David W. Eccles, is an Associate Professor at Florida State University, and his research concerns the psychology of skilled and expert performance and its development in real-world domains involving performance under stress, ranging from sport to law enforcement, and from medicine to the military.
David received his PhD in Sport Psychology from Bangor University in the UK in 2001 and undertook post-doctoral training at the Florida Institute for Human and Machine Cognition from 2002 to 2003. He was then Assistant and later Associate Professor of Psychology at Florida State University (FSU), took a sabbatical from the Sunshine State for a few years at a small university in England, and is currently a Professor of Sport Psychology back at FSU.
He serves as Associate Editor for Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport and is on the Editorial Board for the Psychology of Sport and Exercise. David has been the recipient of approximately $5M of external funding to support his research, where funders have included the Department of Defense, National Science Foundation, and Financial Industry Regulatory Authority.
In this podcast, Dr. Eccles and Cindra talk:
- The importance of deliberate practice
- The benefits of rest to performance
- Ways to “cognitively detach” so we can rest
- How to get high-quality rest
- Ways to prevent burnout
Cindra: Dr. Eccles. I am really excited to talk with you today on the High-Performance mindset podcast. How is the weather in Florida today?
Dr. Eccles: In fact, I was going to tip you off there that we might get disturbed because we’re due for some big thunderstorms has been thunder storming off today. And as usual, it’s about mid 80s thunderstorms in the afternoon.
Cindra: 60 here in Minnesota.
Dr. Eccles: That sounds nice.
Cindra: Yeah, that sounds about right. A Few days of 40, so I’m looking forward to talking with you about your research and just helping us learn a little bit more about how we can be the best version of ourselves and the importance of sleep and rest and we’re talking about deliberate practice today but I start about this idea of your passion and so I’d love for us to start this interview with just telling us a little bit about your passion and what you do right now?
Dr. Eccles: This is a great question. So you sent me these questions in advance and, you know, two or three of them have led me to think disproportionate amount of what what the what that actually means so that it’s been a great exercises therapy in itself. And so you know, obviously, I have my larger life and my work life and, you know, one of my passions in in my larger life is my family definitely and it’s been a fascinating journey day to have children and see them grow so that that, without doubt, as the top of that list. I always remember Lenny Bruce go from law and order try to explain to Chris Noth character that there are two types of people in this world. People wear them without children and you know when you cross over into two children territory. It’s a whole different world and so that’s definitely a passion on the on the work side and I think, you know, is sort of the biggest view version of it is is young passionate about sort of thinking through thinking through problems and concepts that are related to human performance and particularly, trying to try and identify where certain gaps are in our understanding and doing new work in those areas, you know, it’s to sort of try to understand the things that we currently don’t understand and do some research on those things and then attempt to disseminate that research to the level of practice. So then it’s useful. So those are sorts of things that, you know, and all the different parts of my job I enjoy doing. I enjoy interacting with our, our students in relation to those things of course as well but I think most academics would say at the heart of what they’re passionate about is, is that thinking sometimes the writing and publishing, you know, throws up a few challenges but it’s first and foremost, I think the thinking about those things and discovering what others have done research in relation to those things and then what’s missing and then trying to create some of those dots which is the creative part of course to move us beyond where we are currently.
Cindra: So tell us a bit about how you got to Florida State?
Dr. Eccles: Right from the get go in my research. My research has been influenced by Anders Ericsson and who you know historically has been one of the most cited psychologists in recent
history and because of that, when I was finishing working on my PhD at Banking University in Wales in the United Kingdom, I, you know, began to send papers off for publication and so on and it was reasonably clear through the review process that you know key reveal was at Xerox and have some early papers and so we already began to establish a relationship there. And so it was quite natural. Toward the end of my PhD that I basically wrote him and said, Do you have any jobs? And at the time he was on sabbatical Stanford and he didn’t. So, but he said, Hey, I’ve got somebody down the road here who I knew vaguely from the live show Robert Hoffman, who works for the Institute of human and machine cognition which is a standalone Research Institute. Now in the state of Florida, I think, is only a couple of its kind, actually, and so he’s looking for a postdoc, you know, so we got talking Robert and I have almost about the time 911 occurred. Weirdly, you know, the original 911 occur and as soon as I could fly. He flew me over for an interview in Pensacola, Florida, where the Institute is a lot of their contracts with connected with the Navy and so they were located down Pensacola. So I went over there and worked on expertise projects there on military grants and what I was there. And as return we kept up this dialogue and he invited me to FSU, you know, to give some talks and things. I met a bunch of the other expertise researchers Neal Schon s and aggression Tenenbaum in sports psychology and then before long. I got a nice offer to come there and I started there is an assistant professor at FSU and then I worked there for about a decade or so I had an extended sabbatical back in the UK, where I never really lived as an adult. So it was kind of fun to go back and live for a little bit, as, as an adult, but again, one day I got another email saying, hey, there’s a job back here. We would like you to come back to FSU and so I reply to the job and we came back then as a family to Florida State, but it’s got a relatively natural fit because Anders has been here all along, and it’s had you know, always had a strong PhD program. In fact, the PhD program is the same age as me and and it is scary to think in two years. That’s going to be half a century. So you know, also we’ve had this nearly 50 years established PhD and there was an expertise group here in psychology department. And it was a big one university well-resourced and all those nice things. So it was, it’s always been a relatively natural fit.
