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April Article Highlights

Tuesday, April 29th, 2014

I truly believe that readers are leaders and I do my best to keep up with the latest news, studies and blogs. My interests range from positive psychology, health research, business tips to general self-help advice.

I come across so many informative and interesting posts on social media and in my RSS reader. I share them on my own Twitter and Facebook pages and have also collected some of the best posts and given you short summaries of the articles in a monthly highlights post.

Research Finds Regular Exercise Helps Balance Work And Home Life

ExerciseNot only is exercise great for your physical and emotional health, but recent research shows how it can be healthy for your work and home life balance as well. Many would think that taking time to exercise would take up too much free time, and even take away from home life, but these results indicate otherwise.

This study was conducted by Russell Clayton of the University of Florida, who asked 476 working adults to fill out a survey. The survey asked questions about work and home obligations, and how they were balanced. “Individuals who exercised regularly were more confident they could handle the interaction of their work and home life and were less likely to be stressed at work,” said Clayton. Clayton believes that the correlation may stem from the approach that people who spend time working out on a regular basis have to their obligations.

It’s important to take the time out of your day to engage in physical exercise, even if you only have 15 minutes. If you’re struggling with balancing your home and work life, take a short amount of time to go for a run, or head to the gym. When you take care of yourself, you have more confidence in your ability to handle other things in your life.

Breathing In Vs. Spacing Out

Your ability to recognize what your mind is engaging with, and control that, is really a core strength.” Peter Malinowski

Dan Hurley of the New York Times wrote this insightful article around the concept and practices of meditation. The concept of meditation started two and a half millenniums ago with Prince Siddhartha Gautama, who meditated beneath a tree for forty-nine days, and from that he became the Buddha.  Today this practice is utilized by many different people, and in many different professions, including the USA Marines.

Amishi Jha, director of the University of Miami’s Contemplative Neuroscience, Mindfulness Research and Practice Initiative, travelled to Hawaii to train USA Marines in meditation practice. They found that with as little as 12 minutes of mediation practice a day it helped the Marines keep their attention and working memory. In fact studies have shown that 11 hours a week of mindfulness actually enhanced the integrity and efficiency of the brain’s white matter.

Despite all the wonderful benefits of mindfulness, there is a drawback.  It’s important to know that there are times mindfulness can actually hinder, not improve your mental ability; especially when you want to form new habits. In a study presented at the Society for Neurosciences, they found that the higher adults scored on measurement of mindfulness, the worse they performed on implicit learning. So, the challenge with mindfulness is to know when to utilize this powerful practice, and when to put it aside.

Tired of Spinning Your Wheels? Ten Questions That Will Change Your Life Forever

Susan Biali

Dr. Susan Biali

We all have dreams, some big and some small, and it’s what we do with those dreams that matter. Often times our dreams just stay dreams, and are never fulfilled. Dr. Susan Biali gives a comprehensive list of questions that if you answer honestly, can lead you to your best life imaginable, and help you fulfill your dreams.

All these questions are wonderful, and very insightful, but there are a few that stood out to me. The first is about relationships. Quite often we find ourselves in relationships that are not life giving, but are life draining. In order to live the life we dream of we need to spend time with people who add to our lives and not take from them.

The second question that I find important is about our self-image, and concept. Sometimes we can be the only thing holding ourselves back from our dreams, and goals. What we believe about ourselves dictates where we will go in life and who we will be. Take time to think deeply about who you are now, and who you want to be.

Dr. Biali writes, “I believe that God places our most heartfelt desires inside us because they are signposts to the life that we may be meant to live.” So, remember that those dreams and goals you have within you aren’t always meant to just stay dreams. Pursue them, believe in them, and make them a reality.

Positive Effects of “Placebo Sleep”

placebo sleepLack of sleep seems to be an epidemic nowadays, as everyone is loaded up on caffeine just to get through the day. In a recent study published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology, researchers tested the effects of what they call “placebo sleep”.

In this study, subjects were first required to report how well they slept the night before, on a scale of 1-10. They were then told a series of lies about REM sleep, and were given a phony test to measure how much REM sleep they had gotten the night before. Some subjects were told they got less than average, while others were told they got more than average. The results were surprising, as those who were told they got a better sleep, scored higher on learning tests, while those who were told they got less than average sleep scored much lower.

