How Bad Do You Want it? Mastering the Psychology of Mind Over Muscle by Matt Fitzgerald is a book about endurance athletes that has forever changed the way I do business. It taught me more about entrepreneurship in 265 pages than I’d learned after tens of thousands of dollars worth of training and seven years of experience. It’s that relevant to what we do, and I highly recommend you go get a copy right now.
I share quotes from How Bad Do You Want It? throughout Your Best Year 2018, and where you see the word [entrepreneur] inside brackets, I’ve simply replaced “athlete” with “entrepreneur;” that’s how strong the same statements apply. For example, “The more discomfort an [entrepreneur] expects, the more she can tolerate, and the more she can tolerate, the better she can perform.”
Business is a game involving stress, resistance, uncertainty, and discomfort. Success is as much about coping with these unsettling factors as it is about achieving goals. Fitzgerald teaches two very important lessons for our purposes: coping techniques and perception of effort.
Effective coping techniques cultivate mental fitness. You need a survivor’s mindset to battle the resistance, uncertainty, and discomfort you face in business. Those uncomfortable emotions are well-known hazards; the reason 90% of entrepreneurs won’t survive.
Coping techniques are a set of behaviors, emotions, and thought patterns that are prepared ahead to help you respond to the challenges you are guaranteed to face on your path to greatness.
Coping techniques can be effective or ineffective, and we’ll be studying the effective ones here. Some examples of ineffective coping methods are: hoping things won’t be hard (and bailing because nothing’s easy), procrastination and avoidance (to escape reality and the work at hand), productivity tension (the restlessness created when you’re not doing what you know needs done), and underperforming (with the pretense that you’re giving it your all).
Perception of Effort
Perception of effort is how hard you feel like you’re working. When someone says, “I can’t do this for one more day,” it’s not literal. The individual is sharing their sense of how hard they feel like they’re working under difficult circumstances.
There’s probably been a time in your life when you’ve experienced this in athletics. You run so hard that your perception of effort feels maxed out. When you stop running (and cease applying the effort you perceived as very hard), you feel immediate relief. It’s not like you “can’t go on.” In fact, afterwards you go right back to your day.
“Perception of effort is the feeling of activity in the brain that stimulates work; it is not the feeling of work itself.”—Matt Fitzgerald
Nothing can convince your mind that it’s only a feeling during the exertion, though. When you perceive yourself as gassed out, Fitzgerald says, “resistance exists nowhere in particular yet also everywhere.” It feels impossible to go on.
Perception of effort effects how you perform at challenges (and whether or not you think you can overcome them). It contributes to fear and stress (the harder you feel like you’re working, the more stressed or panicked you’ll be). It increases self-doubt, second-guessing, errors, and mistakes (when the going gets tough).
Perception of effort is the primary source of discomfort.
It’s also the same force that compels you to dig deep and make that final push toward the finish line.
And what I love about perception of effort is that it can be hacked. In fitness, the more you work out, the easier the workout becomes. Why? Because the fitter you get, the easier the workout feels. The effort remains the same (same routine, same exertion, same time) while your perception of effort greatly decreases. The easier it feels, the more you can tolerate, the better you perform.
Now, here’s how all of this applies to business. We cannot change the fact that there will be resistance, uncertainty, and discomfort going forward. We can, however, employ effective coping methods that will favorably change perception of effort toward these matters.
Stick with me this month, and we’ll explore the various coping techniques that will help you, not only survive, but thrive in business. Until next time,