Cindra: Yeah. We’ll talk more about Erickson’s work as we keep going but you know for those people who are unfamiliar on his seminal research on deliberate practice and how you develop expertise is, you know, really has contributed an incredible amount to use our understanding in those areas?
Dr. Eccles: Yeah, about that one paper alone, Erickson prompted for him in 1993 about deliberate practice and its role in your acquisition of expertise has been cited more times than my total number of citations and yet and has you know about a dozen other papers like that so it’s definitely been influential you know, in so many domains, including, you know, very diverse from medicine to the military to sports psychology.
Cindra: So before we dive into the research you’ve been doing, I ask every one of my guests to define what failure is and to tell us about a time that you failed and the reason I want to ask you that question is to kind of normalize failure, but also for us to learn the lesson that you’ve learned along the way. So what do you think?
Dr. Eccles: Yeah, it’s a great question. This was the question even more than passion, where I had to think you know, that is so hard to answer. And you know, I try to catch myself and. And so, you know, how do I answer. Am I trying to answer in ways that are ego protective? That’s the first thing that you know and I really try to think through, and I don’t think I am. When I answer this, but it can sound like it. So I’m trying to, you know, prime the response now in the audience here but I think when I look back and try to identify things I think are just abject failure is that the first thing you think you have to realize is that in any failure situation there’s more than one thing involves the sociologists always remind us a psychologist that we tend to focus on the individual and the individual brain. Yeah, and forget about you know the various other structures, the environment and society and all those things that are around this event evolutionary psychologists, the ecological psychologists would do the same. The reminders is not just about the person, the person has, you know, limited agency. And the other thing to consider is the environment. So the first thing I think I you know I thought about was that of course, is the explanation. Usually for something we might label as failure involves both the person at that point in time, and the situation and so you know the context. So context itself contributes to failure to the point where the person might think they fail. But what was happening actually is that they just weren’t in the right place at the right time and the right situation. Easy. The easiest way to, to think about this is if you flip it.
Dr. Eccles: There’s a classic critique of history. Great Man history where we’ll focus on somebody like George Washington and say you know that that was a. That was a great man there, you know, and admittedly, you know, it also includes women much more but it’s called Great Man history critique, okay and the thing is when we never really know whether somebody else would have been better in George Washington situation because George Washington was in that situation. And yes, there was undoubtedly competition natural competition for the role he served, and it takes somebody else Churchill, whoever might be shells to go and France, but the point is, they were given an opportunity to show great leadership by the context. They were in if they had a very mundane time of things they would never have been seen as a particular great leader because not much happens to really challenge their leadership. Right? And so it’s the same with failure. That’s something that looks like a failure, maybe as much a product of the environment and the point in history as the person and so I think that’s the first thing I thought about there is that that’s what I think failure is an interaction between those things rather than just pointed the single person say you’ve failed.The other thing is, I wonder whether you know this and this is gonna sound much more like a standard cycle just response about failure now but I think it is simply a phase. So when you fail, you fail. I think it’s genuinely a phase, a process. Usually you’re recognizing sometimes that some of the things I talked about there was perhaps a mismatch between you. At this time, and the timing and the situation. A student and I was just talking about this in our group dynamics class that she had been on a team where she actually attracted the label that you may know from the literature of a team cancer.