The implications of this study show how important mindset is. While you should do your best to be well rested, don’t give up on a day because you didn’t get enough sleep the night before.

Is Your Brain Chemically Dependent On Stress?

We all live with the understanding that stress is bad for our health and needs to be limited. However, many of us thrive off of stress and can’t seem to avoid stressful situations. Lisa Evans gives a great review of Heidi Hanna’s consensus on stress, and how we may be addicted to it.


Heidi Hanna, the author of Stressaholic: 5 Steps to Transform Your Relationship with Stress, believes that too many demands in our lives have caused the neurochemical dependant on stress. In fact, she feels that stress has become a drug. The problem with stress being a drug is that we have no way of removing it from our lives.

Hanna believes that we need stress for stimulation and growth, but over long periods of time stress has serious health implications. In order to avoid these health implications caused by stress, and to utilize its benefits, Hannah feels we need to incorporate frequent breaks. These breaks can consist of short sessions of mindfulness, physical activity, and social connections. We also need to maintain resilience by getting regular sleep, eating a healthy diet, and maintaining our overall health.

 

How To Stick With Good Habits While Your Willpower Is Gone

Author James Clear, of Psychology Today, gives a new perspective on how your environment can strongly impact your choices. In fact, contrary to popular belief, he believes that the number one driver of better habits is not willpower, but your environment.

Clear’s beliefs are strongly based on studies that have been conducted on this matter. For example, Anne Thorndike, a physician at Massachusetts General Hospital, carried out a study on willpower vs. environment.  They projected that by changing the environment in a cafeteria, they could alter the eating habits of those who ate there. They added water bottles throughout the cafeteria, and made other healthy food options available. The results were profound, soda sales dropped, while water sales increased, and overall eating habits were healthier.

Clear also explains that motivation is a “finite resource”, and once it’s gone you’re more likely to make decisions based on your environment. So, if you’re looking to change your eating habits, try to use “choice architecture” to increase your chances of grabbing healthy food. Clear suggests putting healthier food at eye level, and making it much more accessible.

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April Medical Article Highlights

Tuesday, April 29th, 2014

As health-care professionals, we know the importance of continuing education. In addition to keeping up with my Ophthalmology journals I’m also interested in improving patient care, streamlining efficiency and the latest breakthroughs.

I come across so many informative and interesting posts on social media and in my RSS reader. I share them on Twitter and Facebook and have collected some of the best posts from the last month and given you short summaries of the articles.

5 Ways To Engage Your Patient

Patient EnagementEngagement is a process which will require a change of the culture of health care, morphing the adversarial provider-patient relationship into a shared decision-making one.” Dr. David Lee Scher

Dr. David Lee Scher gives great discernment on this very common buzz word  patient engagement.” He provides a thorough list of ways you can engage patients, even those who are skeptical or apprehensive.  He believes that patient empowerment must precede patient engagement. The use of smartphones and health apps have been very beneficial in his opinion and he utilizes those apps in his practice.

One of  Dr. Scher’s key points include, “Discussing your philosophy as a physician.” He feels this is important to help get rid of any mistrust or wrong perceptions the patient may have of you. He then likes to emphasize the partnership he has with the patient when it comes to decision making and patient participation.

I believe this is probably one of the most important steps when it comes to patient engagement. If you establish a solid base of trust the rest can go a lot more smoothly.

Remember Why You Got Into Medicine In The First Place

Dr. Starla Fitch draws attention to a very important question for us working in the medical profession. Often times there are days that are tougher than others and it helps to remind ourselves why we decided to pursue a career in the medical field in the first place.

Dr. Fitch begins her story with one of her first jobs after graduating with a degree in sociology. She was required to administer hour long assessment surveys to the elderly population in her state. A disturbing trend that she noticed was how many people were on medication, but had no clue as to why! The doctors apparently had no time to explain. She wanted to do something about this and thus entered medical school.

Often times those working in the medical field had a passion or calling to do so. It can be a difficult but rewarding journey and its important to take time to remember why we decided to get into it in the first place.

