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Normal Sucks: 5 Ways to Overcome your DNA to Win
Normal Sucks: 5 Ways to Overcome your DNA to Win

CST AdminDec 23, 2016 32 Comments

By Dr. Jason Selk - Unfortunately, the way we are wired sucks for gaining the edge in our career and finding certain levels of success. Our biology tries to prevent us from staying in the headspace necessary to win.

Humans are wired with what is known as Problem-Centric Thought. Our brains pick up on the problem with a situation first. No matter how many great things surround us, our eye immediately drifts to the imperfections. This is important for our survival, as we need to be able to see the speeding car coming our way or the bear running at us through the trees. This evolutionary adaptation, however, leaves us vulnerable to low performance. Our brains also work in a way that magnifies whatever we are focused.

Here are five actionable ways you can overcome your DNA to win.


1. Focus on what you do well.

We want to focus on where we are falling short. In normal human beings, our attention immediately drifts to our shortcomings or our mistakes. The unfortunate side effect of this tendency is that focusing on our shortcomings results in more shortcomings. Expectancy Theory states that whatever you focus on expands. This simple theory is the premise behind so much of the performance coaching that I do. The research shows time and time again that focusing on what one does well will result in higher self confidence, and in turn, higher performance. At the end of each day, write down three things that you did well that day. Writing them down versus simply thinking about them will prove to be much more effective in driving results.


2. Focus on a solution instead of the problem.

Again, the way humans are normally wired is to place our focus on the problem at hand. Based on Expectancy Theory, this leads to a larger problem. Think about it. How much time do you spend dwelling on what is wrong with your life? You are not appreciated at home, you aren’t challenged enough at work, you don’t fit into last year’s clothes…. Do you typically feel better or worse after you ruminate in your problems? Meanwhile, you are not putting into motion anything to change your current situation by dwelling on the problem. When you are thinking about the problem, you are by default NOT thinking about the solution. The next time your brain is stuck on a problem, any problem of any magnitude, ask yourself the following question: "What is one thing I can do differently that could help make this situation better?” Force yourself to come up with something to answer the question, no matter how small of an improvement it might make.


3. Focus on no more than 1 improvement at a time.

Once you have identified a potential solution to your problem, stick with it until it either solves the problem, or it proves to be ineffective. Once you cross one potential solution off your list, then you can move on to the next one. Research shows that you will be much more effective at implementing a plan when you focus on one, rather than trying to do too much.


4. Focus on the process, not the result.

Once you have identified a plan for a potential solution or goal, relentlessly keep your focus on that plan or process and NOT on the intended result. The more you focus on the result, the higher your stress level climbs, and the less you are focusing on what you need to do in order to achieve it. Maintaining a relentless process focus takes effort, as our brains are wired to move to the result. Remind yourself of this process focus by identify the things you need to get done on a daily basis in order to achieve your desired result. Identify and write down the most important two or three daily tasks. Place them in a prevalent location and do whatever it takes to get them done each day.


5. If at first you don’t succeed….

The name of the game for overcoming your DNA to achieve success is RELENTLESSNESS. Be relentless about committing to these principles, not matter how many times you fail and have to try again. Remember that you are going against the way your brain functions normally, so this will require effort. You will not be perfect at implementing these principles, and that is okay. Fight tooth and nail to do better each day, and you will be on your way to winning the battle against your own DNA and developing the mental toughness of the extremely successful.


[Editor's Note: Dr. Selk's first book, 10-Minute Toughness , is on pace to be one of the best-selling sport psychology books of all time and was instrumental in inspiring Pat to further refine CST's performance-based training methodology. The book is the first of its kind in that it teaches individuals exactly what to do to be mentally prepared for competition and sports, and it does so in a very user-friendly manner (PS - You can download 3 free worksheets here that accompany the book).


Dr. Jason Selk
Director of Sport Psychology
Enhanced Performance, Inc
7700 Bonhomme, Suite 575
St Louis, Missouri 63105


  • Stacy Little
    31-Mar-2017 02:32 PM

    I definitely can relate....I tend to lean towards the negative on my performance, whether in my business or at home. I also try to solve too many things at a time, ie. have to many projects going and getting nowhere at any of them. I have been trying to force myself to slow down, take one thing at a time in order to get something completed.
    Great article!

  • Outlier
    13-Apr-2017 03:29 PM

    One thing over the years since retiring from active duty I have had to focus on is training to the limit of my injuries. Focusing on the process resonated with me as I have sustained a lot of physical damage over the years blown knee, broken right wrist (my strong side), broken ankle, and lacerated tendon in my left index finger which is my support hand. I can no longer lift or do weapons training certain ways I once was able to. I have had to make adjustments to compensate for these injuries. The positive result has been sometimes an improvement in both strength and accuracy. Too often we get stuck in what we are comfortable with in training. We do it so well we see no need to change.

    As a result of this realization I have begun to make multiple changes to all my training routines. More fun and gives me a broader range of adaptability.

    Great article doc.


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