resource, people can begin taking control of their health at their own speed and from the comfort of their own home. This project will truly help empower people with knowledge backed by simple action steps they can take to reclaim their health.

We are really excited about the potential for both projects and the positive impact they could have on our local community and people who are non-local!

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?

The effects of our habits compound over time. We all have habits that we do, whether we are conscious to them or not. Those habits, good or bad, lead to outcomes. Some of the outcomes we can see immediately and others we only see after months or years of their compounding effects. This is why it’s so critical for people to clarify what it is they want to experience in life and then look at their actions and simply ask, “Does this action or habit get me closer or farther away from my ideal vision?”

Several years ago, my wife and I were going through a challenging time in our marriage. We just weren’t seeing eye-to-eye on a number of matters, and there were some hurt feelings from years past that were never addressed. Someone told me about the daily habit of sending their wife a message of gratitude. I have a very clear vision for the family I want and the type of husband I want to be, and this habit aligned with that vision.

So I began the daily habit of sending my wife a text filled with love and gratitude. Initially, I didn’t see much change in some of our issues, but as time went on, I began to see how this habit opened up channels of communication between the two of us. It also opened up my heart to seek gratitude for her more than agitation about some trivial matter. Fast forward years later, I still send daily messages. She looks forward to them and it is an integral part of our marriage. Even among the chaos of raising a large family, she receives a message of love from me each day. The simplicity and beauty of this habit cannot be unstated.

Habits compound. Every day doesn’t have to be a homerun. But each day if we just try to “hit singles,” they will add up. This is how anyone can change any circumstance in their life. It’s very rare to see a total transformation overnight; instead it’s the daily commitment to taking small steps that in the end lead to transformation.

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

My habits are my source of strength. By creating routines and habits in my life, I create safeguards against all the stress that the world will try to throw my way, at least as best as I can. My habits also serve as a sense of certainty and stability for me. Most of my personal health and habits are done before the rest of my family is up for the day.

The first habit that I have engaged in over the last 20 years is daily reading. I didn’t care much for reading until after I got out of college. It’s funny — once I wasn’t “being told to read” by teachers and professors, all I wanted to do was read. I love reading and seeking new insights around spirituality, health, and business.

The second habit that has been instrumental in creating any level of success in my life is creating a vision for what I want to experience and each year setting clear, measurable targets (goals) to get me closer to that vision. Again, I created my personal mission statement 17 years ago and I reference it often. Yet each year I will focus on certain things I want to experience in my relationships, my body, my business, and my spiritual growth. Once I establish my yearly targets, I break them down into 90-day benchmarks because I want to focus on smaller chunks versus the whole year. For me this habit takes away only focusing on the big goal and shifts my focus to the work I need to do today, which will add up over time to the outcome I’m seeking.

The third habit is taking care of my health. This habit has been with me the longest. As far back as I can remember, I have been naturally drawn to exercise, nutrition, and seeing how I could get the most out of my body’s performance. Over the last 30 years there have been far fewer days than not in which I haven’t moved my body or fueled it properly. Again, not every day is a homerun. Over that span, some days are a light exercise and others are more intense. Some days are strict nutritional plans and others are just a vegetable smoothie. The habit of taking care of my body has allowed me the energy, strength, and mental confidence necessary to do the work required to achieve success in other dimensions of my life.

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

First thing, get clear on what you want. Schedule uninterrupted time and put actual thought into this. Very few people have taken this first step. Instead, they either are just sucked up into the flow of their life or they allow the outside world (social media, friends, family) to program their mind as to what they “should be/do.” In either scenario, what ends up happening is at some point they wake up and realize they aren’t happy with their life and ask, “How did I get here?” People get “there” by not thinking about what they want in their life. First step, get clear on what you want.

Second step: evaluate your life and ask, “Is this getting me closer or farther away from the person I want to become?” Simple question. Be very open and truthful with yourself and the answers you discover. You must begin to look at whatever is not working and form new habits or actions you can ADD to your life.

Third step: ask yourself, “What actions can I begin taking to get me closer to the person I want to become?” Write down the answers and identify what new information, help, or resources you will need to begin taking these actions. For example, hire a trainer, hire a nutritionist, buy some books on a topic, hire a coach or consultant, get an accountability partner, etc.

Fourth step is where the rubber meets the road — TAKE ACTION in the direction of your vision. Any action. Momentum in life is created. You can’t just gather information and expect your life to change. As you take action on your vision, you start to trust yourself more! You start seeing that YOU CAN DO THIS and this feeling will overflow into other dimensions of your life.