Physician Leadership Gets Easy

Efficient Medical OfficeAs a physician, I have come to understand the importance of my leadership style and its direct effect on my team’s performance.  Many doctors coming out of residency get caught up in a, “top down, command and control” leadership style, which is actually harmful to a practice. Dr. Dike Drummond examines this notion of physician leadership, and gives us a clear look at the “Do’s” and the “Don’ts” of leading a practice.

The principles of leadership discussed by Dr. Drummond, can apply to almost any leadership position.  In my practice I have had to examine and modify my leadership style so that my team can be motivated and therefore operate more efficiently.  Dr. Durmmond talks about the importance of setting a vision and giving your team an outcome they can attain.

He also mentions the importance of asking questions that start with, “What” or “How”, which prevents a “Yes” or “No” response.  By involving a team in the process, they become engaged and motivated.

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Meditation on the Move

Monday, April 21st, 2014

I think we all essentially know the basics of a healthy lifestyle. Eat well, get enough sleep, exercise regularly and try to reduce your stress. It sounds so simple but it’s a never ending balancing act. While I have found meditation helpful in reducing my stress and grounding me each day, it was not easy to get into the practice.

In the video and post below I’ve shared a technique for an active meditation exercise you can do in just a few minutes. In addition to helping you clear your head it gets you out into the great outdoors and gives you a great sense of inner calm for the rest of the day.

Active Meditation Blog

I couldn’t have thought up more crap if I tried! One of the first times I tried to meditate in the late afternoon I was thinking about whether I had a can of diced tomatoes in the pantry to throw into the pasta I was making for dinner that night, the email I forgot to reply to and how I should organize the Rubbermaid bin of winter clothes all at the same time.

So much for peace and tranquility. Then I thought…maybe I am doing this at the wrong time of the day, so I tried the morning. I would walk across the room to turn of the iPhone alarm and get back into bed to run through my meditation. The only problem is I just kept falling back to sleep and making myself late. My meditation became worse than hitting the snooze alarm five times every morning.

active-meditation What I thought would be a great addition to the daily routine became another source of stress. I either could not turn my brain off or I could not stay awake. I swung from one extreme to the next until I found out what was right for me. The two methods that I find most useful are visualization meditation and active meditation. This blog will guide you through a technique for active meditation I find really awesome.

Meditation is so simple yet so challenging at the same time. I’ve heard from many people that meditation doesn’t work for them. They can’t focus their attention for more than a second or they fall asleep while repeating Om. I get it, as I described above I have the same challenges. While meditation becomes easier and more effective with practice, trying an active form of meditation can help to groove the practice into your life more quickly and successfully.

You’ve probably heard something about meditation being good for you but may be unsure of how or why to start. In our busy and over-stimulated world it’s important to give your mind a break and actively focusing your mind is better than simply relaxing.

While it’s dismissed by some it has real health benefits for everyone. Neuroscience research has shown that it helps you learn to focus, decreases anxiety and reduces stress. It can even help reduce age-related declines and studies have shown that it can physically change your brain.

Active mediation combines movement with focused attention. There are many different forms but the one that I find really useful is a Navajo prayer. I first heard this from an interview with Martha Beck. She is the amazing life coach that writes an incredibly funny and insightful column in the O magazine every month.

The process is simple. Go out walking and look for beauty in your surroundings. Say to yourself the following as you walk and actually look for the beauty in each location.

Navajo Prayer Meditation Chant- Beauty All Around You

Beauty before me ( and really find some)
Beauty behind me ( and really find some)
Beauty above me ( and really find some)
Beauty below me ( this might be more difficult unless you have some really great walking shoes)
Beauty to my left
Beauty to my right
Beauty within me…you get the drill and repeat.

It is amazing how there is beauty everywhere if you think about it and look for it. When we open our eyes and look around we can find beauty often in the everyday simple things. It might be a blade of grass defiantly poking through a concrete lot, a bird freely flying above or an eye-catching sign. This act of focusing on the beauty quiets the mind and puts the brain in the meditative state. A relaxed state that results from this can give you unexpected ideas or solutions during the walk and during the rest of the day.

I found this video with a similar chant and you could listen to this on repeat as you walk along. Although I find doing your own thing can sometimes be better than trying to keep up with the audio.

Another benefit of this practice is just getting outside in the fresh air and getting up from your desk. Don’t try to plan or solve anything during these walks, just focus on being in the moment. Commit to a five minute meditative walk once a day and build up your focusing power to spend up to 15-20 minutes in this active meditation.