Dr. Eccles: He was a negative, sort of spread negative aspect amongst that amongst that team and had an acquire that label. And we know at least we think from our theories of role modeling that you know, over time, you acquire that label, other people have to leave you that label you that the role centers and so on and when she transitioned to a different team. No problem. She, she never had this label them seem to actually be the good guy and she realized that the fit for her on that particular team at that particular time just wasn’t quite right. There was some mismatch between who she was and what the situation was at that time. And I think that yes, you can do things that are just blatantly do not serve your interests, right, you can to lead to this failure point so not taking the agency away from the universe. You can absolutely do things that do not serve your interests that are genuine mistakes and you must reflect on those things forward. But I think often was last is that this is a phase, you may pass through, and as much is to do with the circumstances and the timing as anything else. See, you may appear to fail completely under one set of circumstances but thrive, you know, a year later under exactly the same set of circumstances. I think there’s some argument there. So I thought about that for a while. So when I thought back to things that I might be able to point to shoulder have been either unsuccessful in, you know, I don’t know, romantic relationships or in in jobs that have been given or in family relationships somehow I’m just not sure. Even though there’s the obvious ones to point to see those are feet, and I’ve got a few of those. No doubt. Worthy actually failures. Did I, did I actually fail there? Yes, probably still some steps I could have taken better, but I think they were just, it’s just a phase like anything else you pass through that you can learn from genuinely it’s just another set of circumstances and you know your personal mental state at that time may not be one that you feel is favorable. And now I’m going to sound like the resilience guys here and girls. But that’s not necessarily if those are the processes through which one passes to move forward. So now I’m going to sound like the growth through adversity people I know, but anyway, that’s the point I came to. And the reason that you know the answer is long. There’s because the thought chain as long because when I try to point at something that I felt was clearly a failure and often I think I genuinely benefited from the process, you know, I think, you know, one of the other things we’re thinking about is that society, really, I think we all imagine and, you know, there are plenty of critics out there about this, but we’re going to be gloriously happy all the time. I mean, it’s in the it’s in our fabric of our and I’m an American citizen, as well as in the fabric of our society that we should be pursuing happiness. Right. And I think that we forget that these effects of negative effective states and, you know, negative emotions that travelers are wrong. And I’m not convinced that they are wrong. I think they serve functions like any other emotion that position us to move to a different place in the future. Yeah. Clearly, this doesn’t explain why obviously some, some people you know chronically affected negatively in certain ways. Why don’t they appear to go on and thrive, but of course, they may consider that the thriving. Anyway, I don’t know.
Cindra: Well, I really appreciate that answer to that question. It makes me step back and think that is a really hard question to answer. But is it isn’t that interesting that it’s a hard question to answer, like what is failure, you know, but I had never considered that the situation when I had thought about failure before. And as you’re talking about it. I thought about myself about times that I feel like I failed and maybe it just wasn’t that there were these factors in the situation that didn’t allow me to thrive by viewing failure as understanding or a product of the time in this situation, it also like takes the personal out of it. And I think so many times when we fail as athletes, as practitioners, as people, you know, it’s like we can let it negatively impact our confidence. But if it’s like we see it as a time you know that this, this really like it’s a phase. It’s a process, it’s more, it’s about the situation. I think that also helps me be not so hard on myself.
Dr. Eccles: It is a classic critique of the whole psychology that too much agency is given to the individual brain and so, you know, in society that that’s definitely propagated that that concept. So if you do fail. It’s your fault and of course you know the critiques of psychology is the science of the individual you know, our that actually the individual only has so much agency in their situation and there are plenty of structures around them that can explain a lot of what happened to them.
Cindra: Yeah. So here’s a few other examples of when I’m asked this question. So, Michael Drew who does the finding mastery podcast and works with the Seattle Seahawks. He said failures are anytime I’m not being authentic.
Dr. Eccles: Okay. Yeah, very good.
Cindra: Uh, I interviewed Jack Canfield who wrote the Chicken Soup for the Soul series. He said, failure is simply a delay in in results afterward I said, I look at failure is just not showing up. So, I think it’s so interesting that you know that. So what I would encourage people who are doing you know who are listening, is that how do you define failure, maybe. How do you want to redefine failure, you know, I shared an episode, though a couple weeks ago where I just talked about these different ways people have defined failure, but you know what is the definition of theory that you want to guide your life and maybe redefine it so thanks for uh for answering that question. Let’s dive in. Dave to your work now. And what I want to ask you first about is like you study rest in sport. And I think that’s such an important topic, one that gets really overlooked a lot and one that we don’t always see as important to performance in general. Tell us about why you think it gets overlooked and just generally how you started to study it?
