Is that really all you have to give?

    Those who can keep going when their mind tells them it is time to stop will experience success, argues Karl Morris.

    One of the most powerful ways to learn is to step out of your own habitual world and look at what others are doing successfully in completely different fields of endeavor.

    We all tend to get locked into our own way of thinking within a certain field.

    Karl MorrisHaving been fortunate to be involved in the world of Rugby League for a period of time in my coaching career it has never ceased to amaze me what the body can take in terms of physical punishment. The game of rugby league is not for the faint of heart; extremely big and athletic men running into each other at high speed will inevitably result in some horrific injuries.

    The most outstanding aspect of the game for me is the physical fitness and the ability to keep running, play after play, when every last cell in your body must be screaming with fatigue. Time and time again I have seen superhuman effort in the last ten minutes of a game when, with lungs bursting, a player makes a fifty yard dash and somehow finds a way of getting over the try line.

    The more of this I observed the more fascinated I became with the link with willpower and how some people give up, whilst others somehow find a way. Is this purely down to physical conditioning or does the mind have a big part in this and, if so, could we all overcome a tendency to give in too soon and push ourselves just that little bit further? I am not talking about being stupid here and causing physical injury, just the ability to keep going when the inner voice starts to tell you that you have done enough.

    This can apply to a day’s work in your business as much as it does on the field of play – do you stop trying to make a sale when you come up against obstacles? On this very subject the work of Timothy Noakes is fascinating, if not a little controversial. Noakes is a professor of sports and exercise science at the University of Cape Town and is well known in the athletic world for challenging some existing beliefs of what the body can and can’t do. He himself is a marathon runner of considerable repute and has developed a theory initially proposed in 1924 by Nobel winning physiologist Archibald Hill.

    Hill put forward the concept that exercise fatigue might be caused not by muscle failure but an overprotective monitor in the brain wanting to prevent exhaustion. When the body is working hard and putting demands on the heart this monitor would step in and slow things down.

    Noakes became fascinated by the idea physical exhaustion was a trick played on the body by the mind. If this was true then it meant the physical limits of the athlete were far beyond the first message sent to the body from the brain to give up. The physical ability to keep going and produce outstanding displays, as I had seen countless times on the rugby field, could be linked to our mind.

    The professor began to look at all of the available evidence around this phenomena of what happens to endurance athletes under extreme conditions and he found no evidence for physiological failure happening within the muscles. Instead, it appeared the brain was telling the muscles to stop. The brain, sensing an increased heart rate and energy supplies being challenged, is telling the body to back off. Noakes theorized the brain creates an overwhelming feeling of fatigue which has little to do with the muscles and their capacity to keep going.

    We tend to interpret these feelings of exhaustion as a true indicator that we cannot carry on. What Noakes is proposing is the mind gives up well before the body and what I had seen in rugby was the ability by certain individuals to push on past the initial first brain signal of tiredness.

    As I stated before, there is a fine line here and this is not an excuse to become reckless and abuse your body; there is no doubt you can over-train and do serious damage. If you have trained every day for a number of days and you have no energy before or after going to the gym then you need to rest. Yet I can remember many times where my mind has told me I have nothing left to give but, with a bit of encouragement from a training partner, I’ve done that last set or run that last half mile. When you do push this barrier you really get benefits.

    It is that first signal you need to challenge. The first message from the brain that says you are too tired. When you begin to challenge the ‘first impulse’ your brain sends to your body you begin to grow more of your willpower muscle and you then single yourself out as one of those rare individuals who gets things done and stands out from the crowd.

    In many ways our brain always has the best of intentions for us but can often be overly sensitive and get in the way of real progress. Not unlike extreme sensations of anxiety when faced with a speech in public where no actual physical harm can come to us, but the brain perceives it as a life or death situation.

    The next time you find yourself ‘too tired’ to do what you really need to do challenge yourself to go beyond that first feeling of fatigue.

    A lot of information is given about being successful, but perhaps none more important that the concept of building your willpower to be able to take action and implement the knowledge you have to build the best business or game that you possibly can.