Do you meditate? Why or why not?

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6 Ways to Make Someone Like and Trust You in 60 Seconds or Less

Tuesday, April 15th, 2014



I shared six tips on getting people to like and trust you in under 60 seconds a few years ago and it’s been one of the most popular blog posts on my site. I’ve recently made a video expanding on the six key principles to connecting and establishing trust quickly with six simple steps.

Watch the video below or read the blog to learn “How to Make Someone Like and Trust You in 60 Seconds or Less.”

Written Version of 6 Ways to Make Someone Like and Trust You in 60 Seconds or Less

A doctor establishing trust with her patient Establishing trust is a key part of getting relationships off to a great start. Whether you’re interviewing for a new job, meeting a client for the first time or networking it’s important to make a great first impression and really connect.

I’ve researched and practiced ways to connect with people over the years. These tips were especially important when I was returning from maternity leave and met patients for the first time just before I started performing delicate microsurgery on their eyes.

I had to think of a way to connect with these people in the short 1-2 minutes I have to converse with them before we bring them in to do the surgery. “Hi I’m Dr. Anderson and I will be cutting into your eye” probably wouldn’t do it.  How do the best communicators and connectors do it? If we observe people with a real talent for connecting with others we will see that they do similar things in a similar order in the first 60 seconds of meeting another individual. The most successful people are masters at connecting.

A recent study done at Stanford University found that the number one factor in determining the success of students graduating from their MBA program was social connection- an ability to make others trust, respect and like them quickly. I find it so interesting that this ability trumps skill or intellectual prowess.
 

6 Ways to Establish a Connection in 60 Seconds or Less

1)      Eye contact. This is critical to building trust with the individual you are interacting with. A great exercise is to determine what colour the eyes are of anybody that you just meet. In trying to figure this out you cannot help but make the necessary eye contact that will deepen the connection. As an eye surgeon, you would think this comes naturally but I still find this tip really helpful in new encounters.

Likable business man connecting with clients2)      Attitude is everything. Always approach someone with a positive attitude and smile. The best way to trigger a natural smile is to say the word “great” a couple of times under your breath.

3)      Approach with confidence. Head held high, great posture and a firm handshake. This shows authority and helps people to trust you.

4)      Lead with your heart. Physically and figuratively. Have an open stance so your heart is pointing at the individual. Also speak from the heart and be authentic in everything you say and do.

5)      Lean in to listen to someone and nod attentively. Always make people feel that what they have to offer is important to you.

6)      Mirror body language. This often makes the other person feel more comfortable. For instance if someone puts their hand on their chin, do the same.

By consciously thinking about my approach and being deliberate yet natural and authentic I was able to make a connection with all of my patients so that they could come into surgery feeling comfortable with my ability as a surgeon and comfortable with the surgery. Building trust quickly is very valuable in medicine and business as well as in life.

If you enjoyed these insights please share it with your friends. I’d would love to hear your thoughts and comments below.

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5 Life Lessons Learned from Canadian Olympians

Tuesday, February 25th, 2014

I loved watching the Olympics over the last two weeks. I was so proud of our Canadian athletes regardless of whether they received a medal or not. I know how much work goes into preparing for the Olympics and just qualifying for them is an achievement.

As I reading more about the Olympians and their stories, I realized that there are so many life lessons we can learn the athletes. Here are some of the life lessons I was reminded of during the 2014 Olympics.

Life Lessons Learned from Canadian Olympians

Surround Yourself with the Best

Chloe Dufour-Lapointe. Photo by John Biehler

Chloe Dufour-Lapointe. Photo by John Biehler

Canada won the Silver and Gold medals in three skiing events as well as a Gold and Bronze medal in Women’s Slopestyle. Two of the medallists were sisters Justine and Chloe Dufour-Lapointe who also competed with their older sister who came in 12th. 19-year-old Justine is the youngest sister and became the youngest freestyle skiing Olympic champion ever.

Speaking of growing up with two older sisters in the sport, Justine said, “I’m in the easiest seat, I saw them make their mistakes or do something really well so I just need to watch them to learn from that.”