Dr. Eccles: So I should start studying once again because my interest in these developmental and training frameworks that we have, including the deliberate practice framework so at its simplest, the deliberate practice framework says of the daily level of training that you should focus on your very highest quality practice. And when you’re focusing on your very highest quality practice. You’re not simply going through the motions. You are fully concentrating on improving some specific aspect of performance and because you’re fully concentrating and in sports that involves physical movements often you’re fully exerting yourself physically as well the time that we can fully exert ourselves physically and mentally and devote ourselves to improvement is very short. In fact, the rule of thumb extracted from Erickson’s original work is that that is about four hours, really, really useful work. Hours every day. Before four hours of work that genuinely advance you change the structures of the brain you know that that meets the proper criterion for learning as we would outline it in you know any of the learning sciences that semi-permanent change the operation of the brain to some new level requires this very
high level of concentration. The tasks are invariably demanding more demanding than your current level, not so demanding that, you know, you simply withdraw effort, but more demanding than your current level, but because you’re concentrating very hard and exerting yourself physically, you’ve got four hours there in 2014 and, in addition, and so the rest of the time the other 20 hours must be devoted by comparison to relatively restful activity for the system to be able to reset so that you can reinvest in these four hours. The following day. And then the theory deliberate practice and says, practice conceptual framework then says if you do that, you’re not compete the opposition, because you’ve maximized the quality of the training during the day and maximize your chances of recovering to engage in that same quality training the following day and therefore, because you can keep engaging in this very high quality training, you’re going to outcompete others because they either don’t engage in the four hours of quality practice to start with or even if they manage that they then don’t do both. The other 22 relatively restful activity, so they’re able to re-engage the following day. And so over time, the person who does that will outcompete the other person right so then when you look at the practice conceptual framework has it’s been applied to sports and for example, a review in 2014 did this. They found something like, I think it was in 24 out of 25 studies that I’ve retrospectively assessed experts in a sport compared to less skill performance to see according to their self-reports which has its limitations. But according to the self-reports, how much deliberate practice over time they were engaging in okay on the average in those reviews people were engaging in, you know, more deliberate practice not per day. But over time, they were able to engage in more of that. And so many of those studies have focused on the practice itself and then they started to try and focus on the microstructure of the practice. So they say okay during those four hours. When we look at elite you know, athletes, all those on the stretch projection coming Elise, we looked at before out, you know, what are they doing what is the nature of the activities and this has been going on for you know 20 years in this type of research, up to that review in 2014, for example, but nobody has been asking, well, hang on a minute. Central to the theory is also this other 20 hours where they do more restful activities. What does that mean? So they’ve been studying the practice itself which is natural to do right? Natural to think the practice is the route forward but forgetting the fact that equal in this theoretical proposal is not just the high-quality practice. It’s effectively high-quality restful activity. So what does that mean, and so the more I looked around. Yes. There’s work on recovery. Lots of work on recovery, but it tends to focus on physical recovery more than mental recovery tends to focus on recovery strategies like ice baths and teaching and these sorts of things. When I tried to look for understanding what mental recovery and metal recovery is always important. Because even if you’re performing a physical activity to get better, according to the theory, you’ve got to still be fully concentrating. So if you’re running routes as a receiver. You’ve got to be fully concentrating to maximize the quality of that practice session you turn up and you’re just half in it. Right, you’re going to recognize that your teammates are going to recognize that and so on. So, metal recovery is still important, even if you’re performing a physical or movement based tasks so few people have asked so mentally what what’s restful, you know, doesn’t mean that you can’t leave practice and sit doing you know algebra. What, what are we talking about what is it that, what is it that you know football players do and what is it that they might do better when they leave the field to enhance that that mental recovery. So we look around in the research that show me see a few things. A few insights from context
psychology and those sorts of things. So there’s. For example, an emerging finding that if you, you know, kind of skill acquisition session like learning a new receive around when you finish the session. If you’re able to then engage in in about 15 minutes of relatively low cognitive activity. So you’re not, you know, you’re taking a shower on your own or you’ve got some quiet time where you can sit on your own and not think about too much and you know press rehydrate or something like that, versus, you know, getting a one on one with somebody else in the locker room or take a difficult phone call. Then recovery then then learning will be enhanced for those people who had spent that 15 minutes post skill acquisition in a relatively low cognitive demanding environment. So we had a few insights like that. So basically, means if you have just you as a work working for a university. For example, if you just being in a session where you’re learning something new about structural equation modeling don’t immediately come out and switch to something equally demanding take 15 when you do something relaxing. And the theory is it allows memory consolidation. So, these are some of the insights we got from literature. But my question was a little bit, I suppose, more driven by the sort of applied level by real people doing real things we set out to actually just ask athletes. What, what does rest mean to you. Yeah, you know, and we literally started with that question, but didn’t even put mental rescue. What does rescue me to you in our studies. And I’ll give you, we came up with what we thought were six key things from us. Okay, I’ll give you the first one which is
what you asked a question about this idea of detachment.Yes, that’s actually a term from industrial organizational psychology, but I think fits very well on the answers that almost to an athlete’s were given, which was sometime, not thinking about my sport, right, because I do that, you know, all of the time and chicken for student athletes I live with them. I train with them. We’re on social media all the time. And the beginning of season, beginning of preseason is kind of fun. Two thirds. The way through the season, they would say I am sick of hearing.
