What is the use of stamina which we don't need?
It is never about how long we focus.
It is about how much mental resources we have, how well managed they are, and yes, the convenient side effect is that we can prevail in mental endeavors where others will fail.
But that is not all, if we have the skill to manage our mental resources better, we will now have the freedom to choose between a life of just an achiever, or an overachiever.
As this skill of psychological resilience, against both Burnout Loop and Catastrophizing Loop described in Focus Skill Foundation is the chasm between achievers and overachievers.
And as you might have guessed, this mental resource we are referring to is indeed, our conscious will, what people describe as willpower, but in essence both are referring to our limited executive control capacity originating from the prefrontal cortex region of our brain.
Conscious will is nearly always limiting us.
That is to say, our capacity to ignore distractions, to delay gratification, to control stress and to resist temptations, is thin.
All these actions of self-control expend our conscious will. And once exhausted, we can no longer do the right thing, or stop ourselves from self-sabotaging.
So how can we break this limitation, to have an unlimited source of power?
All resources can be depleted, all assets squandered, and we can bankrupt ourselves in a matter of less than an hour, if we fail to extricate ourselves from any of the vicious loops discussed in Focus Skill Foundation.
We can however, expand this limited willpower by first recognizing that it is limited. Then it becomes a matter of cutting back waste and boosting replenishment.
Lowest hanging fruit: cutting waste
Avoid slipping into or being trapped in a vicious loop, as this will deplete our conscious will extremely fast. And once our conscious will is totally depleted, secondary complications from another vicious loop would likely set in, making it even harder for us to recover.
The cheapest way to detect that we are slipping into a vicious loop is to use FOCI’s prompts such as Stress Alert, Fatigue Alert, which helps us detect whether we are likely in a Catastrophizing Loop or Burnout Loop. When we receive these alerts, take a short break to stop slipping further into the vicious loop.
Word of caution: the most tempting mistake when taking a break is to start on a path of digital distraction, reading and replying to messages, checking out social media. When willpower is low, this would likely set off both Mindlessness Loop and Self-sabotaging Loop.
Mid hanging fruit: willpower replenishment footwork
We can speed up this recharge in minutes with a quick two-step process of gratitude self-talk to trick our body to produce anti-stress and relaxation chemicals (oxytocin) and then do a Deep Relaxation Biofeedback exercise to replenish our willpower reserve.
Deep Relaxation Biofeedback is a variant of Focus Biofeedback that focuses more on calming both our brain and nervous system to speed up conscious will recovery.
With gratitude self-talk and Deep Relaxation Biofeedback working in combo, you can get a visible boost in less than 3 minutes.
High hanging fruit: strategizing replenishment schedule
Strategy is about stretching limited resources to fit our needs.
Willpower is to a large extent regulated by our physiology, commonly called the mind-body connection. This is very intuitive, we have all experienced how lack of a good night’s sleep would negatively impact the next day in everything we do, how aging takes its toll on us all, and how lack of exercise slowly drains our vitality.
Our general physiology follows a very clear pattern, we feel more “energetic” at different times of the day. We commonly call this morning / evening person, however it is more complicated than simply our circadian rhythm. The type of work, activities, such as exercise, eating habits, and caffeine intake all interact to affect our willpower reserve.
Learn the pattern from our daily emotion records, so we can exploit it, to adapt our work and schedule to our natural physiology. We can schedule challenging tasks when we reach peak focus or energy level. We can schedule lighter tasks for when we tend to be in a lesser state.
Also we can learn how different activities impact our willpower, what coincides with fatigue or stress streaks, what triggers distraction streaks.
With this knowledge, we can even start to anticipate an energy dip, and exercise willpower replenishment footwork even before the dip sets in.
Strategically control your pace of work and willpower replenishment schedule, such that, to others, you seem to have unlimited energy, and you don’t seem to tire.
You know what is really happening beneath the hood - strategic management of your willpower.
So start from the lowest and mid hanging fruit, get the hang of it first, then gradually learn your physiological pattern to strategize.
It is not easy, and that is why we do it.
Practice the following “If-Then” and build this Level 3 Focus Skill into your knee-jerk in 66 days, the natural habit formation lifecycle.
A:you feel that you are tired or tense, or
B:you receive a fatigue or stress streak, or its haptic alert, or
C:you anticipate an energy dip soon
Step 1: do a gratitude self-talk immediately for 1 minute.
Step 2:do a Deep Relaxation Biofeedback, and wipe out all the droplets on screen.
The feeling of fatigue and tense is the direct opposite of feeling energetic and emotionally stable while working, like working after a well-rested weekend, you feel refreshed and can focus more easily.
This typically happens when you have overstrained yourself, or endured considerable stress, like working late nights to prepare for an exam, or to meet an urgent deadline.
This feeling of fatigue and stress means that you might feel exhausted, unmotivated, struggle to find a sense of purpose, or even feel irritable. You might start finding many things or people distracting and could even start a conflict.
What essentially happens is that your willpower has been depleted by fatigue and stress, and you are unable to tune out external distractions, or put your emotions and cravings under control, and as a result you would also be likely to slip into Self-Sabotaging Loop and Mindlessness Loop.
In contrast, when you are not fatigued or stressed, you would have sufficient willpower to tune out external distractions, to consciously motivate yourself, to put your emotions in check so you do not get overwhelmed by your own stress, and instead use it as a power source to drive your progress.
