I enjoy books about exercise and physical fitness. Recently, at a local bookstore, I was intrigued to find Brad Stulberg and Steve Magness’s Peak Performance (New York: Rodale, 2017) listed under the Psychology/Self-Help category. I have thoroughly enjoyed it and want to share the book with ACAD members as I find its concepts applicable to academic administration—and many other life pursuits.
The authors lay out suggestions that we academic administrators can use to promote and prioritize mechanisms to support all in initiating and maintaining a sustainable plan to improve both productivity and happiness. The secret lies in being mindful of wellness behaviors.
The book starts with a poignant personal introduction on each young author’s obsessive pursuit of excellence that led to burnout. This early burnout and a casual meeting led them to seek to answer the question: “Is healthy, sustainable peak performance possible?” (p. 1). The book is divided into three sections that correspond to the three steps to be taken to achieve peak performance in any and all aspects of life. The first involves internalizing the equation ‘stress + rest = growth’ to schedule periods of intense work and intense rest in the work/life cycle. The second suggests ways to design and optimize routines—that is, changing your environment to facilitate both work and rest. Lastly, a scaffolding process is provided to conceptualize a sense of purpose that transcends the self.
The authors’ use of concise and clear language should be appreciated by academic leaders. The page layouts include periodic inspirational quotes from the text for example, “Disconnecting ‘work’ from ‘life’ is an illusion” (p. 129) or “Giving back is a powerful antidote to burnout” (p. 176). There are ‘Performance Practices’ tables that periodically summarize the main points made in a section that are helpful when looking for refresh ideas. These features make the book very reader friendly.
The aptly named Peak Performance inspires a driven reader to examine work/life integration and to look for ways to enjoy both work and rest. One quote that I particularly like is: “The process of setting a goal on the outer boundaries of what we think is possible, and then systematically pursuing it, is one of the most fulfilling parts about being human” (p. 9). If you like to work hard, and have wondered if you are working smart, then Peak Performance offers you a framework that will satisfy your ambitions and safeguard your sanity.