By being able to train with the best in their sports, the athletes were able to collectively push each other. In your life, be sure to surround yourself with role-models and like-minded peers. It’s said that you become like the people you are around the most, so you must make a conscious effort to expand your social circle.

Never Under-Estimate Others

The Canadian women’s curling team won Gold and set a record by remaining undefeated throughout the tournament. But even after beating three of strongest teams, Jennifer Jones refused to underestimate the other teams. She said, “I think they’re all tough. You guys get out there and play them.”

The dominant men’s hockey team had to go into overtime against the Latvian team and their underestimation of their opponent may have played a role in the unexpectedly close game.

There are always predictions and medal favorites in the Olympics but time and time again we see upsets and surprises. Everyone competing in the Olympics is among the best in the world and should be considered a medal contender.

In life we may not always have a clear opponent but we must remind ourselves to work hard for everything and not be complacent. We must push ourselves to be the best we can be so we put ourselves in the best position at the right time.

Play to Your Strengths

Denny Morrison. Photo by Onno Kluyt

Denny Morrison. Photo by Onno Kluyt

One of Canada’s medals was only possible due to the selfless act of Gilmore Junio. Junio qualified for the 1,000 metre speedskating final after fellow teammate Denny Morrison fell. But knowing that Morrision had a better chance of winning a medal, Junio gave up his spot allowing Morrison to win a silver medal in the event.

“People talk about it as being a huge sacrifice, but I don’t see it that way,” Junio said. “It was such an easy decision. It was such a simple decision for me. It was about giving Canada a chance to win a medal.”

When we recognize that someone is better suited to an opportunity we should offer them a chance. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t believe in yourself but if you clearly feel that someone has the right skills or talent then you should alert them to the opportunity so that you are free to find opportunities that are best suited to your unique skills. In a company or organization this can lead to everyone winning by having people in positions that play to their strengths.

Life is Not Always Fair

Charles Hamelin. Photo by John Biehler

Charles Hamelin. Photo by John Biehler

For every medalist on the podium there are athletes who have just missed out by a fraction of a second, a misstep or fall.  Defending Olympic champion Charles Hamelin was predicted to repeat his multi-medal performance but unfortunately fell twice during qualifying rounds. After falling for the second time, he retreated to a private area to let out his frustration before addressing the media with the following statement.

“Short-track is a sport that is really exciting and can be really, really glorious for some people, and sometimes can be really rude and really cruel for some other people. And for me right now, in the 1,000 and the 1,500-metres, it’s a tough moment to pass through. But it’s not because I was not strong enough.”

There are so many events that are out of our control and all we can do is prepare as best as we can and keep trying until it’s our moment to shine. If we don’t attempt great things, we will never know our potential.

Never Give Up

The Canadian Women's Hockey Team winning Gold in the 2010 Olympics. Photo by S. Yume

The Canadian Women’s Hockey Team winning Gold in the 2010 Olympics. Photo by S. Yume

Some athletes had stories of wanting to give up but they decided to push through and give it their all one more time for amazing results.

By now everyone has heard the story of the Canadian women’s hockey team’s incredible comeback to win Gold. They were behind most of the game but they made every moment count and scored two goals in the last five minutes of the game to force overtime.

All it takes is a single shot, decision or action to change the course of a game or your life. Never let yourself believe that it’s too late to change your path, career or life.

What life lessons are you reminded of during the Olympics?

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Achieving Your Goals like an Olympic Athlete

Saturday, February 15th, 2014

Jesse Owens Quote“We all have dreams. But in order to make dreams come into reality, it takes an awful lot of determination, dedication, self-discipline, and effort.”
–Jesse Owens (4-time gold medal winner)

I’ve always loved the spirit of the Olympics and have already seen so many amazing stories come out of the 2014 Olympics. Despite some controversies, I’m focussing on the athletes and the incredible training and determination that has made them the best in the world. There is something so inspiring about people who push themselves to the limit physically and mentally.

While there is no question that genetics plays a role in becoming an Olympian, it also takes perseverance, a laser-like focus, a support team and a commitment to your goals. The rules athletes follow to achieve success can be followed by anyone to achieve their own goals.

Olympic Athlete’s Guide to Achieving Your Goals

Dream Big

Set your goals high, and don’t stop till you get there.
– Bo Jackson. (The only athlete to be named an All-Star in two major American sports.)

