Cal Botterill has helped some of Canada's top athletes reach personal bests in his role as a performance psychology consultant, including seven of the 14 athletes who won Olympic gold medals in Sochi. He also realized the principles he was teaching to athletes would apply to the medical field.

Now he and co-authors Jason Brooks and Aman Hussain have written a book documenting 20 lessons for Sustainable High Performance, launching on June 23 at McNally Robinson. 

Botterill offers CBC some key points from the book to help those in demanding professions, or those facing challenging situations in life:

In today’s demanding world it is often impossible to stay “sustainable” with one’s health, let alone one’s professional career. High expectations at work are usually complicated by escalating communication pressures or addictions. In a field like medicine where professional load and expectation has traditionally been excessive, sustainable high performance has been getting hard to maintain. The result has been brilliant performers being partial to health challenges and increasing reports of medical error.

' It would appear that a key contributor to medical error and performance limitation is lack of perceptiveness. ' - Cal Botterill

New levels of “efficiency” appear necessary! Since stress and overload are building, opportunities for recovery are disappearing. Many are abandoning block holidays, and are losing opportunities for personal space/sanctuary in their day. Stress leaves and signs of burnout are getting more and more prevalent. We need to remember that “work is commendable, but recovery is essential!” The sad thing is that when many attempt a vacation, their cell phone won’t let them rest. To maintain health, family life, and performance we need to get creative and vigilant about recovery.

Aman Hussain, Cal Botterill, Jason Brooks, authors of Sustainable High Performance

Aman Hussain, Cal Botterill, Jason Brooks, authors of Sustainable High Performance (courtesy Cal Botterill)

Another consequence of cognitive overload is reduced perceptiveness. It would appear that a key contributor to medical error and performance limitation is lack of perceptiveness. The reality is that if we are constantly “in our head” analyzing overload, we become less perceptive of the environment and people around us. Top performers report that they are at their best when they have “a clear mind and an unburdened heart.” Time in nature with a camera is good for recovery, but also for reclaiming our perceptiveness.

Efficiency at work is best facilitated by preparation, and a “want to” vs. “have to” approach. Preparation for potential challenges results in us responding more efficiently to our day. Brief early morning rehearsal of possible demands, (and desired feelings/responses), helps avoid feelings of panic and overload later. It also helps facilitate a “want to” (approach success) outlook. This is much more efficient than a “have to” (avoid failure) approach. An avoid failure approach is loaded with fear, tension, negative images, and feelings of pressure and overload.

Another important lesson about performance efficiency comes from Olympic athletes. “Stay with the process, and the results will take care of themselves.” Focusing on outcomes is often distracting and increases feelings of pressure and expectations. Focusing on the process is task-relevant and less stressful. If you are intrinsically motivated, and “love what you do” there are several advantages.

Teamwork and debriefing can also play a huge role in becoming more efficient. When you have trust with teammates managing/processing emotions is enhanced. Stress and irrational thoughts are defused and support helps facilitate performance. Debriefing at the end of a procedure, or at the end of the day, helps one see/feel solutions and let go of disappointments. We all make mistakes, but we need to learn from them and move on.

Cal Botterill and co-authors Jason Brooks and Aman Hussain are launching Sustainable High Performance June 23 at McNally Robinson at 7:00.