Dr. Eccles: About hockey or football or whatever it might be. And I want a day where I just don’t hear that that word. I mean, almost to the point where they would say, I don’t want to see a hockey page or Aki field. I don’t want to see a soccer ball for a day, you know, because I don’t need any more of this. I love my teammates. I love them, but I need to be without them for a day if you know I’m going I’m going crazy, you know, and so that was, that was one of the findings this rest meant an opportunity to stop thinking about my sport for a while, and that has a basis in industrial organizational psychology, where the focus traditionally been on workers not that it is our workers but in more traditional jobs where there are unable to stop thinking about work when they go home, which leads to maladaptive strategies like, you know, thinking, half a bottle of wine to try to get your mind off worrying about something at work, you know, and so here we definitely saw that amongst the athletes even student athletes.
They were in high performance programs and the pressure was on them and they’re worried about getting a place in the world of other performance and they live with the room, you know, teammates and so it’s just a sports for all time fun at the beginning of the season. Not so fun two thirds of the way through the season where, you know, it’s starting to get all intense. So that was, that was one of the insights there so-
Cindra: I had a quick question before you keep going on. So like this idea of cognitive detachment, I think, is really powerful. And I think about how it relates to some of the athletes I work with also like my own my own family like my husband’s a school principal so right now
really stressful time when he comes home he doesn’t want to say anything about work you know my brain, and I can’t quite turn it off like that, but you have like from your research with athletes or in general like how often should we cognitively detach, you know, or is it just kind of is it personal, like you have to figure that part out. Tell me a little more about like what we would recommend?
Dr. Eccles: Well, I don’t think we know a huge amount about individual differences in math. Okay, it looks like can somebody just keep going and never burn out, you know, never get psychologically be motivated and feel emotional exhaustion or any of those things, but I doubt whether that’s true for anybody that they’re just immune and they can just think about their work.
Dr. Eccles: But, um, so I think everybody needs it, whether some people need more than others. Quite possibly but it’s typically been studied at the day level. So how much, how often do I need to be able to psychologically detach after work, and then does that predict my feelings of recovery. The following day. And typically, if you are able to psychologically detach the end of the day, at some point he says you know relationship with feeling more psychologically recovered and motivated the following day. And, you know, then the question is then, how, how is that possible, and there’s, there’s a few insights, one is that what people seem to ruminate about most after something you know obviously they’ve done a team scrimmage. And they go away, or they’re learning some new skill technique or whatever, and they go away. What they tend to ruminate most is about things that they feel they haven’t been able to do successfully in that session because it worries them usually because of course there’s some kind of implication for whether they start or their performance and so on. Right. And so one of the applied implications that at least in industrial organizational psychology seems to have some effectiveness is to after work if those things are. You are ruminating about take 15 minutes and make a plan about how you’re going to address those things. The following day there’s something about writing down those concrete actionable steps you’re going to take to try and address those things that once you’ve done that you feel better about it make you feel you can switch off a little bit more. It’s cathartic you know, but if you don’t, otherwise you tend to ruminate and then you do that 3am wake up where you’re still ruminate about it because it’s not down and concrete what you’re going to do to begin to try to address that problem. It’s difficult to switch off and the other one we found from the athletes. So that’s from iOS psychology industrial relations psychology with the athletes. What we found is what they’ll try and do is do sort of two things that go together. The first one is still trying to focus on something that they can be immersed in that isn’t their sport that’s inherently enjoyable. Okay, and now that is a wide range of things. And that is personal. So that might be watching you know something you’re really into on Netflix through to walking the dog through going for a jog whatever is able to effectively switching to the another subject so that you’re not focused on on your sport or on the thing that’s, you know, ruminating about so achieving that shifting attention appears to be important. Okay. And so that can be done by engaging in this other thing, whatever it might be that you like that. You can immerse yourself in and you know, it’s
gotta be something that the person chooses the coach can’t prescribe a set of activities, you know, in a blanket way because, of course, that feels like they’re still doing this for right they’ve been told to do something. So the second thing relates to this a bit because. Second thing is about avoiding cues that remind you of your sport.
Dr. Eccles: Now by switching to this other activity, of course, that achieves that but there’s some other things you can do. And so some of our athletes and these low college athletes and I was quite surprised by this they’ll actually say that if they got, you know, equipment team shirt, whatever it might be, they’ll put it away in a closet and so because even just looking at the line on the bed relaxing looking around the room. They see the stuff accuse them to think about this.