As far as breaking bad habits, what worked for me and what I’ve advised others to do is ADD good habits first. I know others may disagree, but I have just found that when we “take away” things we like (yet we know aren’t good for us), it often is only short-lived and then results in a rebound effect. This is most commonly seen in crash diets and “giving up” certain vices only to come back to using them with even more vigor than before.

For instance, instead of giving up sweets, add vegetables at every meal and drink 60+ ounces of water every day. What I have seen is when we add in good habits that align with our vision, in time they take over. We start to crave the feelings of being in alignment with our vision. When our habits are in alignment with who we say we want to be, it creates an emotional energy that I believe is stronger than the emotional energy created by habits that are out of alignment with the vision of who we want to become.

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.

I really believe that all three have tremendous overlap when it comes to positive habits. Whether someone wants to improve their state of health, performance, or focus, there are essential fundamental habits that can and will improve each of these dimensions.

The first habit is exercise. The human body is designed to move. When we move it, it rewards us with better neurologic and physiology function. Meaning, our brains can process ideas and stress more effectively while improving the strength and resiliency of our physical bodies. Exercise has been shown in a multitude of clinical research to strengthen our immune system, improve longevity, decrease stress-related hormones circulating throughout the body, and improve brain chemistry toward better moods and feelings of wellbeing.

The best example of this is the countless stories I’ve heard from patients over the years when they bring exercise into their life. I’ve yet to hear from a patient that began exercising that their moods were worse, their energy was worse, or their mental confidence and self belief got worse. Just the opposite! I can recall one patient in particular who went from never running more than a mile in her life to completing a half marathon (13.1 miles) over the course of 6 months. I’ll never forget how her overall demeanor changed over that time. She told me how she had more energy and that she found an outlet for her stress through running. She confided in me and spoke about how her exercise was improving her relationship with her spouse as well as her ability to deal with her co-workers and work-related projects. Her body composition changed, and her self-esteem improved. She had leveraged exercise to bring out the potential that was lying dormant inside of her mind and body. Several years have gone by since her half marathon, and she continues to exercise. When I asked her recently why she chooses to keep exercise in her life, she simply said, “Because I feel better in all aspects of my life when I move my body.”

The next habit that is essential is proper nutrition. We have to realize that what we put into our bodies determines how well it can operate. We need to fuel our bodies with food that energizes us and not takes energy away. Generally speaking, our society’s food choices are based on convenience and instant gratification. We don’t stop to really think about what we are putting into our bodies and what the short- and long-term consequences are. Our brains and our bodies have requirements for optimal and elite function. I’ve never seen any research that demonstrates we have “processed food genes” that need to be fed or “a deficiency in donuts” that need to be met.

Quite the opposite, actually. It is well-established in medical literature that many of the most prevalent diseases plaguing our culture today can be directly or indirectly linked to lifestyle choices around food. The foods they find that are the most harmful to our wellbeing, health, and cognitive function are ones that are “man-made.” Specifically, processed foods, artificial sweeteners, food preservatives, and additives. When these types of substances are put into the body, they not only stress the body’s hormone regulation systems but also speed up degenerative- and disease-causing processes by increasing inflammation at the cellular level.

However, a diet with natural foods such as fruits, vegetables, fish, meat, and healthy fats will provide the body with the necessary sustenance it needs to sustain life in a stress-filled world while also decreasing cellular inflammation. Decreasing cellular inflammation not only improves someone’s health but also improves cognitive function. Recent studies have shown a link between the over-consumption of refined sugars and wheat and impaired cognitive (brain) function. On the contrary, researchers are finding that eating more fruits, vegetables, fish, meat, and healthy omega-3-fatty acids improves body function and decreases cellular inflammation. This translates into a body that can sustain high levels of energy and also has the necessary building blocks to keep cells strong and healthy for years to come.

The third habit I would recommend is getting proper sleep. For whatever reason, sleep is often overlooked as a key ingredient to attaining optimal health and performance. Evidence of this is all around us from the prevalence of exercise equipment and wearable tracking devices to measure heart rate and steps, to national gym chains, the emergence of organic foods, and the multi-billion dollar per year supplement sales. Yet even if you eat and move well but fail to get appropriate sleep, you will set your body up for different stress-related issues that impact not only health but also mental focus.

Research from the University of Pennsylvania found that sleep durations under 7 hours per night correlated to decreases in physical and cognitive performance as well as a lack of energy production. I do believe there are people who actually may be able to fully function on 3–4 hours of sleep per night, but I contend those people are truly the outliers. Many of the greatest athletes of our recent time such as Lebron James, Steve Nash, Rafael Nadal, Usain Bolt, Venus Williams, Kevin Durant, and Russell Wilson all have been quoted as saying they count getting 8+ hours of sleep per night as part of their performance success strategy. If it works for the best athletes in the world, it surely will work for the majority of people looking to improve their health, performance, and focus.