Goals Quote by Bo Jackson

Nobody gets to the Olympics by accident. Everyone there has set a high goal for themselves that they worked relentlessly to pursue. If they had made a smaller goal, they may not have worked as hard or pushed themselves as much.

The Lesson: Don’t be afraid to believe in yourself and dream big.

Have a Laser-Like Focus

Athletes are extremists. When they’re training, it’s laser focus.
– Hope Solo (Two-time Olympic gold medalist in soccer)

For the most part, athletes only focus on one sport. Becoming world-class means that you must become the best at your chosen sport or profession. Many Olympians are great athletes and could do very well in other sports but the only way to get to the highest level of performance is to focus on one area.

The Lesson: Pick one area to excel in and direct your focus to becoming the best in your field.

Choose Quality over Quantity

Athletes are selective in the events they compete in. Athletes like runners could run a race every weekend but instead choose to conserve their energy and focus on key events. They choose to focus on quality over quantity. Instead of trying to win multiple events, they focus on the ones with the biggest return on investment. For you this might mean trying to land a bigger account rather than chasing dozens of smaller accounts.

The Lesson: Don’t be satisfied with multiple small wins, channel your energy into high-value activities.

Learn from Others

All coaching is, is taking a player where he can’t take himself.
– Bill McCartney (Former Football player and coach)

Athletes study past Olympians to see their techniques and strategies. They have coaches who impart their own experience and can give a second opinion.  While they must put in the work, they often rely on someone else to schedule their training and give them realistic goals to work towards.

The Lesson: Study successful people who you want to emulate and consider hiring a business coach, mentor or joining a networking group.

Find Something You Love

“The first thing is to love your sport. Never do it to please someone else. It has to be yours.”
– Peggy Fleming, (Gold medalist in figure skating in 1968)

While the training may be gruelling, athletes know they are lucky to be able to pursue their athletic goals full-time. While they may not love every single minute of training, overall they have a deep passion for their chosen sport. I don’t think there is anybody who could push themselves as hard as Olympic athletes do for something they didn’t absolutely love.

The Lesson: Pursue something you love and will make all the hard work worth it. 

Strengthen Yourself Mentally

“All the physical comes from the mental.”  
-Clara Hughes, (Six time gold nedalist)

Top-level athletes have very similar physical strengths. What often separates the top of the podium from the other finishers is their mental strength. This mental strength allows them to push past their physical limits and allows them to focus solely on their task at hand.

The Lesson: Practice willpower, concentration and perseverance to become strong mentally.

Learn to Compete With Yourself

“This ability to conquer oneself is no doubt the most precious of all things sports bestows.”
–Olga Korbut, (USSR gold medalist in gymnastics)

Sports Quote from Olga Korbut

Athletes cannot control their competitor’s training, the conditions or the judges’ decisions. The only thing they can control is the work they put into the event and try every day to be better than they were yesterday. Rather than focussing on things out of their control, they put their focus on training themselves to be the best they can be.

The Lesson: Focus on the things you can control so you are prepared when opportunity knocks.

Practice Visualization

 “I have been visualizing myself every night for the past four years standing on the podium having the gold placed around my neck.”
Kieren Perkins, (Two-time Gold Medal Winner in 1500-metre freestyle)

Many athletes use visualization to help them achieve success. They mentally practice and visualize their upcoming event. They also envision themselves atop of the podium so they can truly believe it is possible. Before a difficult surgery, I’ve used visualization to practice the steps in my mind.

The Lesson: Picture yourself after you’ve achieved success so you have more faith in yourself and so you can see what steps you need to get there.

Preparation is Key

It’s not the will to win that matters—everyone has that. It’s the will to prepare to win that matters.
– Paul “Bear” Bryant (Former Football player and coach)

Preparation Quote by Bryant

Athletes train for years for a few minutes or even seconds in the spotlight. Getting to the Olympics takes countless of hours of hard work, sweat and preparation. It is those moments at 5 in the morning, training alone that make a champion. In addition to sport-specific training, athletes must carefully monitor their nutrition, sleep habits and cross-train to be as strong as possible.

The Lesson:  Break down your big goal into small daily habits that will propel you to success.

 

 

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