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Understanding Endurance: How to Keep Your Eye on the Prize

How can we remain focused, keep our energy levels up and establish milestones that will enable us to leave the office with a clear desk and peace of mind?

The answer is Endurance.

Endurance is about mental toughness, determination, perseverance and planning. It’s about having a strategy for sustaining effort during difficult times and maintaining peak performance over the long haul.

When things are physically, emotionally and mentally difficult, when extreme patience, or extra energy and focus are required, you need endurance.

Dopamine and DHEA underpin endurance. Dopamine makes us determined because we are drawn to a reward that we perceive in the future, whatever that may be (e.g. job satisfaction, money, a sense of achievement, feeling alive, surviving adversity – or heading out on that holiday), while DHEA gives us lasting energy reserves that power us steadily forwards, like the engines of a huge ship progressing through deep water. DHEA is a precursor of testosterone and we need the muscle strength and confidence that testosterone brings to support our endurance.

Visualisation is a key tool for boosting dopamine. The ability to imagine other realities, visualise goals to empower us and to take our minds off the discomfort of effort, difficulty and pain, is crucial. Many artists and athletes use visualisation; most practise for five to ten minutes a day, even when resting, in order to maintain their focus and their mental game.

Determination, specifically self-determination, is a defining factor in whether we perform well under pressure without succumbing to the choking effect of over-elevated cortisol levels. While some people are born with grit, it can also be learned and more deeply accessed by working on what truly motivates us.

Motivation is improved when we are aligned with our values and core purpose, doing the work that puts us in our element, and using our strengths to the fullest. Becoming more conscious of such deep motivations makes it more likely that we will persevere.

LIFE HACK: When the going gets tough or you’ve had a setback, grit your teeth, clench your fists, jump up and down to get your energy going – whatever it takes physically – and tell yourself, ‘Come on. I am not giving up.’

Self-appreciation and the encouragement of those around us also enable us to push through challenges – large and small.

We need to celebrate our own successes and give and receive appreciation in order to fuel dopamine levels that allow us to focus on challenging goals. Plants need to be watered far more often than they need to be pruned. People are the same.

It is possible to train our emotional, physical and mental endurance. We can improve our energy levels, handle pain and discomfort, and sleep better by integrating endurance training into everyday life, preparing ourselves to weather challenges. If we plan to push ourselves on easier weeks, we develop stamina for those weeks when the diary is bursting with critical work or difficult conversations and tasks and setbacks are draining us.

What we need for endurance is good analysis and a robust, evolving plan. According to a report in Frontiers in Neuroscience, physical activity and learning challenges increase the number of neurons in our brains until the day we die, which means we need never stop learning and developing.

New habits take time to become structured into our long-term memory – repetition, practice, planning, and re-planning are the values that drive endurance.

LIFE HACK: How do you feel right now about the future? Whatever you feel, imagine that the whole of your body, every cell, is smiling. Like a plant growing towards the light, feel your way to the light at the end of the tunnel.

For more information about how Physical Intelligence can help you, your team or your organization, visit us at or order our book, on sale now.

About Companies in Motion

There are over 80 easy to use techniques and tips to build our Physical Intelligence -- the neuroscience-backed approach to detecting and actively managing the balance of eight key chemicals in our bodies and brains so that we can take charge of our body, brain, schedule and life. You can read about all of them in our new book, Physical Intelligence: Harness Your Body’s Untapped Intelligence to Achieve More, Stress Less and Live More Happily by Claire Dale and Patricia Peyton available from Simon and Schuster. (Order here.) (Multiple translations will be available later in 2019.)

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