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

I believe all habits come down to creating new daily rituals that eventually become hard-wired into our neurology and form habits. The same will hold true for anyone looking to incorporate these three health, performance, and focus tactics into their life.

When it comes to an exercise habit, I subscribe to the theme, “If it’s not scheduled, it won’t happen.” Everyone has demands on their time and their attention. So, if someone is looking to add the habit of daily exercise into their life, they must schedule it in like they do all other important events of their day and life.

Once someone has scheduled a pre-set amount of time they can devote to exercise, it now comes down to choosing the right type of exercise that aligns with their goals and self-vision (as I mentioned earlier). If exercise is new to someone, I encourage them to start small and allow the habit to evolve naturally. Begin with 20–30 minutes of continuous movement in the form of brisk walking, jogging, rowing, etc. Personally, I have found that if this is done first thing in the morning, not only will it kick-start your metabolism, but it will also improve mental function and focus.

Another benefit to morning exercise is that you get it in on your terms well before life throws you its daily curveballs, which often derail even the best mid- or later-day plans to exercise. This has happened to me countless times. Patient care extends into lunch hours, a kid gets sick and has to be brought home a lunch, carpooling for evening kid activities falls through, etc. In the early hours of the day, however, these curveballs and distractions are non-existent and increase the likelihood of being able to follow through with my workouts.

When adding the habit of proper nutrition, proper planning will lead to success. This comes by planning your meals for the week over the weekend (yet again, we see the critical role of clarifying your vision of what you want before you act). Once you know what you want your meals to look like for the week and take into account potential obstacles (e.g. work meetings over lunch, late night at the office, etc.), now you must make sure you are properly outfitted with the groceries you need to pull it off. Then prep as much of the week’s meals ahead of time. Yes, this initially will require more time and be a learning curve, but as you use this habit weekly, it gets easier. In fact, you will find it actually saves you time during the week and helps safeguard you from being unprepared and reaching for the man-made convenience food that will sabotage your health and performance goals.

Bringing better sleep into your life is again about creating a better ritual. An easy three-step ritual I personally use and advise patients on revolves around decreasing stimulation while increasing the body’s natural sleep-inducing biorhythms.

The first step is to set a time you will be in bed. Then stop all screen-time 30–60 minutes before bed. This will give your brain ample time to neurologically slow down. Most people think watching TV or surfing the web calms them down. On some level there is some truth to this as it does stimulate certain dopamine centers in the brain that gives us the feeling of relaxation. However, the flip side to this is that the speed of the images on TV and the type of light emitted from our screens will actually increase brainwave activity, making it harder for the brain to “gear down” when trying to get to sleep.

The second step is to assist the body’s relaxing state prior to going to bed. Over the years the combination of taking the supplement magnesium glycinate and using blue-light blocking glasses for 15–30 minutes prior to sleep helps calm my body down tremendously. Magnesium glycinate will have a calming effect on brain function, will assist in relaxing your muscles, will maintain normal blood sugar levels, and will assist in blood pressure regulation. I personally have found it just puts my body in an overall more relaxed state, allowing me to fall asleep faster and more deeply. Blue-light blocking glasses will block the blue light waves that are emitted from LED light and digital device screens. (This type of light has been shown to make it harder for the natural secretion of melatonin within the body, an important hormone that regulates sleep). By wearing these glasses, you are limiting the light exposure that your body was not innately designed to handle prior to bed. This in turn helps the body naturally produce melatonin and prepares you for sleep. (Full disclosure, my kids make fun of me when I wear them at night. But I got them less “dorky” looking ones to wear while on their computers. The cost of being a dad trying to raise health-conscious kids…no one said it was going to be easy).

The last step involves that actual sleep environment. Make sure your sleep environment is as dark as possible and as cool as you can tolerate. Any type of light will actually stimulate nerve endings within your eyes, even if the eyelids are closed. This then will trigger different brain centers and cause them to think it is time to wake. (Remember, our normal sleep-wake cycles revolve around the rising and setting of the sun). Keep the cell phone off or out of the room, keep televisions off while sleeping, turn off night lamps, and even cover up alarm clocks with bright lights. With respect to temperature, some research performed by The Sleep Foundation has found that 65 degrees Fahrenheit is the ideal temperature for optimal sleep. This is partially because our bodies naturally decrease in temperature in an effort to prepare for sleep. By keeping your sleep environment cooler, you will help facilitate this process.