In FOCI, you can tell you are in a fatigued or stressed state, when you start to form fatigue streaks or stress streaks. You can set up haptic alerts for fatigue and stress, and see when they form in the streak records.
Figure 1. You can tell that you are tired or tense, when you receive a fatigue or stress streak, or its haptic alert
Alternatively, you might be able to anticipate that you are about to have an energy dip, even before it hits you. Most people’s willpower levels follow a clear pattern and are predictable.
At the prompt of the cue keywords below, recall the relevant memories and the associated desire and emotion. The purpose of this self-talk is to construct cues to help you remember and elicit the memories, desires and emotions to coax our body to release destress chemicals.
I am thankful for what I have got Cue 1.
I am thankful for people who matter Cue 2 in my life.
I am thankful for challenges which are helping me grow Cue 3.
I am thankful to myself for choosing Cue 4 to take on these challenges.
Remind yourself of
1) something you have achieved that makes you feel proud.
2) something you have received or happened that gives you a sense of security or makes you feel privileged.
Remind yourself of family, friends, companions or someone who helped you in some ways, that you really appreciate.
Remind yourself of the growth associated with challenges. As we don't grow in comfort zones, there would be ways you would improve with new challenges, such as mastering new skills, getting better at things, acquiring new understanding or upgrading emotion resilience, or gaining the rare experience of dealing with adversity. These challenges are like vaccines to inoculate against stress for later on, making you all the wiser. So what are the potentials for growth with the challenge at hand?
Remind yourself, that it is you who choose to embark and endure the challenges. It is you who want to do well and to deliver. You have full autonomy of what you want to do and achieve in your life. All stress and fatigue is just part and parcel of your choice. But sometimes, it is hard, and that makes you want to get even more, right?
The notion of “safety in numbers”, “love” and “self-sacrifice for the good of others” brings a sense of security and safety. This feel-good factor is effective in bringing down stress so we are able to do things that fear usually withholds from us. As we are evolved as communities and societies to survive and thrive, we have inherited inbuilt mechanisms of social coordination. These hard-wired notions and feelings are usually not easily replicable to reduce stress, however, gratitude self-talk is the rare opportunity we can use to modulate tension inside us.
And the gratitude self-talk is composed with both growth mindset and sense of autonomy, which makes it even more powerful than traditional self-talks, as it reduces dopamine deprivation from frustration or defeat, by framing one’s attention to growth opportunities and at the same time gives you serotonin replenishment from the sense of autonomy.Then Step 2: do a Deep Relaxation Biofeedback, and wipe out all the droplets on screen.
Deep Relaxation Biofeedback helps you quickly reboot, modulate stress and fatigue and build up your willpower. It is the advanced technique that requires an intuitive grasp of Focus Biofeedback, as it extends on Focus Biofeedback.
Let Deep Relaxation value guide you,
Repeat these 2 steps with Calm Breathing Technique.
And during this breathing, if your mind wanders, as you notice, shift back your attention to “Step1: relax your body as you breathe in” and “Step 2: feel the bodily sensation as you breathe out”.
Similar to Focus Biofeedback, with the audio, as you go into deeper relaxation, the sound of the rain would get lighter and softer. With the visual, you can try to control the liquid and fill up the bulb.
Figure 3. Deep Relaxation Biofeedback Training helps us learn to consciously reboot. Find the control of the liquid and fill up the bulb.
“Droplets on screen” is an approximation of the minimum amount of Deep Relaxation Biofeedback needed to reboot. The droplets would start to disappear when Deep Relaxation is above 80%.
Figure 4. Sustain Deep Relaxation of more than 80% for the droplets to disappear to reboot from fatigue and stress with this Biofeedback Training.
Sometimes a night long sleep doesn't give us the recuperation that we need. And there are restful nights that make us feel so refreshed when we wake up.
Rest alone doesn't give us the recharge we need.
What we can glean is that these restful nights are usually not plagued by dreams, especially not nightmares which leave us with undue tension even when we wake up.
So what we really need is a state of mind akin to not having dreams and nightmares.
1) Quieten the mind
The “notice and shift” footwork to bring attention back is the basic mindfulness training to rewire our brain to boost up willpower. This rewiring comes with morphological changes to our brain similar to what weight training does to our muscles.
Don't try to push the thought out of your mind. Just watch it pop in and let it roll right out again.
2) Recreate physiological relaxation
Calm Breathing Technique, sets up a specific inhalation exhalation ratio, that especially when coupled with the calm breathing beats, is known to calm our nervous system.
You would find Deep Relaxation Biofeedback much harder than Focus Biofeedback, and in fact it is. But that holds the key to having nearly unlimited willpower.
A:you feel that you are tired or tense, or
B:you receive a fatigue or stress streak, or its haptic alert or
C:you anticipate an energy dip soon
Step 1:do a gratitude self-talk immediately for 1 minute
Step 2:do a Deep Relaxation Biofeedback, and wipe out all the droplets on screen
Build this Level 3 Focus Skill into your knee-jerk in 66 days.
Tick off a checkbox for each day you practice “If-Then”.
Identify the 5 main types of vicious loops that could be affecting you all the time.
Understand the perennial chaos happening inside your brain and bring it under control in minutes with biofeedback.
Learn to tune your emotion states with breathing pacing technology to get into psychological “flow”.