Dr. Eccles: They’re also trying not to. This is almost impossible, as we know, connect with social media to be reminded about this bought always very tough. And they will also not go to the training venue. So this is one of the other problems all their buddies are at the training venue or hanging out nearby it. And so there’s a tendency to want to go there, even on your day off for your time off because your buddies are hanging out there. Put your back at the same venue, you’re doing the same thing. You’ve been reminding us anything. For a while not hang around with the teammates digger buddies hang out with them for a bit on your SD but for the rest of the time.You know your other friend on your cordle as a student athlete who happens to you know do chemistry and it’s not massively hanging out with them for a while. Acid to say I’m actually interested to hear about chemistry because it’s not hockey. And so each of these things. Try to avoid these cues to rethink about your sport, you know, avoid the places to do with just for avoid people to do with your sport. Avoid connections to people through social media do with your sport. So there was quite a collection of those things. And this is not to say any of these athletes didn’t love this, for they love this for, for sure, but they didn’t like it 24/7/ 365 there came a time where they’re like, I just need to think about something else for a while.
Cindra: How do you know when you have to sort of detach yourself like are you, do you think it’s, um, as people are listening. Is it sort of like something you do every day, or are we not really sure on kind of the recommendation?
Dr. Eccles: Coffee, you probably have to do it for prevention is going to get harder then identifying great symptoms when is going wrong. So prevention has to, you know, as, as everything in life. Prevention has to come. Well, before. And the trouble is you have to sort of prevent that happening when you’re not in any environment where you’re getting cues that you need to do the prevention, because you’re not there yet, but unless you do it. You’re eventually you’re going to be feeling burned out. Right. So the easy answer is to say when you start to experience the symptoms of burnout. So the cancer. One is sport devaluation. You just don’t value your sport in the same way you used to, at the beginning, even intimately just the
beginning of the season, you just have to be honest. So devalued the sport feeling of emotional exhaustion. Like, I’m just tired. I’m just tired of dealing with all this team crap you know and all the drama that goes on and tensions and you know, I just, I’ve had it with that and we know after an offseason you’re like yeah, bring it on. But by two thirds. The way through the season I so emotional exhaustion especially know these three as a psychologist was evaluation emotional exhaustion and I can’t remember the last one top of my head, but those are symptoms of burnout. So I think, you know, if you start experiencing those sorts of symptoms and the key is consistently, of course. Right, not just like the end of a tough week but after a weekend on a Monday you still feel like that. Then you definitely need to engage in there. But the problem is to prevent the onset of the symptoms and they’re quiet. They’re slow to come on burnout symptoms and the burnout syndrome is slow to come on,but unfortunate slow to turn off so you have to wait. You have to be resting for a long while, and wait for that feeling of like I don’t appreciate my sport very much anymore to go away. Right, so I think prevention is still better than trying to cure and I think yeah daily routine of trying to make sure you have some other interests. It’s not for 24/7. We have another study going on at the moon with NFL athletes Ashley players and you know we’ve had. We had one player, say, No, no, no, you know, even when I’m not at the facility. I’m still watching football games because you know if you’re not fully into the game of football, then you shouldn’t be doing it. You know, and so that’s interesting. So it sounds like he wants to be involved in football 24 seven but as the interview progresses. He talked about his team at a point in time, not making the playoffs. And he was like, well, you know, I’m disappointed, but that opens up next weekend. You know, and I’ve been wanting to go away for a while and do a little bit of traveling so I know, take some time off next again as I go. But I thought you wanted to do 24/7. And so clearly, you know, there was still appreciation there, even though his team did make playoffs have the following week and you know he could do what he wanted.
Cindra: Yeah. Beautiful. So Dave, I one question. I’m thinking a little bit about for those
people who are listening in so we need to get away from our sport. I’m also thinking about, like, getting away from work to prevent right feeling burnout or exhausted or evaluating what devaluing what you’re doing. about recommendations for rest. So this idea of like you can only do you know four hours of deliberate practice, but you have these 20 other hours. I’m like, how often should we rest. What are some examples of what we should do around resting?
