Athletic Mindset

In alignment with my previous post ‘Patience is NOT a Virtue,’ athletes are accustomed to enacting action to spur improvement, progress, and hopefully consequent results. An always striving mindset is in stark contrast with the somewhat predictable oscillations of workflow and seasonality of hiring processes. As stated earlier, I would prefer for tasks to be completed yesterday with an unparalleled sense of urgency, which is in concert with an athlete mindset of continuously improving every facet of a performance to include the most minute contributing factors. A factor such as strengthening small stabilizer muscles like the peroneals would appear frivolous, yet the corresponding exercises maximize gait stability and minimize horizontal movement that wastes energy and leads to overuse injuries. The targeted strengthening exercises reduce ground contact time with a stronger push-off due to heightened maximal power output, nerve conduction, elasticity, and proprioception. An athlete is methodical and calculating in their focused approach toward improvement through a fully comprehensive plan aimed at utilizing every available alternative for achievement.

I was reading an article encapsulating an athletic mindset produced by a service tailored toward placing job seekers with collegiate athletic backgrounds into one measure of achievement, suitable, gainful employment, known as Athlete Network. Unsurprisingly, the majority of positions are either purely meritocratic or a hybrid-meritocratic compensation structure to incentivize performance and results over seniority, tenure, and maintenance of the status quo. This mindset is certainly intrinsic to allow athletes to not only survive the rigors of an increasingly competitive landscape of athletics, but thrive during competition that requires maximal resources and abilities to best vaunted, and equally proficient, opponents. Coaches are known to share a continuous improvement ideology by attempting to elicit an increased effort through direct control, recognition, encouragement, and guidance of athletes with constant application attempted at increasing an athlete’s motivation for goal attainment.

The intrinsic insatiable drive and passion of athletes does not necessitate external stimulus like intricate compensation plans to incentivize desired behaviors, as athletes already contain a desire to excel stemming from demanding competition. One study proclaims that an individual will experience increased productivity in the days following receipt of their first paycheck; however, this effect is impermanent, as after approximately 3 days the individual’s work productivity is restored to prepayment levels in support of Herzberg’s Hygiene-Motivator model. A hygiene factor, such as compensation, is shown to merely maintain a continuous productivity level, whereas if the work itself aligns with an individual’s aptitudes and attitude, they are likely to experience increased productivity through increased levels of engagement. An athlete’s identification with sustained, arduous effort is universally accepted, but must be nurtured to avoid overextending an athlete beyond their energy levels and adaptive capabilities.

The unending, tireless striving to excel within an athlete marginalizes the effect of prudent rest and recovery. Many world class athletes utilize 2 to as many as 4 weeks rest from arduous training upon the conclusion of a competitive season. This rest serves to restore either exhausted or nearly exhausted energy reserves while allowing the body to adapt through strengthening of muscles, ligaments, tendons, and bones, and forming new neurological connections among neurotransmitters and their makeup from the axon through the synapse to the dendrite and ultimately passing to the soma (cell body) through epigenetic change. Furthermore, an invaluable lesson can be derived from the lasting benefits of rest and recovery: workers in the United States must focus on allowing themselves to decompress from life’s stressors to maintain sanity, improve decision-making, and optimize productivity levels without unexpected downtime to recuperate.

Our society focuses on almost 100% work uptime to amass material goods, enter into relationships, and procreate in concert with our peer group and neighbors. This phenomenon is colloquially referred to as “Keeping up the with Joneses,” which promotes the dreaded groupthink in attaining a superficial status symbol like a job title, material good like a new car, or blissful relationship. One study highlighted the unintended consequences of unlimited vacation time in the United States, as employees almost interminately deferred usage of said vacation time for fear of potential termination, being overlooked for promotion, and an inability to expeditiously complete backlogs of work resulting from the vacation time to ensure timely deliver of a product or service. We are bound by a focus on the progress of others while neglecting our instrinsic needs resulting from our unique personalities and characteristics.

A proven athlete focuses on their personal improvement and progress while ignoring the successes waged by competitors, as our journeys will certainly involve a chasm, yet may coincide or overlap in the future. We are unable to validly predict the outcome of our journey, but must adopt a balanced approach in moderation of all life’s creations. This approach will ultimately ensure longevity from personal health care while satisfying our personal motivators and talents in a role and culture that is fulfilling and not deemed dreadful daily. Opting for daily dread, so we may “Keep up with the Joneses,” is an exercise in futility as we will ultimately become despondent and disconnected in our interpersonal relations, and/or terminate the malignant stressor of unfulfilling work in an endless search for fulfillment if we choose to employ similar strategies that resulted in the initial lacking choice.

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