In the ICYMI series, we share the research of thought leaders who have presented as part of the #OneBigIdea series at a recent Atlanta CEO Council event.
Part 1: Intro to the Science of Peak Performance
14 years ago, Dr. David Bach was in crisis. His company was floundering, he was fifteen pounds overweight, and above all, he was miserable. He knew something needed to change.
As a Harvard-trained doctor and scientist, and the child of two well-renowned scientists (his father invented the bone marrow transplant and his mother was a famous biochemist), Dr. Bach’s natural inclination was to do as he was trained: take a problem and rigorously apply the scientific method to study it.
Dr. Bach began experimenting on himself, looking for patterns in his physiology that could explain why his life was intolerable. He started collecting all kinds of data, from daily blood samples to posture and breathing analyses. Some of his experiments edged towards the extreme: he spent three weeks taking ice baths every night, and spent a week in a biochamber. As expected, some of these experiments were wildly successful – and some less so. But throughout this fourteen year journey, by applying rigorous science to the study of human peak performance, Dr. Bach has accomplished truly incredibly results for himself and his clients. According to his physiological age, he is four years younger today than he was ten years ago. He’s happier, too.
We all know change is difficult, sometimes nearly impossible. Gyms bank on this reality by signing up hundreds of clients each January whose tennis shoes are gathering dust by March. But change is only this challenging when the habit we try to adopt brings our conscious minds and unconscious minds into conflict.
Neuroscientists have discovered that the unconscious mind (the part that controls your breathing, heartbeat, etc.) is 40,000 times more powerful than your conscious mind (the part that decides what to have for breakfast).
Imagine your conscious mind has decided no more sweets – ever. Your unconscious mind, on the other hand, is habituated to seeing a cookie and eating it, no matter what your new year’s resolution has to say about it. The unconscious mind (remember: 40,000 times stronger than your conscious mind), will win out again and again. You’ll eat the cookie. And maybe not just one. This simple examples illustrates a simple but inescapable truth: making a change based on willpower alone will result in failure every time.
So what’s Dr. Bach’s secret? Learning to rewire the unconscious mind through dedicated daily practices that interrupt our neural pathways and replace them with new ones. This process has been transformative for top athletes and executives alike. It was successfully treated OCD and PTSD, among other disorders. You can start small: simply deepening your breath, lifting your spine, and rolling your shoulders back will instantly increase oxygenation levels and cognitive function.
In Part 2 of this series, we’ll discuss a specific tool one executive used to exponentially increase both the productivity and fulfillment of his work. Stay tuned.
To learn more about Dr. David Bach or the Platypus Institute, click here.