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

The top three habits I would recommend and have seen work for the most productive and successful people are using present time concentration, preparing ahead of time, and training within the sport or vocation.

Present time focus or consciousness is all about being absolutely present with the task at hand. I personally think multi-tasking is a fallacy. All too often people state that their ability to multitask is a good thing. That person is never truly focused on the task at hand but only “partially there.” Do you really believe we can give our best efforts if our minds are in multiple places at once? I believe we can get multiple tasks or projects done simultaneously, but this comes with proper project management and support from others. Delegate to elevate. Yet when focusing on a specific aspect of a project or communication with a team member about a task, be totally present with that person and task. Once what is needed from you is fulfilled, move on to the next challenge, task, or project at hand.

“Proper preparation prevents poor performance” is a great saying I often repeat to myself as a reminder of the importance of planning. Whether it’s a sporting event or the workweek, we cannot expect to perform at a high level if we don’t go into our week prepared. What does the week ahead have in store for you? What aspects of your job or athletic endeavor require additional preparation, attention, or time from you this week? Are you going into Monday with a clear vision of what you want to accomplish or are you just winging it? The best in the world set their intention for what they want to accomplish and then are prepared to execute in the following days.

Work and sports require us to continue improving our skills in order to perform at a high level. Training and putting in the work to be the best at your craft are essential aspects of the highest achievers in the world. Are you putting in the time to improve the skills needed to dominate on the field of play, or are you just showing up for game day? Are you studying or gaining new knowledge in your professional field and increasing your value to your company, or are you just showing up and putting in the time? Each week, find ways to improve your abilities.

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

With respect to present time concentration, schedule your day in day-tight compartments. Look at your day and block out a set timeframe to be dedicated to different aspects of what is required of you. I will block several hours of the day for patient care, several hours of the day for studying test results, and several hours of the day for reviewing test results with patients. Each of those requires different energy, time units, and focus. It is too taxing to try to do all three within a set time block. I tried to do all three in years past and although I “made it work,” it was massively inefficient and I was exhausted at the end of the day. By scheduling in day-tight compartments, I can set my focus on the tasks at hand and all the mental /physical energy needed for each. Look within your world, your sport, or your job and identify the different roles and corresponding actions needed for each role. Assign time blocks to perform the one role. Hold this line and move the meetings, calls, training, and people into your new schedule. This, too, will feel awkward at first and you may get resistance from others because they are used to taking your time whenever they want. However, once the initial uncomfortableness is over, you will begin to experience a whole new level of production and efficiency.

Proper planning has to be a sacred time of the week when once again, you stop, get clear on your week ahead and what you want to achieve as well as what time commitments you have in front of you. For me personally this occurs every Sunday. I have used Sunday as my strategic planning day for many years. During this time, I recommend people look at the previous week and ask, “What worked? What didn’t work?” Make course corrections as necessary. Then look at the upcoming week and plan when you will get in your exercise, family time, and personal time. Next, look at your work obligations and your goal-related actions you want to realize in the upcoming week. Remember, if it’s not scheduled, it doesn’t exist. So schedule everything as best as you can and show up clear on what it means for you to “win the day.”

Leverage your present routines to find opportunities to increase your knowledge or skill sets. If you have a commute, listen to audiobooks. If you are getting up early in the morning, spend 30–45 minutes reading books on your industry or new skills to advance your career/wealth. In sports or work, you must block out time to train on skills or get new skills. Block out time in your day to study and work on these new skills. Maybe it’s time to work on a presentation for a new project or time to develop a new idea that could create new revenue for your business. Leverage your schedule and daily blocks of time to study, implement, or practice new skills.

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

As far as habits to improve focus, I would advise someone meditation, journaling, and a weekly scheduled “thinking time” date with yourself.

The practice of meditation, whether guided meditation by someone outside yourself or just by sitting in stillness for a period of time, allows a person to clear their mind and to actually see the inner chatter that usually takes us away from being able to focus. Most people, myself included, are on the hamster wheel of life. If we don’t intentionally stop it, no one else will do it for us. However, our minds can only handle so much until we reach its capacity. Once you have reached capacity, it is almost impossible to maintain focus. You are literally tapped out. The practice of meditating daily allows you the space to slow your mind down and observe the mental chatter and emotions that are bogging you down. You learn the importance of deep breathing and how to apply this during times of stress, as well as to access centers in your brain to enhance focus.

