1. Home
  2.  / Win At Work

Win At Work

Are you confident of getting a pay rise, being promoted, and being noticed for your hard work? Or is it a struggle to concentrate, to stand out, and to get ahead? Maybe you’re not focusing on the right skills, says The Resilience Institute’s Dr Sven Hansen.

19 October 2021

He’s a sports science specialist who applies the psychology of winning to improving lives and businesses.

His recommended skills all apply across work, sport, your body, and your personal life. And they can be gamechangers.

Here’s how to boost your earnings power.


If you want to earn more at work, grow your own business, or even earn more by investing, get your head around ‘flow’, says Dr Hansen.

Flow is an optimal performance state that could change your life.

“It’s where you’re feeling both challenged and that your skills are fit for the challenge,” he says. “When you enter these flow states, you can be five times more productive.

“If you want a really good sales presentation, to get a really good negotiation with a client, or if you want to do some deep analysis, get into flow.”

How do you know when you’re in it? There are four features:

  1. Thinking stops and your mind is quiet.
  2. You can’t remember time passing.
  3. It’s effortless or graceful. Even though you might be in a testing situation, it has a grace to it.
  4. It’s extremely enjoyable, because you have a whole bunch of positive chemicals coursing through your body.

“Every single one of us can achieve that state,” says Hansen.

“Set meaningful challenges and then work out the skills you need to refine, to develop, to meet those challenges.”

Work in short, focused bursts of flow, with quick breaks to recalibrate.


It’s very easy to get sleep mixed up when devices shine blue light into your face all day and night, and our social lives keeps us awake longer. All human beings need seven to eight hours a night.

Some simple things can make a huge difference:

  1. If you’re a ‘lark’, go to bed early and wake early. If you’re an ‘owl’, go to bed a little later, and wake up a little later.
  2. Try to wake at the same time every day. If you want to lift your productivity, never sleep in at the weekends. Wake just before the sun rises, so you get exposed to dawn blue light, to fire up your body.
  3. Have a wind-down routine. Research suggests before sleep, you need about 90 minutes away from screens.
  4. Make sure the room is cool, and avoid LED lights at night.
  5. You need a good balance of deep sleep for health, and dreaming sleep for emotion, creativity, and embedding memories, says Hansen. If you go to bed too late, you’ll squeeze your dreaming time. This one simple piece of advice can be a life-changer, he says.

Tactical calm

One quality that will get you noticed is what Hansen calls ‘tactical calm’.

“It’s the ability to be able to engage with a difficult, potentially high-conflict situation without losing your emotional steadiness.”

Find a way to calm yourself when you find yourself getting overexcited, angry, panicky or fearful.

The simplest way is to regulate your breathing, he says.

“Relax and exhale: just three breaths, with long, slow, easy exhales. Lengthening your exhale slows your heart rate and activates the vagus nerve, the main nerve of your parasympathetic system.”

Experts suggest about eight minutes of tactical calm a day. Try breathing, yoga, mindfulness, or even just gardening.

“Tactical calm is key if you want to be productive, if you want to be effective with other human beings, if you want to make good financial decisions,” he says.

The more you practise, the thicker and faster your vagus nerve gets, and the easier it’ll become.


When experts test high achievers, they find focus is one of the top factors for resilience. See the full list on the right.

Focus is attention control – and multi-tasking is a bad idea, says Hansen.

It wrecks your quality of work, your productivity skills, and your thinking skills.

To excel at work, avoid distractions, emails, and work chatter, and really drill your focus on a single task.

And it’s ‘how’ you think. “We’re inclined to use biologically cheap thinking, ‘Type 1’ thinking, which is your gut response, because it doesn’t cost a lot of energy.

“But when you’re focused, you really want to be using more expensive thinking modes, which they call ‘Type 2’ thinking.”

Maths problems, for example, use Type 2 thinking. It’s detailed, focused and takes a lot of energy.

To boost focus, be calm, have a good night’s sleep, eat well, and do some exercise, says Hansen.

Keep emotions in check

Just one emotional outburst can destroy months of hard work, says Hansen. Avoid compulsive, emotionally driven behavior, which can lead you to make a bad decision.

“If you don’t control your emotions, it’s very easy for them to hijack your productivity,” he says.

“The number one trap is anger. Anger is always better gently restrained. Fear or panic is the second, sadness or self-critical beat-ups would be third, and the fourth would be cravings.”

Many super-successful people derail themselves with one simple mistake, he says.

“They allow emotional cravings, impulses, to overwhelm their brilliance. The worst end up in jail.

“To be a successful person, whether it’s at work, or in your personal life, some restraint will be required. People never forget that one lapse.”

Then, just do it!

Make small changes part of your day in a simple, repeatable way, says Hansen.

“We’re very good at knowing everything I’ve talked about here, but we’re not actually that good at doing it.”

Successful people work out routines, and automate decision-making, to get things done, he says.

What drives success?

The top 10 per cent of high performers have these as their top behaviours and mindsets:

  1. Focus
  2. Purpose
  3. Fulfilment
  4. Optimism
  5. Vitality
  6. Presence (living in the moment)
  7. Decisiveness
  8. Integrity
  9. Assertiveness
  10. Bounce (resilience)

Source: The Resilience Institute,

Informed Investor's content comes from sources that Informed Investor magazine considers accurate, but we do not guarantee its accuracy. Charts in Informed Investor are visually indicative, not exact. The content of Informed Investor is intended as general information only, and you use it at your own risk.


Related Articles