Dr. Eccles: Well, I mean, I gave a. Some of them I think what they have in common are that they are distracting from task as they just make up something else. I think that is usually a task be something you genuinely intrinsically motivated to do. Hey, this is something you do, you know those things we get your day off. And that can be really obscure we interviewed a coach recently. Very high profile. Do you want a coach, because we also have a coach study who talked about. He was interested in a particular type of music. And he insisted once again that you just work all the time and if you if you didn’t like working all the time, being a new one. Coach wasn’t for you and then spent a fortune amounts of time telling us about how we traveled around seeking out this type of music venue and you’re like, oh, that doesn’t sound like your sport, but um so i think you know but that music was related to his upbringing and was also something very personal and dear to him that he probably had connections to family
and environment, you know, is this community. And so he was going to go away and do those things I think genuine intrinsic motivation to want to do it at the third thing I think particularly at the day level. So not talking about the offseason now but just talking about end of day is that it is useful. Of course, if it’s not particularly cognitively demanding. Okay. And so, you know, lots of people have talked to us about, you know, walking the dog and things like that because you can just sort of relax in your head you know, be in your own head and relax. And so, you know, many Netflix, things like that. And perhaps reading a light book for fiction. I’ve got a jack Reacher novel that I dip into that is quite fun. Other examples, listening to music is a another one. A lot of people like jogging, even if they’re athletes jogging for as long as they want another pace, they want and that’s usually pretty mild pace and usually through somewhere nice. Yeah, around the through the blossom think blossom trees there and Washington DC. If you live in Washington. Washington or you know through campus here on Florida State, you know, somewhere that you is just genuinely nice and we know of course about, you know, some maximal endurance exercise that, of course, that’s the kind of exercise that tends to make you feel nicer in your head when you’re doing it, you know. So I think those are things that have in common. They distract you intrinsically motivated in them. You can be immersed in them and they’re not particularly cognitive demanding. So the give the give the brain a bit of time off.
Cindra: I think those are great like points to make as people are thinking about how did they rest. How can they rest more? Being distracting from the task at hand and be intrinsically motivated. Not cognitive demanding and something that you can be immersed in. So let’s go back, Dave to when you’re talking about deliberate practice and give us a sense of like is there anything more that you want to say about the rest and how it contributes to deliberate practice and like why it’s essential?
Dr. Eccles: Why it is essential because, you know, we’re systems with finite resources and so If you are going to do your best work invariably that requires you know sort of maximum
attention. And the system just can’t sustain that for very long. You know, it’s a entropic you know if we really perturb the system by pushing it. The system wants to pull back and try to maintain homeostasis. Right. Trying to reset energetically, including mentally. So if you really exerting yourself for those for those four hours. If you’re right, the middle of trying to master that new receiver around or trying to master. You know, the new part of that language you’re learning or trying to master the new series of notes in a musical production or as a business operative trying to really understand how the changes in your state have affected the legal system and you’ve got to know that. And it’s requiring maximum concentration you’re not going to be able to do that for very long. And so you’ve got to both recover from that but also protect in advance those four hours. So one of the things I say this to my students a lot. One of the things that it’s difficult one to sort of combat is this kind of cultural your virtuous. If your schedule is packed. You know, if you’re incredibly busy. You’re just generally a virtuous person, you know, and. And I would argue that actually you know, put on your schedule some restful time and call that a meeting. So you still feel virtual a virtuous, but make sure you rest a little bit in advance in of trying to prepare for this very talking to be demanding four hours of deliberate practice in in the day. So you both need to prepare for it and recover from it. So
Goes the Theory anyway and, but it’s those things. It’s loose for hours that are going to move you forward. So even if you pack a day with 10 hours of relatively mediocre work. You know, you dip in and out of the Law Journal, you know, every half an hour’s of businessperson. You may simply not know very much at the end of the day, but it’s that time where all of us know where our head is down in a quiet location and it hurts, doesn’t it, you know, that’s the other one of the other characteristics deliberate practice is that that process in the moment while you’re doing it isn’t actually inherently unenjoyable because you’re struggling mentally like I’ve read this sentence, four times. And I just, I just don’t get it. Right and get and you’ve got to step back and think through it and make some notes and go back and it’s inherently unenjoyable because it’s inherently frustrating and challenging because you are changing those connections in your brain that’s what’s happening. And that that is a processor system resists a little bit because it wants to conserve energy. So you got to get beyond that. But once you’ve done it. You’ve got to have the period where you recover from what the theory serves.
Cindra: Yeah, excellent. You know, what do you think about, you know, Malcolm Gladwell, in his book kind of popularized I think to the pop to the pub. Later Erickson’s work about deliberate practice and he said that it takes about 10,000 hours or 10 years to become an expert. You have any thoughts on that?