I feel the habit of journaling allows a person to take the chatter within our minds and emotions that tend to rule our actions and redirect them in a positive way. I advise others as well to try journaling to find the positive or the lessons in daily life. You can do this by asking yourself a series of questions around the event: “What story am I telling myself about what happened? What is the lesson I am learning about life from this situation? What is my ideal outcome or desired story? Based on these insights and the new desired story I want, what focused actions must I take today?” The daily habit of asking myself these questions takes on average 20–30 minutes but creates massive space for my mind to focus and become action-oriented.

When it comes down to improving focus, one must know what to focus on. Yet how do we get to this point if we never slow down and actually ask ourselves what we need to focus on? This is what I like to refer to as my “thinking time date with myself.” I got this initial idea from Keith Cunningham’s book The Road Less Stupid, but I’ve since modified it to improve myself across all dimensions of life. This weekly time is scheduled and the aim of this uninterrupted time is to focus my thoughts and mental energy on an area of my life I wish to improve. The focus of my “date” will depend on what I assessed from my weekly review of what’s working and what’s not working. Whether it’s business, health, marriage, kids, or spiritual goals, I want to harness my time and attention on the dimension of life I wish to improve. Again, a repeating theme: if you fail to put time into the thought of how you want your life to look, you will eventually arrive at the conclusion that you have arrived at a place you didn’t plan on or want. And that will be because you never took the time to stop, get clear, and just ask yourself simple but powerful questions.

I spent so many years thinking success was all about massive action. I can be a fast action taker. I like to refer to myself as a gun; I will often shoot before I aim. Yet, over the past 5–6 years, I have seen the immense value of putting in “thinking time.” This has been a habit I, too, had to get used to. It was very difficult for me at first, yet now it is a non-negotiable. As we strive to attain new and higher levels of success, I feel that what comes with this is the task of being more efficient and precise with our actions. Align your actions with your truest values, and then move forward with focused intent.

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

Regarding meditation, simply get up in the morning and do it before working out, getting ready for work, turning on the TV, or looking at social media, etc. Just sit still for 20 minutes. Listen to guided meditation from an app or put on some calm instrumental music. Allow yourself to sit in this stillness. The mind is a muscle and this is a way to strengthen it. Like many of the other habits we’ve discussed, this may initially prove difficult or uncomfortable, yet you will soon find great joy in this. Try this habit daily for 30 days and watch how much more calm and focused you become.

The habit of journaling is equally as easy to implement as meditating. After your meditation, have a journal handy and simply go through a series of questions to help you find solutions to challenges and new focused actions that are born out of the chatter you heard while meditating or from an emotional situation.

The “thinking time date” habit comes from simply putting 60 minutes aside for yourself on your calendar once per week. Once a week, just 60 minutes with you, a pencil, and some paper. Look at your “working, not working” insights from the week before or bring to this time a general problem you’re looking to solve in any dimension of your life. On your paper, again go back to asking yourself questions about what is happening, what you would like to happen, and which actions you can begin taking to improve this situation. You will be amazed at the ideas that are inside you.

However, if you don’t give yourself the time and space to get those ideas out, they will remain in your head forever. When we have a mind that is filled with chatter, toxic emotions, and unfulfilled dreams or visions, we cannot maintain focus. We then turn to more caffeine and more hours of working in order to try to make us focus more. In reality, the answer lies in less: less chatter, fewer emotional triggers derailing you, less sporadic, non-value based action.

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?

Clarify your values (what matters to you).

Align your work and non-work activities with these values.

Delegate actions that do not inspire you.

Live in day-tight compartments that match the different roles in your life.

Meditate and journal thoughts of gratitude daily.

Move your body and feed it well.

Tell those you love that you love them every day.

Act with truth and integrity in all you do — everything.

Go to bed each night knowing you did all the above.

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.

To inspire people to realize they are fully equipped to be happy, healthy, and fulfilled, and to know they are “more than enough.” And in this, we are all truly brothers and sisters here to help one another.

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 🙂

Anthony Robbins. Mr. Robbins has made a huge impact on me — and my psychology. From the first moment I heard him speak on personal power, I felt like he was speaking a language that I innately understood. Further, he has taken his love of transforming people and turned it into a massively successful business. He then has leveraged this and created strategic partnerships to create even more wealth. Through all of this, he has created programs that have provided millions of meals to families in need. I am truly amazed at what he has done with his life, how he leveraged himself and others, and the level of thinking he possess.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

You can follow us on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter at @stlwellness, and LinkedIn/YouTube by searching The Wellness Connection. You can also subscribe to The Wellness Connection’s podcast: https://thewellnessconnection.com/podcast/

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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