Mental health and emotional well-being were consistent themes throughout Lockton’s 2023 Global Benefits Forum hosted in San Diego. We kicked off Day 1 with a terrific keynote speaker, Eric Potterat, Ph.D., who addressed us on “Learned Excellence: The Key Performance Optimization Factors of High Performing Individuals and Teams”. The key traits he presented (Grit, Mindset, Adversity Tolerance and Balance / Recovery) will help me.
Eric knows a thing or 2 about high performance having spent his career helping elite organizations—from the Navy SEALS to the World Series Champion Los Angeles Dodgers—develop the personal traits that drive elite performance.
Eric has also worked with hundreds of business executives, NASA, firefighting organizations, and world-class athletes from every sport, including gold medalist Nathan Chen and the U.S. Women’s Soccer team.
He began by asking us, “What is mental toughness?” It seems like a simple question—until we try to define it. He explained that even though we all know mental toughness when we see it (pictures of super achievers and heroes like Sully Sullenberger flashed on the screen), we can’t always explain what it is. Pressed to define it, most of us will describe mental toughness as poise under pressure, stress tolerance, or the ability to limit distractions and stay confident and composed. The reality is those are all end states. And with life now in a state of uncertainty, the question now becomes, how do we reach those end states and stay there?
The key traits shared by all high performers are Grit, Mindset, Adversity Tolerance, and Balance / Recovery For each trait, he explained the science and insights that make them such important differentiators and then synthesized the core of each trait with clear takeaways.
How to increase your Grit? “The foundation of becoming grittier is working outside of your comfort bubble.” In other words, get comfortable being uncomfortable. When we identify true motivators, and determine our passions / purpose, we are orders of magnitude closer to meeting our goals. Key attributes include the ability to delay gratification as well as see setbacks as opportunities.
What does having a growth Mindset really look like? “The hallmark of elite performers is a thirst for useful feedback.” Carl Dweck defined for the world a Growth vs. Fixed Mindset. Folks with Growth Mindsets see challenges vs. threats and obstacles / setbacks as a chance to learn, stretch and grow.
In speaking about Adversity Tolerance, Eric highlighted the fact that the most foundational aspect of these elite performers — their ability to stay cool and focused in high-stress moments — is not hereditary; it’s learned. The best-of-the-best performers focus on their mindset during high-stress moments because it’s dead-center within their sphere of control. “The rest is outside of your control. So, try to stay in that circle. The elite performers are focusing where they can affect change” Attitude, effort and action are the only 3 things humans can control 100% of the time.
And why is it important to make sure your relationships, your health, and the other pillars of your life are strong and in Balance? “The beach house with the most pillars is going to withstand the storm.” There are different mindsets for different roles. Imagine bringing the tenacity of a competitive athlete when interacting with our family, friends and communities. “The healthiest and best performers are able to separate WHO they are from WHAT THEY DO.”
There is promising work and research being done regarding resilience accelerators including drinking tart cherry juice to promote deeper sleep and brain neuroplasticity, float / sensory deprivation tanks, metadata and physiology / surveillance apps and “forest bathing” i.e., go for a walk in nature.
Eric’s work is proprietary and he’s finishing an upcoming book covering the core aspects of elite performance and it is expected in early 2024. I can't wait to read it.
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Mike Smith - trying to put my history degree to good use through research and writing . Mom would be proud but she still wanted me to study business.