Dr. Eccles: Yeah, so, you know, and this was a painter after that to sort of distance himself from that hard rule. Right. But in most research, it seems to be particularly where there’s some kind of competitive environment right if you decide you’re going to be expert in standing on a fence post you might, you know, you might do that pretty quickly. But if you’re in a field where there’s genuine competition. You want to be a football player or, you know, businessperson. Then, because you’ve got the competition, the standards of performance a four star and preparation period is going to be longer. And when we look at those sorts of fields.Those people who are recognizable as experts do appear to have engaged in thousands of hours of this deliberate practice. Now, right now I’m just actually revising for the Journal of sports psychology and action, take a paper on deliberate practice with one of our master students and Mark Williams from the university Utah and we were great pains in that to say that of course what this doesn’t mean is doing more practice. And so that’s one of the misconceptions sometimes about deliberate practice is just out practicing somebody else. Now, over time, over the years, it is about practicing at the years level it is about practicing them, but the problem is people begin to think that is the day level. And so they spelled don’t make a schedule where I’m just going to do 12 hours of basketball practice and then within a few months because they’re injured or they’re just disenchanted you’re not motivated anymore and deliberate practice kind of says the opposite. It says, if you want to accumulate these thousands of hours over years. You’ve actually got to do less and it’s going to be useful practice. You’ve got to do less practice of the day level, you got to do the highest possible quality practice, but not very much in it and then recover. And so, you know, the message that sometimes gets get some miscommunicated down to youth sport is that if I stay longer than you. I’m going to be better than you. And it’s, you know, tends to be tied up with some machismo as well. You know, I’m going to outwork you and in fact the theory actually says the opposite of that level. It says, you know, structure practice so that it is, you know, at its highest quality goal directed with useful feedback
attempts to push you beyond your current levels challenges your weaknesses, rather than just repeats your strength because there’s a tendency of course if we’re typically when we young to go out and just do the things we’re really good at and kind of ignore the really weak bits, but Dr. Eccles: Challenges the weaknesses and so on. You know, to maximize the quality of the practice and you shouldn’t be able to do more than four hours within a given day anyway. Anyway, and the four hours actually isn’t a block. The other part is that these are rules of thumb, of course, nobody knows for sure, but they’re all of them are no more than 18 minutes without also some rest injected in there and no more than four hours in 24 hours. It is a sort of rules of thumb extracted from the original work.
Cindra: That’s so good. Well, Dave, I want to thank you so much for this thought-provoking conversation. I have read quite a bit about deliberate practice. But I learned a lot about rest in the importance of rest. And what I want to do is work to summarize our conversation so wish me luck.
Dr. Eccles: Hahaha I definitely recommend some post podcast session Netflix thing to you know, probably get your rest in a bad hand and I’ll do the same here.
Cindra: I was thinking about what am I going to do tonight to make sure I rest so I appreciate that. When we first started talking about failure. And I think your definition of failure is awesome. And really, in that it’s like it’s a product of the moment, and the time right that you’re in, in the situation and it’s more of like a phase or a process, then something that I think you need to take personally. So I really like that perspective and just how deliberate practice can only happen for four hours. This 18 minute where you need a break. That’s, that’s powerful and like what actually deliberate practice is and then you talked about, what are you doing on this other 20 hours right yeah we talked about cognitive detachment, which is not thinking about your sport or what you’re doing. And if you do we actually talked about rumination and like writing that down for you know taking 15 minutes to write down whatever you’re thinking so that you can release that from your mind, but just this idea of especially to do this use cognitive detachment when you’re feeling burnt out or exhausted, or that you’re not valuing your sport like you used to and then at the end, when we are talking about rest and how do we find what makes us rest right and you said like something that distracts you from the task at hand involves intrinsic motivation that like you want to do what you personally want to do it that you’re can be fully immersed in it. And that’s not cognitive demanding so um thank you so much for your wisdom today and sharing your research with us. How can people reach out to you and get you know holding if you with us or of you if they like to learn more.
Dr. Eccles: So they can do it by via email so that said the firstname.lastname@example.org, Florida State University. And of course. You can Google me to find that email address as well. And of course, follow me on Twitter and I’ll do the same. So that’s at DavidWEccles on Twitter.Those are the two key mechanisms. Actually, yeah. Yeah, but, but please do always interesting to hear from from folks. So yeah, be very welcoming of that and thank you very much for your time. This is
definitely a great mechanism to, you know, disseminate some of the stuff we do universities and look out for the Journal of sports psychology and actionarticle which should emerge in the next few months that tries to nutshell. Some of these things. The, the guide from the editor is that you should be able to on a short bus ride glean something genuinely useful from. And if you’re a coach or a mentor performance consultant or an athlete. So that’s the acid test there. Can you get something useful from it in the short bus. Right. So hopefully that will do that as well.
Cindra: Excellent. Well, thank you, Dave. I really enjoyed talking with you and thanks for sharing your wisdom today on the podcast is
Dr. Eccles: Thanks for your time and best of luck with the podcast.